An interview wtih Gerold Cooper


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An interview wtih Gerold Cooper
Physical Description:
65 minutes
Gerold Cooper
Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Panama Canal


General Note:
Interviewed by Paul Ortiz

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Source Institution:
University of Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
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PCM 011 Gerold Cooper 7-3-2010
PCM 011
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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz Office Manager : Tamarra Jenkins Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix 241 Pugh Hall PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 Phone 352 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, religious and intellectual life in Florida and the South In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists, and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP recommends that researchers refer to both the transcript and audio of an interview when c onducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview transcripts available on the UF Digital Collections may be in draft or final format. SP OHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the original oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim document of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to reflect original grammar and word choice of each interview ee; subjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelling corrections SPOHP transcribers ref er to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013


PCM 011 Interviewee: Gerold Cooper Interviewer: Paul Ortiz Date: July 3, 2010 O: Well Captain Cooper, thank you so much for agreeing to sit down and talk with me about your experiences. I wonder if about how you ended up getting involved in working in the Panama Canal Zone. canal, and I think he went down t here about 1904, 1906, from New York State. My mother was his daughter and she grew up in the Canal Zone also. My mother went away to college in the United States, the University of Alabama, and then went back to Panama after that and worked in the embassy there and met my dad in Panama. So I grew up there also. Both of my parents worked for the Panama Canal Company, and I grew up there and I sort of followed along in their footsteps, working for the company. O: Did they pass down any stories about th eir early experiences in Panama? C: Yeah, both of them actually. My mother was a little more vocal on that; she had quite a bit of experience there and the tales would come out here and there. When she got there, evidently there were roads but it was all mud. It was dirt roads. I always thought that it was rather interesting the way that her trip with her mother happened, how they got from New York State down to Panama. I think the order of events was that the men were recruited and hired, in the Unit ed States. For instance, my grandfather in New was a welder, this and that. So they hired these sorts of men, craftsmen, to come down


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 2 and work. They took the men down o n ships from New York, and after they got the men settled, the families were brought down. So, I always imagined a woman and her two small children. I think my mother was two years old, her brother was older, a little bit. Anyway, a woman who had never bee n outside the United States, goes down the New York City from Saratoga, New York, and gets on a ship with two small children to sail ay. There was no air conditioning, a lot of people turn around and take an ai rplane out of there. I always thought that was rather unique. in Panama. C: Right, in the Canal Zone. We referred to the Canal Zone that way because that wa s actually the official title of the area where we lived. The Canal Zone was leased from Panama in a special agreement when they decided to build the canal, so the Canal Zone, that area was where we lived. And we went back and forth freely into Panama, and there were no fences, no borders really. But we referred to the Canal Zone as that, ago you asked me?


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 3 C: Oh, I wen t to school there. O: Yeah, what school was like and which school you went to. C: I lived in a very small town in the Canal Zone called Gamboa, and it was at the junction of the main river that supplies water to the canal, which is the Chagres River. The town was at the junction of the river and the canal itself. And the town was what you would call a company town, or maybe even a division town, because the dredging division of the canal company was headquartered there. They had dredges, they ha d cranes, they had tug boats. So they did a lot of dredging and all these people were all involved in that particular part canal operation who lived in this town. We had a few policeman stationed there, we had a fire station, and other services that the ca nal company provided. So this small town was actually physically located almost at the center of the Isthmus of Panama, in the middle. We went to school and elementary school there in Gamboa, up till the sixth grade, and then after that we had to take the bus into what we called town, which was Balboa on the Pacific side of the Isthmus. It was just closer there than it was to the Atlantic side of the Isthmus. So yeah, I went to elementary school there. I went to my first two years of high school in Balboa a t the Balboa High School. Then, because I pursue my goal. So they asked me if I wa nted to go away to school in the States to a but it was the best for me. I went away to school, and I went on to train for my


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 4 occupation, and then I came back to O: So when you went to school, which school did you go to in the States? Farragut Academy in St. Peters burg, Florida. My parents researched all that before they even broached the subject of leaving home. So I went two years there, and went on to a maritime academy for my maritime training. O: Growing up, was that the kind of career that you wanted? A maritime career? C: Right, yes. My dad was a dredger [a person who works on machines, or dredges, that remove sediment, and material from the bottoms of waterways], he worked on dredges that were out on the waterway, and my mother worked in the offi ce of the dredging division, and I went out on the dredge with my dad. I started doing that when I was probably eight years old. So hanging around the dredge, and meeting all those men that worked there, and seeing the operation, and being on the water bec ame a big attraction to me. There were tug boats that would come to the dredge to bring the scows, or barges, to the dredge, and finally these tug boat captains took pity on me and invited me up to their tugs; they saw that my interest was there. They invi ted me up on the tug hrough a waterway] on these ships that are going by here. You want to be a pilot. So that became my new goal. But


PCM 011; Cooper; P age 5 growing up on the water and going to work with my dad was what got me in interested in and started in the career. That was a huge help. At lea [Laughter] O: Exactly. What was maritime academy like? You already had some background. C: Yeah. Luckily, I fit in very wel l because I grew up on the water. I was already much of a seaman. I knew about seamanship, I knew about boats, and other marine operations and things. When I went to the maritime academy, I started in New York State, at the New York State Maritime Academy, Fort Schuyler, New York. So I already had all that experience as a teenager and it made it a lot easier for me. And the fact that I went to there now for two years, I was used to the regimented military system that the maritime academy had. You wore uniforms, you lived under a regimented system, much like the military. So I was ready for that. It worked out for me. O: Did I ask you which maritime school that you went to? O: Okay. w York State


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 6 Maritime Academy. I went there, started there, and as I said earlier I was not a good student. I realized there that I excelled in nautical subjects, but I did not do well in subjects non t economics. I was interested in English because I like to speak well and to write well, but I was not the maritime industry. That goal to me was so clear that I knew what I needed to have to passed calculus to save my life. It was Greek to m e. I failed a calculus course, I took it again, failed it again, and I knew it was hopeless. So after I failed it the second time, they said, you have got to take calculus during this summer coming up, and you have to re out, because they had a set curriculum. So I called the Texas Maritime Academy in Galveston, Texas. They were brand new, whereas Fort Schuyler came into existence in the 1800s. I asked the Texas Maritime t, and I transferred down there. I hitchhiked from New York City to Galveston, Texas wearing my military uniform that we ashamed of the fact that I flunked out, but they di guys who could help that school get started. They needed people who were truly interested in the maritime industry and had some experience, which I did. It worked out well for me.


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 7 O: What year did you finish the Academy? C: I finished down there at the same time that I would have finished in New York, in 1967. At that time, the Vietnam War was raging, and the Merchant Marine [The United States Merchant Marine refers to the fleet of U.S. civilian owned mercha nt ships, operated by either the government or the private sector, that engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of the United States. During peace time, the Merchant Marine is responsible for transporti ng cargo and passengers. In time of war, the Merchant Marine is an auxiliary to the Navy, and can be called upon to deliver troops and supplies for the military] itself did not have enough officers because so many ships were in use carrying military cargo to South Vietnam. So, I went right from the maritime academy in Texas aboard a freighter going to Vietnam. No O: What was your position to start out? third officer on the ship. Every ship has a captain. They have a first mate, a second mate, and a third mate. O: And was that a regular service back and forth between the States and South Vietnam? C: It was almost regular, [laughter] meaning th e company I worked for was a very big, well established company from New Orleans. That was Lykes Brothers Steamship Company [also called Lykes Lines, was a cargo shipping company acting from the beginning of the 20th century to 2005 having its main busines s in the trade to and from the United


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 8 States]. They had seventy At the time they really needed people, but they still had trade routes all around the world other than South Vietnam. The South Vi etnam cargo was carried under military contracts, but they had other commercial runs throughout the world. So I bounced around on different ships, wherever they assigned me, and ran to those different areas: the Mediterranean, Northern Europe, the Caribbea n, a lot to the Far East, meaning trans Pacific. The whole part of the goal at that point was, I had to move up through the ranks to second mate, to chief mate, and to captain because Panama required that you efore they would hire you as a pilot. I years, I sailed as an officer all over th e place, making pretty good money, and having a lot of fun, and satisfying the requirements for the goal. O: How do you move up the ranks as an officer? C: The Company usually would maintain a seniority list of all of its officer employees and when they needed a second mate, they might have a third mate somewhere that they wanted to promote. But to become a second mate, you had to have at least one year of sea time, or service, as a third mate. So after a year as third mate, you take another tes t that license allows you to sail as second mate. You go year by year moving up if the company has jobs for you. But with the Vietnam War there were plenty of jobs. Anyone


