2008/04/01 - South African Navy Festival 2008
Tinysquishy visited the SA Navy festival this year after missing it last time. We were sure to take a camera along to capture the scene (as well as lots of textures and model reference for ocean-based titles.
It all went down the weekend of the 14th to the 16th of March, 2008. South Africa's shiny new arms merchandise was proudly on display, with many vessels open to boarding by the public for scrutiny.
We planned to wake up early and try get to the event as the gates opened at 10am, but as usual, we didn't quiet manage that. We arrived in Simonstown at 11:30 or so, after a scary but fun drive over a cliff-hewed mountain road called "Ou kaapse weg" - The old cape road - that was required passage on the way to the Naval base.
This little road - one of only two routes into Simonstown is the cause of many traffic jams on busy days - which this one certainly was, given the large percentage of Cape Town's population that was intent on ogling the collection of pretty death machines wallowing in the small harbour, covered in colourful festival flags...
We seemed to arrive just in time - just before the mainstream public forces arrived, giving us access to rather good parking right at the front entrance to the base. The crowds were just beginning to build and the air was filled with the sounds of excited people. The smell of sizzling sausage was drifting through the air.
Just inside the entrance to the base is this amazing switching yard for the drydock. This vast contraption or tracks and pulleys moves beached ships into different working areas for overhaul.
Moving around into the major festival areas we started to glimpse some of the sights that could be seen. It was a beautiful sunny day (which we would regret later while slowly baking in huge queues for tours). All kinds of naval technology and culture was open for inspection, from our ancient Daphne class submarines to the new MEKO stealth frigates.
High-speed rubber ducks were zipping around the harbour with tanned Navy specialists (well they looked like specialists anyway) at the helm, waving and smiling at jealous landlubbers.
Loud music was blaring from multiple sources and marching bands went up and down entertaining the crowds. We decided to take a break from the heat and light of the dockyards and headed into some of the various hangers that lay open with all kinds of interesting exhibits.
We found this massive tug housed indoors and raised to show off it's complicated propellor/steering system designed to allow it to push around massive port-bound ships. Also available for queries in here were the Navy recruiting people and presentations of complicated military technologies.
After a while with the tug we headed back out into the dockyard to see some larger, more formidable fighting ships. Here is a patrol boat on the switching rail. It was quite strange to walk around a huge misplaced hulk like this, and it was cool to be able to see the complete prop configuration out of water.
The rows of rails could be quite hypnotizing...
While we walked around many interviews and speeches were being given over the loudspeaker systems. From talks with commanders currently at sea on exersizes, to strange singing bouts by unknown voices.
We collected lots of photos for modelling reference and texture images. Chris has been playing "Sub Command" lately and is keen to build a sub patrol simulator some day, so we kept a special eye out for anything to do with subs.
After looking around for some munchies and settling on a mobile "Spur" take out installation, we sat down to eat and decide what to tackle next. High priorities on the must-see list were the new German Type 209 submarines and the MEKO stealth frigates up close. We had read hints that it might be possible to actually enter one of the subs and were very hopeful that it might be true.
We decided that given the high African sun our frail dark-seeking vampiric developer skin required we re-enter the indoor exhibits:
We found a hanger that contained a large indoor pool surrounded by enthusiastic hobbiests showing off their myriad model boats, some of which were masterpieces for sale.
Boats of all kinds had been modelled, from ancient viking ships to ultra-modern aircraft carriers. Some of the models played realistic steam-whistle and horn sounds (with extra reverb added for effect of course).
This same hanger also had a diving chamber most probably used for emergency training of all sorts. A diver was peering out at amused young children.
Finally we found the Type 209s! One was literally a fish out of water, and the other was moored at quayside with a HUGE queue of people lined up to take a indoor tour! We could go in!
Unfortunately we were not allowed to take cameras on-board. So we will have to rely on our memories to model the interior...
Before we could see inside the sub, we had to conquer the queue, which was just insane given the midday sun blasting overhead. Luckily Sarah had brough along an umbrella, which helped minimize the sunburn (not to say that it was minimal).
Even though the diesel-electric 209 is a small submarine by modern nuclear-powered standards, it is still a hulking form when it towers over you in drydock. When surfaced at quayside it is not quite so formidable, but the sense of hidden capability it emanates is rather mysterious and exciting.
After two hours in a very slow moving queue (children and older folks had to take it slow going down the sub's hatch) we made it into a tour group and found ourselves in the forward torpedo room of the submarine (which doubled as a widescreen-equipped entertainment centre). It was as cosy as any live-warhead-armed home theater can be.
Every square inch of the subs interior was draped in high-tensile tubing and piping of all thicknesses. Status panels and monitors were bolted into every corner, and it was very quiet - the noise of the crowds above the waterline had disappeared the moment we entered the hatch.
We stayed in the boat for about 20 minutes, moving from section to section. Submariners from various departments were available at their stations to explain their responsibilities and daily routine. All were very welcoming and enlightening.
Some fun facts we found out:
- The sonar systems can (depending on sea conditions) detect ships at up to 32km away.
- The sub travels the majority of it's time on electric power. Diesel is only for charging batteries.
- The sub plugs into mains power when in dock for a full recharge. I wonder how they've been managing with all the nation-wide power "load-shedding" lately?
- The sub's sail has a door to allow sailors to pass through it from font to back deck - there is not enough space to walk around.
Unfortunately the never-ending queue of people ended our turn in the sub and we exited to investigate our next quarry - the MEKO stealth frigates...
It turns out the South African and German Navies are good buddies and Germany have sent a couple of their naval ships to join our party. We arrived fresh from the submarine tour to a marching band playing impressive, bombastic tunes in front of the German ship.
The band was very well practiced and played interesting syncopated beats.
We hung around to soak in the atmosphere and check out the exterior forms of this futuristic stealth vessel. Apparently, it is claimed to reduce it's radar signiture to a half to two-thirds of that of a similarly-sized standard hull.
Fleets of patrol boats were moored out of the way at the rear of the harbour.
Large, attractive tug boats gave weekenders rides around the base.
The crowds were at numbers never before seen at such the event, is what we heard from people who had been before.
Later in the day an amazing demonstration by Navy pilots was performed. This large helicopter executed repeated "rescues" of divers swimming in the harbour waters. Each rescue was so precise that it started to get difficult to take original pictures of the activities - every pass looked the same. Impressive flying.
As the day was winding down we came upon this helicopter take-off to the delight of photographers.
A great day for Tinysquishy. We saw tons of interesting stuff and really appreciate the openness and warm welcome we received from the South African and German Navies.
We finally got some sun!
We'll definitely make an effort to go next year. See you there!
Team member surveillance:
Recent intelligence reports:
2007/10/10 - rAge 2007 Report-back
Tinysquishy had a stand at rAge 2007 showing off our game demos.
See the report back [here].
Back-dated archives of tinysquishy diary entries: