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Rust -The Beginning of a New Life

About Cdr. Arun Jyoti

Commander Arun Jyoti is a Veteran of Indian Navy. A graduate of premier Joint Services Institutions, the National Defence Academy and Defence Services Staff College, Arun is also an Electrical Engineer from Naval College of Engineering and an MBA. He served as a Submariner in the Indian Navy. He is based out of New Delhi and now serves the Corporate World.

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Young Lieutenant Prasad was headed for Mumbai after his Engineering Specialization Course at the Naval Engineering Base. He had been posted on-board the mighty Aircraft Carrier of the Indian Navy called INS Vikrant. At the end of course party, Prasad had received kind pearls of wisdom from the Training Captain. The Training Captain had a flowing white beard and spoke with passion to Prasad. After all, he had also been a young Engineer for the same ship. “Do not let the machines rust, Prasad”, was his final advice to the young Naval Engineer. The day moved on and Prasad was now excited to join the mighty Carrier.

Part I

The taxi drove inside the historic Lion Gate of the Naval Dockyard, Mumbai and soon stopped at the check post of the Vikrant Jetty. The crisp salute from the Sentry and Lieutenant Prasad commenced his walk up the gangway of the Indian Navy’s pride. A ship was of the majestic class. Vikrant’s keel (backbone) was manufactured in Nov ‘43. That’s right, during World War II. When the war got over, in May ‘45, she was 75% complete. She was then launched (into water) by Sep ‘45, but not commissioned as she was no longer needed. And there she lay, a forlorn hull tied alongside at River Tyne, until India evinced interest in having an Aircraft Carrier (in Jan ‘57!) for our fledgling Navy. The yard workers at Belfast finally had some work on their hands. They put their skills into improving and completing the leviathan, whose blueprints were 15 years old. Finally in Mar ‘61, she was commissioned as INS Vikrant. When Prasad walked up the gangway, she was entering into her last Commission and her name Vikrant was embossed all over the Indian Navy. Many a new born of that era proudly shared the mighty ship’s name as it was her unique honour to become the first floating airport of the India. “So?” She was not a ‘second hand’ ship as some believed. Oh no Siree! She was first rate- the Indian Navy’s pride. She remained so, even after INS Viraat came on the scene.

Lieutenant Prasad had a spring in his walk as he crossed a mile inside the alleyways of the Carrier to present his credentials to the Engineering Officer and the Commanding Officer. The firm handshake began the bonhomie and the Ship’s Captain welcomed him to the Carrier. A great deal belongs on-board a Carrier to the Engineers – both Electrical and Mechanical. In spite of her age, INS Vikrant was living only for the punch she was still capable of delivering – ‘from the air’. She could carry 18-20 planes and helicopters. The Sea Harrier ‘Jumpjets’ were jet fighters capable of extending the fleet’s operations envelope. The Sea King Anti-Submarine Helicopters were force multipliers in their anti-shipping role also. The small Chetak Helicopters were workhorses when it came to small hops of personnel and ‘Search And Rescue’ or SAR. This was force projection in its rawest form. There were numerous ‘SPRINGEX’ (anti-surface) and ‘SMASHEX’ (anti-submarine) exercises that would be conducted ‘somewhere in the Arabian Sea. INS Vikrant would have Destroyers, Frigates and Patrol vessels in a formation around her, with submarines, and IAF strike aircraft against her. She was the ‘Blue force’ and sometimes the ‘Red force’. At all times, SHE was the straight flush or the prize target – depending on which side you were. “That’s what you get, when you are the Prima Donna, the spotlight is always on you”, was the parting dialogue of the Carrier’s Commanding Officer to young Prasad. The challenge was to keep the machines of the Carrier, rust free.

Rust is another name for iron oxide, which occurs when iron or an alloy that contains iron, like steel, is exposed to oxygen and moisture for a long period of time. Over time, the oxygen combines with the metal at an atomic level, forming a new compound called an oxide and weakening the bonds of the metal itself. Although some people refer to rust generally as “oxidation,” that term is much more general; although rust forms when iron undergoes oxidation, not all oxidation forms rust. Only iron or alloys that contain iron can rust, but other metals can corrode in similar ways. The main catalyst for the rusting process is water. Iron or steel structures might appear to be solid, but water molecules can penetrate the microscopic pits and cracks in any exposed metal. The hydrogen atoms present in water molecules can combine with other elements to form acids, which will eventually cause more metal to be exposed. On board any moving vehicle, the rust becomes the biggest enemy to its eventual efficiency. If the rust can be kept at its bay, the moving machineries do perform to their optimal efficiency.

A similar phenomenon happens in the humans too. Part of the metabolic process in all cells generates a certain number of free radicals: substances with a strong tendency to tightly bind to other molecules in ways that corrupt or destroy them. Most of these free radicals contain oxygen, a highly reactive element the body uses to make energy. Once a molecule has been oxidized, the damage steadily spreads as unpaired electrons snag and corrupt other proteins. Research suggests that oxidation may be the major force behind aging.

The last Commission had begun and Carrier had to sail out. 24 hrs prior to the sailing, the boilers had to light up. As the fuel burned and gave off heat, steam was produced. The steam valves overhead would then be ‘slightly cracked open’ and the entire steam piping would be allowed to gradually be filled with steam and heat up. One by one, the thin drain tubes emanating from the overhead steam pipes would be opened, to let out water that had condensed from the previous sailing. The engine room would look like ‘Dante’s inferno’ with hot water and clouds of steam billowing from the drains. The duty personnel, not to waste anything, would then take an Aluminium Kettle with milk powder, sugar and tea in it and make expresso tea! After sipping the first cuppa’, all four boilers would be ‘connected up’ to stabilise, and the rest of the equipment would be started. Young Prasad was amidst the thick of the action.

All engineers had their hands full, coaxing output from the 04 decades old systems on board. Majority of the systems and equipment were on the 4th deck and below. Only the Flight Deck hydraulics was on the 2nd deck. Most personnel were oblivious to the fascinating actions that were going on board and outside the carrier. Prasad’s duties were taking him to every nook and cranny of the vast carrier. So he was lucky enough to interact with each section and have a ‘bird’s eye view’ of what they were up to. Each one was concentrating on HIS ‘part of ship’.

Prasad used to give a deprecating snicker whenever he heard the phrase, ‘Clean and brasso every inch of your part of ship’. His FFO tanks, Diesel tanks, water tight compartments, pumps, fuel lines, fire spray lines, compartment flooding lines, were dispersed all throughout the 700 foot ship. On 12 decks and 16 sections of the mighty carrier! The whole ship was now his ‘part of the ship’. He could see where the Rust began and he had to counter its origin to keep the mighty propellers to move the behemoth called Vikrant.

 

Part II

The last Commission of the Ship is as nostalgic as its First Commission. Mighty Vikrant had received orders for its one last sailing. All over the floating airport, the personnel had come on board and taken their ‘watch stations’. There were Air Handlers, Cooks, Divers, Engineering Mechanics, Electrical Mechanics, Navigators, Gunners, Pharmacists, Radio Operators, Storekeepers, Shipwrights and Writers. One hour before, ‘Check ship for Sea & Action’ was sounded on the main broadcast. One by one, the guns, the communication sets, radars, the engines and ‘Main Switch Board’ were tested. ‘Checked and found correct Sir’.

INS Vikrant was now ready to set sail. The activity now shifted to the harbour where other ships would also be taking action. It was an emotional moment as the mighty Carrier waited one last time for the Fleet ships to move out. The Minesweepers moved first, checking that the channel was clear of threats, with their sonar gear and minesweeping cutters. One by one, all the Destroyers and Frigates casted off, and moved outside Mumbai Harbour. INS Vikrant was the last to cast off, with a couple of tugs standby to pull and push the leviathan. Crisp Naval salutes were being exchanged and moist eyes from the Dockyard personnel bade farewell to the ship – a Jewel in the Navy’s Fleet. Once she was outside Mumbai harbour, the fleet ships formed a screen around her and the Fleet sailed to higher seas. The machinery on-board each of these ships were gleaming and rust free.

Some 5 miles out at sea, the huge ‘Sea King’ Helicopters from the ‘Harpoon’ squadron landed on her flight deck – while she was ‘facing into the wind’ to recover them. After recovery, the fleet set course to Goa, where the Sea Harrier Jump jets, the ‘White tigers’ embarked on the carrier. Mighty Vikrant was now battle ready for all exercises! Well-oiled and greased, her boilers were churning out steam to keep the mission powered up. Young Prasad, by now, was a backbone of the mighty Carrier’s Boiler Room Department. His inquisitive spirit and lean physique helped him to reach each and every corner of the Engine Rooms. His vibrant team ensured that the Ship met all its missions with élan and ease. Vikrant gave the Navy the strength to sleep restfully and to dream. All throughout the sleepless nights, with constant watches and duties, the rushed meals, the blaring of the action alarm at odd times, Prasad always erupted into a quick smile as he heard the roar of a plane taking off from the flight deck, and the vibration could be felt right down to the fourth deck where he stood his ground.