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 9 who was energetic and ambitious could move up during the Vietnam War and the same Middle East and a lot of young guys, who are young, strong, and ambitious are doing ver then I applied to the Panama Canal Company, and I got hired. O: And what year was that? C: That was 1972. O: During those years when you started in 1972 working in the Panama Canal Zone, I talked to Captain Wilder about his experiences a bit earlier, what were some of the major technological changes that were occur ring in maritime that had an impact on you that you saw? put you on put you on an old piece of junk, which was fine with me because old pieces of junk or old rusty freighters stayed in port longer. They were slower to transit the different areas. It took twenty eight days to go from Balboa, Panama to Yokohama, Japan or Inchon, Korea across the Pacific. Twenty eight days poking along at fourteen knots with no air


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 10 yo to sea as a third mate on the William Lykes it was a C 2 freighter -what they called it, a C 2 I had a very nice captain. And the Captain was forty some years old, the first mate was sixty some years old, the second mate was sixty some years old, and me, the third mate, I was twenty two years old. The South China Sea on a beautiful afternoon, one of our crew members jumped over the side to commit suicide. So the captain wanted to launch a life boat to try to go and get this guy, rescue him, and the first mate, the second mate, being that old, were not gonna get in the life boat. I mean, it was unreasonable to ask them to get in the life boat and take it down, and try to rescue this life boat and this was in August of 1967, and during that time of year the southwest swells and big sea. So, we launch this life boat and as soon as we hit the water with the life boat, we were in rough seas, big seas: probably a twelve foot swell, maybe a fifteen or eight foot seas that were breaking. So it was pretty rough and these life boats were old, they were very strong. I guess in a life boat back then it would be about maybe eight or nine men. When we got into the water when the life boat was launched, we going to find this man. His name was Floyd W. perspective from high up on a ship looking down on t he ocean is much different from


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 11 your perspective got a lot of oars if you need to row it. So we situation, and so we decided to conduct a search pattern for him with this life boat. As we started out to do so, we left quits and it got real quiet out there. Actually, it was beautiful, the waves were breaking, it was a beautiful day, the engine quits. As it turned out, the ship came back to get us and got us. It came right alongside and even in that high seas and heavy swell we were able to reattach the life boat to the ship, which to ok a lot of luck and a good amount of skill. We were extremely lucky. The ship picked us up again, in other words, hoisted that life boat right up the side, rolling and pitching all the time. When we got back aboard the ship the first thing the captain sai d to me was, when I saw you hit the water with that boat, I knew I should back with all the people. That was my real introduction to true seagoing life. [Laughter] So it was a good experience for me, and it was very very lucky that I was already a really have the experience to handle a situation like that. I already knew how to handle that boat. It worked out for me, again.


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 12 O: [Laughter] So after that, did you have any other memorable experiences before you came to Panama? ship for about a year, the Tilly Lykes Here again, no air conditioning and it was a big deal when you had a corner room and two port holes, so I was living very well. We ran to the Mediterranean, we ran to North Europe, and of course we ran to the Far East through the Pan ama Canal. I truly enjoyed going to sea, going to all these different places. And these older ships, like I said before, they stayed in port longer because they life was good when I was twenty two, twenty four years old, traveling the world. Then I got hired in Panama and I went back there. O: In [19]72? C: In 1972, yeah. O: And did you start right away as a pilot or did you have to work up? C: No, what they did at the time was, they would hire you and then you would go into a training program where you rode with other pilots through the canal. You observed them. You also visited other parts of company, the locks, the tug boats that worked there, and you got to know the operations through observation. That took maybe six months or so. The more you rode with other pilots on ships going through the canal, the more you learned, the more comfortable you got, and the more comfortable these other


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 13 pilots got with you. And so pretty soon the other pilots start letting you handle the ship to get started on my own I think six months or so and then you start out on sma ll ships piloting them through the canal. Then you work your way up over the years. year period for your advancement from the very beginning to the largest ship that goes through there, and you need all those ten years to gain experience and confidence. So I enjoyed my career. O: Captain Cooper, what were some of the challenges when you were first starting on the smaller ships? Could you describe the process of piloting a ship through the locks? pick the ship up on one of the ends of the canal, in the at the Pacific end or the Atlantic end, which is really the Caribbean end of the canal. And you go aboard, y ou introduce yourself, you make sure everything is ready, you get the ship underway in other words you get it moving and you are giving orders to the handling the engine roo m telegraph. The engine room telegraph transmits orders to the engine room on what you want done with the engines. Do you want to go slow ahead, or half ahead, or full ahead? How much power do you want and what direction do you want it? Do you want to go a


