Lessons from the USS Squalus

This post is from Allyson Austin.
I am about to graduate with my BA in history. I have found that I can see the hand of the Lord in the lives of His children, and these stories parallel the ways I feel the Spirit. A little while ago, I came across this story and it really had an impact on me.

On May 23rd, 1939, the USS Squalus, a recently commissioned submarine, and a crew of 59 set off from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The ship and crew were preparing to take its nineteenth test dive. At 8:45 AM as the submarine descended into the depths, a valve in the engine room came loose. With that, water began pouring into the engine room. Within minutes, half of the submarine had completely flooded. The door between the front and back halves of the sub held strong, so that the 32 surviving crew members lay trapped. The water was a few degrees above freezing, and a few lanterns saved them from complete darkness. The survivors feared asphyxiation and many grew cold from the freezing waters that had seeped in before all valves had been shut.

In Washington DC, Charles Swede Momsen was contacted and told of the Squalus and the dire situation. Momsen was the inventor of the Momsen lung, a piece of equipment other military personal had used to bring themselves up from the depths. But the Squalus lay 250 feet below the surface, almost twice the depth Momsen lungs were generally approved for. Momsen and a few associates boarded a sea plane and landed in New Hampshire at 7:30 PM, almost 11 hours after the sinking. He recommended to the Admiral there at port they use the diving bell as a means of rescue.

The diving bell had never been used successfully before. The process was long, taking about 3 to 4 hours to retrieve 9 men at a time, with one man travelling down to operate the bell. It took 4 four trips to receive the men. Finally, at 12:38 AM on May 25th, 39 hours after sinking, the last of the men broke the surface. The crew rejoiced, mothers and wives wept, and Momsen breathed a sigh of relief.

Like these crew members, we are sometimes trapped, by circumstance or choices at the bottom of an ocean too deep to get ourselves to the surface. Other times it seems that those things we desire to do are so far out of our reach, we might despair that we will ever be the kind of people we would like to. In either case, Christ comes to us, in ways that we may not understand or be familiar with. The process of reclamation may be long. It is almost always uncomfortable, but it ends in sweet release and the joy of once again standing in the sun with Christ by our side. I'm grateful for my Savior Jesus Christ who does not leave me comfortless, but comes to heal my pain and sadness. I know that Christ can heal us if we let Him into our lives.


  1. Ally, this is beautiful! Thank you for this parallel!

  2. Thank you for this. I needed to read this at this exact moment in my life.