Somehow, that bustling activity and whine of engines on the flight deck made every bead of sweat, every missed meal, and every lost minute of sleep – worth it. So for every ‘Ops time’, Prasad had a simple saying “I’m loving it.”

He had kept his Ship rust free and his machines moved when he desired. Keeping the machinery rust free keeps the humans in control of the proceedings. As the Carrier met the last sortie with precision, Prasad wondered as to what will happen when the boilers are shut down for one last time. Will rust take over this mighty platform and engulf it into its chemistry’s erotions? He knew that at the end of the sailing, he was getting transferred to INS Viraat- the Second Aircraft Carrier of the Indian Navy. The pains of maintaining a rust free environment paid dividends when Vikrant took the centre stage in the Fleet formation. The greased overalls of the engineering mechanics and their tools were all over on the testimonials of Vikrant’s accomplishments at sea.

Vikrant turned inside the harbour and shut down its boilers finally. The old warhorse was being devoid of power as one by one its systems shut down, never to power up again. She had come to rest at the orders of her human masters.

The life of mighty Vikrant is something similar to a human’s life too. We end up getting powered each day to accomplish life’s missions. The energy levels inside the humans vary and adrenaline has to be pumped before a mission is met. The humans also need to keep themselves rust free if they have to perform and achieve the aims. The attitude of young Lieutenant Prasad is a helpful catalyst to keep the rust at bay in human minds and physiology. Who does not have pains and glitches? Mighty Vikrant had many, but it was human ingenuity which kept it going beyond her age.

If humans can do it for the machines, then they can do the same for themselves too. Biology is more complicated than humans can anticipate. The fight should be to keep the cells Rust free. After all, the life does not stop even when the rust catches on. Life is a beautiful game and continues even with rust firmly in control of the human temple. All that humans need is to keep the free radicals under check and fight the rust. Keep the rust at bay, fight on and let the mind and body be in coordination. Let the young Lieutenant Prasad attitude in you keep charging at life and keep rust at bay. Do not forget, Rust is the beginning of a new life.

I recollect for every ‘Ops time’, Prasad had a simple saying “I’m loving it”. Keep the sleeves rolled up and keep loving every moment of life till the Master decides otherwise. Cheers to life, with or without rust- let us face it and enjoy its music. So, will you shed the Rust?

Young Lieutenant Prasad was headed for Mumbai after his Engineering Specialization Course at the Naval Engineering Base. He had been posted on-board the mighty Aircraft Carrier of the Indian Navy called INS Vikrant. At the end of course party, Prasad had received kind pearls of wisdom from the Training Captain. The Training Captain had a flowing white beard and spoke with passion to Prasad. After all, he had also been a young Engineer for the same ship. “Do not let the machines rust, Prasad”, was his final advice to the young Naval Engineer. The day moved on and Prasad was now excited to join the mighty Carrier.

The taxi drove inside the historic Lion Gate of the Naval Dockyard, Mumbai and soon stopped at the check post of the Vikrant Jetty. The crisp salute from the Sentry and Lieutenant Prasad commenced his walk up the gangway of the Indian Navy’s pride. A ship was of the majestic class. Vikrant’s keel (backbone) was manufactured in Nov ‘43. That’s right, during World War II. When the war got over, in May ‘45, she was 75% complete. She was then launched (into water) by Sep ‘45, but not commissioned as she was no longer needed. And there she lay, a forlorn hull tied alongside at River Tyne, until India evinced interest in having an Aircraft Carrier (in Jan ‘57!) for our fledgling Navy. The yard workers at Belfast finally had some work on their hands. They put their skills into improving and completing the leviathan, whose blueprints were 15 years old. Finally in Mar ‘61, she was commissioned as INS Vikrant. When Prasad walked up the gangway, she was entering into her last Commission and her name Vikrant was embossed all over the Indian Navy. Many a new born of that era proudly shared the mighty ship’s name as it was her unique honour to become the first floating airport of the India. “So?” She was not a ‘second hand’ ship as some believed. Oh no Siree! She was first rate- the Indian Navy’s pride. She remained so, even after INS Viraat came on the scene.