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 14 and using your senses and your judgment to control the car. On to steer the ship and what to do with the engines. Then you go in the locks, you slow trouble because here again, I was very comfortable in the canal. I had grown up there. I was totally at ho me in the area. If you tried to do that in a strange area that you were not familiar with, you would have to work a lot harder to learn the area and feel comfortable. A lot of young men go to ports in the world and become pilots, and they have to work very hard to learn the different peculiarities of the waterway and all the other things they need to pick up in order to safely pilot there. O: Right. Earlier, Captain Wilder had mentioned that your knowledge as a pilot was very, I think the term he used was, local because each port is distinct. pilots in all these different ports and waterways around the world, because the pilot has ship far out at sea. When you get close to shore, or coming into a port, as you slow down and come near the


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 15 safely go in and out of port, or up and down these rivers, or through the canal. O: One of the things that Captain Wilder mentioned was with locomotives and having to g ive orders to locomotives. Can you describe that process? I want to make sure I have that down. C: Yeah. Well did he mention the word mule? C: He used the term locomotive, huh? O: Yeah. C: All right, w ell the locks are built out of concrete and they have chambers. The ship goes into the chamber. Now, there may be a lot of room on either side of the ship in the chamber depending on the size of the ship, or there might not be a lot of room; there might be only two feet on each side. To keep the ship from touching the concrete walls of the chamber and having damage to the ship or the locks, they have electric locomotives that run down on tracks on either side of the chamber. Now, from these locomotives that are on these tracks on either side, are wires that go to the ship, cables. The cables attach to either side of the ship, at either end of the ship, and then the men that are driving these locomotives, or operating them, keep the ship in the center by pull


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 16 in the center of the chamber, to keep it from touching the wall. What these men do with the winches on these locomotives, how they do that, is from orders given to them b y radio from the pilot. The pilot is telling the operators of the locomotives what to do because the pilot has the vantage point of being up high and seeing the whole picture around the ship, whereas these locomotive operators are just down on the locomoti ve locomotives, a locomotive on each side of the bow, or the front of the ship, and a it in the center by giving orders to the different locomotives. C: Okay. Each locomotive is numbered an d also described by his position relative to the ship. The forward locomotives are number one, each one is number one locomotive, but one center and one side, designa ted that way. The second pair of locomotives back on the stern of the ship are number twos. So you would designate it. If you wanted the number one center to pull, then you would say, one center coil in. But you have to slack off on the on the other one on respond. In the early days before radios came along, the pilots gave orders through hand signals, differ ent signals, and at night they used flashlights or colored wands to


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 17 give the orders with their hands. Actually, when you asked the question earlier about maintain in your mind a record of exactly what orders you have given. You have to remember what each one of those locomotives is doing and that takes some mental slacking on one s doing the same with the stern locomotives. So there is quite a bit of mental effort in juggling these orders at least. That took me a while, but with practice and time it comes to you. situation where the ship gets in front of the locomotives and pulls them? C: Did Captain Wilder tell you to ask me that? [Laughter] have this down correctly. [Laughter] C: Yes, the ship can overrun the locomotives. The locomotives the present ones anyway run along the track at a maximum speed of three knots. So they are effective up to that speed but after that the ship starts to overtake them and pass them. Then the locomotive will drop out of position and be less effective on the ship. Now, Captain Wilder is one of my favorite pilots and he was one of a number of fast pilots in the canal.


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 18 I guess I admired that and my experience before I got there allowed me to turn into a fast pilot. So it was one of the things we had to guard against, overrunning the years ago: that sort of added to the challenge and the excitement of the transit. Now that should not ha ve entered into what we were doing. We were charged with the safely of that ship and we had no business cowboying through the canal. On the other hand, the Canal Company wanted pilots to move ships. We had a schedule and we had a lot of ships to put throug h every day, maybe forty some ships. And the Canal Company did not want pilots to lose time, and if we gained time, okay, if we could do it safely. And that took place. There were other pilots who were more cautious, more sensible, who took their time and good safety record because you can be a fast pilot if you are careful and skillful. One of the thing ships. Coincidently, the reason I can teach them well is because I have a lot of experience on the canal and working faster than normal. And the many jams and situations that I got into, which I myself created, gave me a tremendous amount of my ex perience to young men and woman who are learning ship handling. And I can tell


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 19 O: What were some of the jams that you got into? [Laughter] Captain Wilder described one of his. C: Did he really? O: Oh, yes he did. off the ship, get the ship slowed down an d under better control. If you lose control my classes is that I was coming up to the Gatun locks northbound through the canal wide open space in the Gatun Lake. No other ships were in the anchorage. It was wide open for me. I had lots a nd lots of room to go to anchor. I slowed the ship down properly anchored because have to wait for four hours for the locks. You follow me?


PCM 011; Co oper; Page 20 O: Yes, sir. want to go to decision making process. Fatigue and my desire to go to sleep, and the thought of that bunk waiting for me back there, the fact that there were no other ships in the anchorage, contri buted to my bad decision of increasing speed again. Well, I increased the speed, She s ails up and hits the locks, hard! Well, the maritime industry was not really aware or fatigue to accidents at that time. Now they do. There are rules for the amount of sle ep that people operating machinery or making decisions like that have to have, rest of O: Yeah, you can only learn something when you make mistakes.


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 21 O: Basically the ship p was the Hyundai Number 78 It was loaded with steel products, and that heavy load in that ship gave it tremendous momentum and inertia. Tremendous. And yes, I could start the engines going astern, in other words in reverse, like you say, but the power of my situation. O: Captain Cooper, what were some of the other things that made the canal system a unique situati on for pilots? C: The most unique factor in piloting in Panama was the fact that the Panama Canal Company owned the place, to put it that way. They owned the land on each side of the waterway. They owned the waterway and all the equipment and it was their operation e. The pilot is watched over by the Coast Guard in U.S. ports or the Japanese Coast Guard in tremendous amount of threat to the pilot, and with that threat goes a lot of second guessing by these


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 22 ship and to keep it safe, but accidents happen. In many cases, there are numerous factors that lead up to an accident and all these factors have to be looked at before you ell you the truth, neither a fact. In an accident, whether it be a rail accident, or an airline accident, or marine accident, and probably a car accident too, there is som ething called the error chain. that on. You have to watch for the you have to break the error chain to prevent the accident. But this knowledge and this theory was not present back in the early year I get off on a tangent? O: No, no, not at all, because it gets to the challenge that you must have had because you schedule. At the same time, fatigue and different things can enter in. backlogs from developing. They had to move ships in a timely manner to get them through the canal because t he shipper, or the ship owner, is really a customer of the


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 23 thousand stems of bananas sitting out in the anchorage waiting for days and days o it. So yes, the company wanted to move ships. If know why. Why were you so late at the locks? Well blah, blah, blah. That was the climate. O: Speaking of the cl imate, what were some of the factors that could possibly slow down the movement of ships? C: Poor visibility by rain or fog. We would have heavy rainstorms and we would have fog during the night in certain areas and at different times of the year. So you had to guard against that. A rain storm a lot of the times you can see it coming, but in the fog we had a pretty good idea about when it was going to come in. So we were able to avoid most of that sort of problem. O: Were there any times of the year that were peak shipping seasons, busier than others, or is it more steady? that anchorage where the ships were waiting. The ships come in from sea and the y look out on that anchorage and there would always be ships there. And as I got older as a pilot, we were working very hard and I was getting a little tired out. I remem ber saying


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 24 O: Did you want to talk a little bit about life outside of work? Social life, maybe the differences between your experiences growing up versus your children? Was there any changes occurring? C: Yeah, I guess. Up until the [19]90s there was not a lot of major change that you noticed very much. After the treaty started ta king effect, we did start to notice the changes, and the changes were not good, not in my opinion. The quality of life went downhill. The quality of the workplace that I was used to also went downhill. I was not happy. My last four or five years there were not nearly as satisfying as my early years. I retired as soon as I could. O: What year did you retire? C: I retired in 1997. After twenty five years it was time for me to go. I was experiencing classic burnout, where I was dissatisfied with th e changes in the workplace and the climate there, the living conditions, and no amount of time or money was going to two, because I went back into the marine indust ry and I did other jobs that were very interesting and provided me with a whole different set of challenges. I was quite happy happy because they miss the occupation.


