This Naval manoeuvre Is So Dangerous The USS Essex Crashed Into The Yukon Performing It Last Week

USS Wasp

Photo: Robert Johnson — Business Insider

Replenishing ships at sea is an ongoing part of what U.S. Navy sailors do all the time, but it’s dangerous and sometimes accidents occur.That’s what happened when the amphibious assault ship USS Essex hit the USNS Yukon, May 16 on its way back to San Diego. The Essex experienced a rudder malfunction and the two vessels collided resulting in untold damages, but no injuries.

Check out the refueling photos >

While sailing from Norfolk to New York this week aboard the amphibious assault ship the USS Wasp I witnessed the exact same manoeuvre conducted in foggy weather and high seas. It was an impressive display of patience, skill, and ingenuity performed by new and experienced sailors alike.

The Wasp met up with a tanker about 60 miles off the eastern seaboard to take on fuel and supplies, but in the end the weather forced the captain to take on only the fuel. It’s important to get refueled as often as possible because if the tanks get too low it can take 10 to 12 hours to refill them and performing this procedure for that long makes it even more dangerous.

The sailors aboard the Wasp were good enough to let me into their work day and answer all my questions while they refueled.

The following slides show refueling from beginning to end and offer an insight into what happened aboard the USS Essex.

Three lines need to be connected from the Wasp to the freighter and sailors at different points will fire a line from this M14 to the deck of the tanker — this shot topside is supposed to be the easiest

The is the rubber slug that will carry the line across to be tied to a thicker rope that will bring communication cables across

The fog on Tuesday was patchy and thick so the Wasp's crew had to wait for hours before the two ships safely met up

While they waited this sailor drilled a new recruit on how to use the signals

And then the ship was alongside and the lines were fired across

Three perfect shots and the lines are attached to ropes and hauled back across

But someone on the tanker let a knot slip, and lost the line, so another had to be fired across

The ships are between 160 and 200 feet apart — this line has flags to let the captains know how far apart the two ships actually are

As the lines were being pulled I went down to the flood deck to see them being hauled aboard

This is the simple phone communication that will connect each side — apparently this method stumped the Soviets for years and they could never figure out how to do this as well as the U.S.

Once the phone line is set up cables pull over the fuel nozzles

They weigh 120 pounds apiece

Below us a crew signals across and carefully connects them to the Wasp's tank

Now the focus is on keeping the fuel lines out of the surging sea

This is done by sailors holding ropes and watching the lines

The petty officer in charge told me if these cables snap they could cut people in half just like in the movie Ghost Ship

And down here in the fuel room it would send gas everywhere and throw those weighty nozzles about

But there were no mishaps today — like almost every day — and after taking on 400,000 gallons of fuel — another ship pulls up to the tanker for its turn

And this whole process begins again for the crew on the other side

While onboard the Wasp — the bridge lets loose with Creed's song 'Bullets' over the ship's public address system and begins to pick up speed

And the tanker fades into the distance

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