Lieutenant Prasad had a spring in his walk as he crossed a mile inside the alleyways of the Carrier to present his credentials to the Engineering Officer and the Commanding Officer. The firm handshake began the bonhomie and the Ship’s Captain welcomed him to the Carrier. A great deal belongs on-board a Carrier to the Engineers – both Electrical and Mechanical. In spite of her age, INS Vikrant was living only for the punch she was still capable of delivering – ‘from the air’. She could carry 18-20 planes and helicopters. The Sea Harrier ‘Jumpjets’ were jet fighters capable of extending the fleet’s operations envelope. The Sea King Anti-Submarine Helicopters were force multipliers in their anti-shipping role also. The small Chetak Helicopters were workhorses when it came to small hops of personnel and ‘Search And Rescue’ or SAR. This was force projection in its rawest form. There were numerous ‘SPRINGEX’ (anti-surface) and ‘SMASHEX’ (anti-submarine) exercises that would be conducted ‘somewhere in the Arabian Sea. INS Vikrant would have Destroyers, Frigates and Patrol vessels in a formation around her, with submarines, and IAF strike aircraft against her. She was the ‘Blue force’ and sometimes the ‘Red force’. At all times, SHE was the straight flush or the prize target – depending on which side you were. “That’s what you get, when you are the Prima Donna, the spotlight is always on you”, was the parting dialogue of the Carrier’s Commanding Officer to young Prasad. The challenge was to keep the machines of the Carrier, rust free.

Rust is another name for iron oxide, which occurs when iron or an alloy that contains iron, like steel, is exposed to oxygen and moisture for a long period of time. Over time, the oxygen combines with the metal at an atomic level, forming a new compound called an oxide and weakening the bonds of the metal itself. Although some people refer to rust generally as “oxidation,” that term is much more general; although rust forms when iron undergoes oxidation, not all oxidation forms rust. Only iron or alloys that contain iron can rust, but other metals can corrode in similar ways. The main catalyst for the rusting process is water. Iron or steel structures might appear to be solid, but water molecules can penetrate the microscopic pits and cracks in any exposed metal. The hydrogen atoms present in water molecules can combine with other elements to form acids, which will eventually cause more metal to be exposed. On board any moving vehicle, the rust becomes the biggest enemy to its eventual efficiency. If the rust can be kept at its bay, the moving machineries do perform to their optimal efficiency.

A similar phenomenon happens in the humans too. Part of the metabolic process in all cells generates a certain number of free radicals: substances with a strong tendency to tightly bind to other molecules in ways that corrupt or destroy them. Most of these free radicals contain oxygen, a highly reactive element the body uses to make energy. Once a molecule has been oxidized, the damage steadily spreads as unpaired electrons snag and corrupt other proteins. Research suggests that oxidation may be the major force behind aging.

The last Commission had begun and Carrier had to sail out. 24 hrs prior to the sailing, the boilers had to light up. As the fuel burned and gave off heat, steam was produced. The steam valves overhead would then be ‘slightly cracked open’ and the entire steam piping would be allowed to gradually be filled with steam and heat up. One by one, the thin drain tubes emanating from the overhead steam pipes would be opened, to let out water that had condensed from the previous sailing. The engine room would look like ‘Dante’s inferno’ with hot water and clouds of steam billowing from the drains. The duty personnel, not to waste anything, would then take an Aluminium Kettle with milk powder, sugar and tea in it and make expresso tea! After sipping the first cuppa’, all four boilers would be ‘connected up’ to stabilise, and the rest of the equipment would be started. Young Prasad was amidst the thick of the action.

All engineers had their hands full, coaxing output from the 04 decades old systems on board. Majority of the systems and equipment were on the 4th deck and below. Only the Flight Deck hydraulics was on the 2nd deck. Most personnel were oblivious to the fascinating actions that were going on board and outside the carrier. Prasad’s duties were taking him to every nook and cranny of the vast carrier. So he was lucky enough to interact with each section and have a ‘bird’s eye view’ of what they were up to. Each one was concentrating on HIS ‘part of ship’.

Prasad used to give a deprecating snicker whenever he heard the phrase, ‘Clean and brasso every inch of your part of ship’. His FFO tanks, Diesel tanks, water tight compartments, pumps, fuel lines, fire spray lines, compartment flooding lines, were dispersed all throughout the 700 foot ship. On 12 decks and 16 sections of the mighty carrier! The whole ship was now his ‘part of the ship’. He could see where the Rust began and he had to counter its origin to keep the mighty propellers to move the behemoth called Vikrant.

                                                                                                       Continued in Part II …

The last Commission of the Ship is as nostalgic as its First Commission. Mighty Vikrant had received orders for its one last sailing. All over the floating airport, the personnel had come on board and taken their ‘watch stations’. There were Air Handlers, Cooks, Divers, Engineering Mechanics, Electrical Mechanics, Navigators, Gunners, Pharmacists, Radio Operators, Storekeepers, Shipwrights and Writers. One hour before, ‘Check ship for Sea & Action’ was sounded on the main broadcast. One by one, the guns, the communication sets, radars, the engines and ‘Main Switch Board’ were tested. ‘Checked and found correct Sir’.