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 25 C: Yes, most of us were, yeah. C: Number one it organized the pilots as a union because the marine industry and many other industries has a long history of know if I want to go as far as employee abuse protect the employee, unions or employee o rganizations can be very beneficial to make Association and the association was very good, and it was what I considered to be fair in their dealings with the Canal Compan O: Did the Association have collective bargaining with the Canal Company? that too many government employees enjoyed that privilege. We were U.S. government employees. We worked for the U.S. government who owned that canal and operated it. For us to achieve collective bargaining rights was a significant step, very significant. I was a proponent of moderation to keep from being unreasonable with our dealings with the Canal Company. It worked out well. O: By moderation you mean in terms of what you, as an association, requested?


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 26 C: Or demanded. I thought we should focus on safety, time off, and money. L period, which ties into that fatigue example I gave you. You could be given all the time go off on too much of a tangent there. O: No, it makes perfect sense because it gets back to what you were talking about earlier k about if error and you always think, well what does that mean? O: Yeah. But there can be a lot of things, and you hear about it in th e airlines too. In a only allowed to do a certain number of trips and after that, you have to take yeah.


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 27 C: Overall I think it was a very good career for me. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it very, very satisfying. I enjoyed it completely. This simulator that I teach on right now I just came back yesterday from Baltimore that simulator is so realistic that it actually satisfies about sixty percent of my yearni and it serves me well also besides the students that we have. If you enjoy your O: Right [laughter]. Do you make it down to Panama much anymore, Captain Cooper? O: Do you usually attend the reunions? part C: No problem. C: I t hought you might ask about the most unique ship I ever took through the canal, or vessel, most unique vessel. O: Okay.


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 28 basaltic missile submarines. Did Captain Wilder mention those? Poseidon, Trident class, yeah, big subs. C: Yea h, so, these submarines were extremely unique and very, very special. They trained I guess thirty out of a hundred and eighty pilots or so to take these subs through the canal. I noticed early on that after I would pilot one of those submarines though the canal, I would go home and that experience would stay with me for two or three days. It would just be on my mind; it would be there, and I would be recalling little things about the transit, whereas on a normal ship you take through the canal, an hour afte so unique and so impressive, that that experience would stay with you for days. O: What was the difference between piloting a nuclear submarine versus a ship? C: Well, the nuclear submarine has probably three or four factors connected with it that make it different from regular ships. Number one, the design of the submarine is totally different from a regular ship. A regular ship has a pointed bow, usually has a flat bottom and a rounded stern and they all maneuver almost the same. The basics for maneuvering regular ships are about the same for almost every ship, b ut because of the


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 29 maneuver like anything else in the world. It has its own peculiarities and you have to learn those peculiarities to be able to maneuver it. It has that teardrop shape, it has the n in the water something like thirty couple of other things about the sub that make it difficult to maneuver. The propeller on a submarine is aft, or behind the rudder. Therefo re when the propeller is turning ahead, producing thrust to move the sub through the water, because the rudder is ahead of that the movement of the sub through the water alone to create a water flow past the rudder. To get that water flow past the rudder you have to gain headway and thereby momentum and inertia. So, on a regular ship you can just touch the engine and the propeller turns, the wash hits the rudder, and you turn easily. O: I never thought of that. t get close to the


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 30 want to go up on the fender system in the locks. The locks hav e wooden and rubber y move to prevent getting into trouble or touching. The sub also has a very special paint, or a very special coating on ratch that paint, or that coating. A lot to types of those nuclear subs. One would be the Ohio class. All those class of submarines are named after states and the Ohi o was the first one, came out many years ago. The Ohio class are what they call the boomers. These are submarines that carry twenty four intercontinental ballistic missiles, also with nuclear warheads. And thinking about the capability of this submarine, what this submarine can do and how much the submarine costs. It costs billions of dollars to build one of these things and actually in their silos right behind you, and you think about the capability of that thing, that it can launch this nuclear armed missile from eight hundred feet underwater or something, and it can go up and break the surface and travel thousands of miles astounding! When you travel through the sub, when you walk through it to get to the conning tower, you pass all these different things. You walk right by these silos and it comes home to you. If the captain will ever give you a tour of their launch control room,


PCM 011; Cooper; Page 31 and he described the failsafe methods that they have in place to prevent an unwanted e. John Clancy wrote that book, The Hunt for Red October and the book was very accurate. The movie was all a lot of movie stuff. The other class of submarines is the Los Angeles class that are named after cities, and their specialty is not the nuclear mis siles, but their specialty is hunter killer, where they hunt other vessel, with more or less the same maneuvering characteristics. You got to be careful. O: All right, [End of Interview] Audit edited by: Jessica Taylor, 1/6/2013