The View from Above

The U.S. Navy Virginia class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) departs the navy submarine base in Groton bound for sea on what the navy calls Commanding Officer's Discretionary Time as seen from the Gold Star Bridge Monday, September 30, 2013.
The U.S. Navy Virginia class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) departs the navy submarine base in Groton bound for sea on what the navy calls Commanding Officer's Discretionary Time as seen from the Gold Star Bridge Monday, September 30, 2013. Sean D. Elliot/The Day

I had a few questions after my September publication of a photo of the USS New Hampshire transiting the Thames River. I'm sorry it's taken me so long to respond. Hopefully not too late for those of you curious to find satisfaction.

Submarine transits are bread and butter around here. No matter how many of them we photograph the readers always seem to respond and enjoy them. It's not difficult to imagine why this would be. In the "Submarine Capital of the World" one would hope the residents would always be interested in seeing a sub go by.

I've photographed subs from the New London side, from the Groton side, from countless points along those shores. I've photographed them with other boat traffic, with lighthouses in the background. I've photographed them from the air and from other boats.

This "aerial" view came from the pedestrian walkway of the Gold Star Bridge. I'd actually been wanting to capture this view for some time, but it's not easy to do. The Navy does not issue a press release every time a sub departs (actually, they pretty much never tell us when a sub is departing) and we only hear in advance that a sub is returning when it is from a deployment. In those cases the photographer is going to be on the pier to capture the emotion of family reunions after the six-month separation.

Regardless, it is departing subs that are visible from the walkway that make this photo possible, with the orientation of the sub entering the photo, and that requires some degree of luck. Since the Navy does not announce departures, and usually by the time we see the sub on the river it has passed the bridges, the luck I needed came in the form of a radio call.

While the Coast Guard regularly announces for most of the day the existence of a "Naval Unit Protection Zone" on the river, they are never precise as to the time period of their escort operations. So it took both the announcement on the marine radio frequency (which we scan both in the newsroom and in our cars) and a call from the river pilot warning marine traffic that they sub was departing the pier to give me the opening I needed.

Knowing that the sub was just leaving the pier gave me to the chance to park at the base of the pedestrian walkway on the Groton side (it's a shorter walk from the Groton side to the mid-point of the bridge than from the New London side) and take the brisk walk up the bridge to the right spot.

I got there in time to watch the Coast Guard escort intercept some civilian boaters in the river and then capture the birds-eye view as the sub passed under the bridge.

It's not a view you'll get to see very often so I'm glad I was able to catch it and share with you.

9/30/13 :: REGION:: STAND ALONE :: The U.S. Navy Virginia class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) departs the navy submarine base in Groton bound for sea on what the navy calls Commanding Officer's Discretionary Time as seen from the Gold Star Bridge Monday, September 30, 2013. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
9/30/13 :: REGION:: STAND ALONE :: The U.S. Navy Virginia class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) departs the navy submarine base in Groton bound for sea on what the navy calls Commanding Officer's Discretionary Time as seen from the Gold Star Bridge Monday, September 30, 2013. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day) Sean D. Elliot/The Day
A United States Coast Guard 25-foot rapid response boat, right, escorts a boat out of the path of the U.S. Navy Virginia class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) as the submarine departs the navy submarine base in Groton bound for sea.
A United States Coast Guard 25-foot rapid response boat, right, escorts a boat out of the path of the U.S. Navy Virginia class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) as the submarine departs the navy submarine base in Groton bound for sea. Sean D. Elliot/The Day
A United States Coast Guard 25-foot rapid response boat escorts the U.S. Navy Virginia class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), not pictured, down the Thames River bound for sea.
A United States Coast Guard 25-foot rapid response boat escorts the U.S. Navy Virginia class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778), not pictured, down the Thames River bound for sea. Sean D. Elliot/The Day
Escorted by the tug M/V Paul A. Wronowski The U.S. Navy Virginia class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) departs the navy submarine base in Groton.
Escorted by the tug M/V Paul A. Wronowski The U.S. Navy Virginia class attack submarine USS New Hampshire (SSN 778) departs the navy submarine base in Groton. Sean D. Elliot/The Day
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