INS Vikrant was now ready to set sail. The activity now shifted to the harbour where other ships would also be taking action. It was an emotional moment as the mighty Carrier waited one last time for the Fleet ships to move out. The Minesweepers moved first, checking that the channel was clear of threats, with their sonar gear and minesweeping cutters. One by one, all the Destroyers and Frigates casted off, and moved outside Mumbai Harbour. INS Vikrant was the last to cast off, with a couple of tugs standby to pull and push the leviathan. Crisp Naval salutes were being exchanged and moist eyes from the Dockyard personnel bade farewell to the ship – a Jewel in the Navy’s Fleet. Once she was outside Mumbai harbour, the fleet ships formed a screen around her and the Fleet sailed to higher seas. The machinery on-board each of these ships were gleaming and rust free.

Some 5 miles out at sea, the huge ‘Sea King’ Helicopters from the ‘Harpoon’ squadron landed on her flight deck – while she was ‘facing into the wind’ to recover them. After recovery, the fleet set course to Goa, where the Sea Harrier Jump jets, the ‘White tigers’ embarked on the carrier. Mighty Vikrant was now battle ready for all exercises! Well-oiled and greased, her boilers were churning out steam to keep the mission powered up. Young Prasad, by now, was a backbone of the mighty Carrier’s Boiler Room Department. His inquisitive spirit and lean physique helped him to reach each and every corner of the Engine Rooms. His vibrant team ensured that the Ship met all its missions with élan and ease. Vikrant gave the Navy the strength to sleep restfully and to dream. All throughout the sleepless nights, with constant watches and duties, the rushed meals, the blaring of the action alarm at odd times, Prasad always erupted into a quick smile as he heard the roar of a plane taking off from the flight deck, and the vibration could be felt right down to the fourth deck where he stood his ground.

Somehow, that bustling activity and whine of engines on the flight deck made every bead of sweat, every missed meal, and every lost minute of sleep – worth it. So for every ‘Ops time’, Prasad had a simple saying “I’m loving it.”

He had kept his Ship rust free and his machines moved when he desired. Keeping the machinery rust free keeps the humans in control of the proceedings. As the Carrier met the last sortie with precision, Prasad wondered as to what will happen when the boilers are shut down for one last time. Will rust take over this mighty platform and engulf it into its chemistry’s erotions? He knew that at the end of the sailing, he was getting transferred to INS Viraat- the Second Aircraft Carrier of the Indian Navy. The pains of maintaining a rust free environment paid dividends when Vikrant took the centre stage in the Fleet formation. The greased overalls of the engineering mechanics and their tools were all over on the testimonials of Vikrant’s accomplishments at sea.

Vikrant turned inside the harbour and shut down its boilers finally. The old warhorse was being devoid of power as one by one its systems shut down, never to power up again. She had come to rest at the orders of her human masters.

The life of mighty Vikrant is something similar to a human’s life too. We end up getting powered each day to accomplish life’s missions. The energy levels inside the humans vary and adrenaline has to be pumped before a mission is met. The humans also need to keep themselves rust free if they have to perform and achieve the aims. The attitude of young Lieutenant Prasad is a helpful catalyst to keep the rust at bay in human minds and physiology. Who does not have pains and glitches? Mighty Vikrant had many, but it was human ingenuity which kept it going beyond her age.

If humans can do it for the machines, then they can do the same for themselves too. Biology is more complicated than humans can anticipate. The fight should be to keep the cells Rust free. After all, the life does not stop even when the rust catches on. Life is a beautiful game and continues even with rust firmly in control of the human temple. All that humans need is to keep the free radicals under check and fight the rust. Keep the rust at bay, fight on and let the mind and body be in coordination. Let the young Lieutenant Prasad attitude in you keep charging at life and keep rust at bay. Do not forget, Rust is the beginning of a new life.

I recollect for every ‘Ops time’, Prasad had a simple saying “I’m loving it”. Keep the sleeves rolled up and keep loving every moment of life till the Master decides otherwise. Cheers to life, with or without rust- let us face it and enjoy its music. So, will you shed the Rust?

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1 Response Comment

  • pwhig505/12/2017 at 4:10 PM

    Simply Awesome! Beautifully articulated — I’m loving it 🙂

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