Monday, July 23, 2007

I Totally Feel like a Navy Seal

Saturday Todd and I went for a dive off of Gould Island in the middle of Narragansett Bay. Gould Island was a hot spot for torpedo development and testing before and during World War II. Todd and I have recently developed a bit of an obsession with the island, and often speculate about the goings on at Gould Island as we sail by it on the way to Newport and other ports in the southern part of the Bay.

On the northern half of this small island there is a pier and a building from which the Navy used to fire and observe the torpedoes while testing them. They put buoys in the water to mark off the torpedo testing range, though I don’t know that I’ve seen them test anything there recently. (But then, most of my sailing is done on the weekends and at night, when torpedo testing is less likely to occur.) The island has a bit of an eerie feeling to it. Kind of like it’s been abandoned, but you’re not sure if it’s actually been abandoned. Has it been abandoned, or does it just appear to have been abandoned? There are still a few other buildings on the island, along with a large smoke stack. The buildings are vacant now, as far as we know. However the building at the firing pier on the north tip of the island has a security light on 24x7 (Even in the daytime. Waste of energy and tax dollars, anyone?)

When we anchored the dinghy by the firing building, and we could hear a loud hum coming from the building. I am assuming the loud hum is an HVAC unit in the building. The loud hum has launched a fantasy about how the inside of the dilapidated building is really super high-tech, with the most sophisticated computers and surveillance equipment the world has to offer. Why else would the US Navy need to run an HVAC unit on a dilapidated building on a seemingly abandoned island in the middle of Narragansett Bay just a short boat ride away from the Naval Underwater War College in Newport? I am reminded of that scene in the movie “Spies Like Us” where the missile defense station is located in a seemingly abandoned drive in movie theatre. I know that this totally exists on Gould Island. (And if it doesn’t, then I’ll just fantasize about crazy espionage things going on at Gould Island, and it’ll be fun.)

We did the dive, and I actually had a bad gear dive. I couldn’t stay down for some reason, my mask wouldn’t seal. Once I got over my gear hiccups, I actually had a good time. The viz was crap, there weren’t any fish at all. But whatever, I don’t care what I see, so long as I am underwater.

We ended our dive and got back into the boat. We decided that we’d check out the Island while we were there. I had visions of looking in windows of the abandoned buildings on the south side, and discovering some of the crazy espionage-y things that surely are going on there.

We didn’t have any clothes on us, just our wetsuits. We beached the dinghy and hopped out onto the shore, with a loud “squish” of the water trapped in my wetsuit boots.

“It’s like we’re Navy seals! Check us out! We’re infiltrating an island by sea!” Todd exclaimed, laughing.

“Yeah, but Navy seals don’t make this slurpy sound when they walk around in wetsuits,” I laughed.

We walked up from the beach and onto a concrete pad. There was a ramp leading into the water from the concrete pad. Images of helicopters once landing there filled my head. Secret helicopters, containing people carrying briefcases handcuffed to their wrists. Images of people exchanging code words necessary for passage filled my mind, and knowing nods, glances, and secret handshakes of officers departing the choppers. Now there are roughly 463605497 seagulls that have made the island home. Though I suspect even the gulls were squawking in secret code “The squawk squawks at midnight…” or something like that. They were flying around us overhead, circling and circling—making me feel like I was inside some crazy seagull tornado.

“I wonder if the gulls are waiting for us to die here, so they can peck at our carcasses,” I said as I looked up at the gulls, circling like vultures over prey in the desert. We walked onto a path that led into thick bush. Then we heard what sounded like a motorcycle.

“WOW, did they send someone over here on a 4-wheeler to make us leave?” Todd asked. We walked back out to the concrete pad, to see if there was anyone there. Of course there was nobody there; we were on an abandoned island, for crying out loud. The noise was coming from a jet ski that was traveling by the island.

We went back onto the trail, and crawled under the brush to continue on the trail. There were briars, thorns, etc. The brush was way too thick to get to the buildings on the island, which led us to wonder if the briars were actually planted there to keep intruders out of the buildings. You know, to keep the secret goings-on there a secret. We declared the brush impassable, and made our way back to the dinghy on the beach.

I read up on the island later on and discovered that the southern half of the island, where we were, is actually a bird sanctuary, and has nothing to do with the Navy. So, there’s a nice little buzz kill for my little Gould Island fantasy. However what is up with that torpedo firing building on the north tip of the island? What’s up with the loud hum coming from the building, and the always-on security lights? In that building the fantasy lives on.

This is what Gould Island looked like back then. The concrete pad we walked on was actually for seaplanes that were launched from the island. The buildings just behind and to the left of the hangar still stand, the hangar does not exist anymore. The brush is now so thick and it began at the backside of the foundation of the hangar. We could not get through the bush to the buildings that are still there. It is not a far distance to walk, if the brush was not there, it would probably have taken only a few minutes to walk from the hangar to the buildings on the left. The building on the left with the smoke stack is entirely unaccessible from the beach, as it is surrounded by thick brush as well. The buildings are all slightly visible through the trees and prickers. I do not know if the buildings on the right were there or not.

The planes dropped the torpedos in the torpedo testing range at the time. In its heyday, 65,000 torpedo firings have been conducted on this island. In the month of December 1944 alone, some 2,575 torpedos were fired from the island.*

*Source "A Gould Island Chronology" Captain Frank Snyder

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Blogger Jen said...

Okay, the photo was way too cool. I could totally see you guys playing navy seal in my mind's eye and it was really neat.

Maybe that's where they've got the ufo's originally from Roswell? ;)

July 24, 2007 at 9:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, that is so neat. Great post!

July 24, 2007 at 10:03 AM  

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