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Rig Ship for Ultra Quiet Paperback – May 1, 2002

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 313 pages
  • Publisher: Sid Harta Publishers (May 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0957870973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0957870970
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (70 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,631,616 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


An accurate and entertaining story which provides a real insight into life beneath the waves. -- Kerry Collison, author of Indonesian Gold and the Asian Trilogy

An intense and realistic look into the heart of nuclear submarine operations, superbly written.... -- Roger Dunham, MD, author of Spy Sub

Andrew Karam's mission may be fictionalized but life on his submarine is very real and well worth the trip. -- Sherry Sontag, co-author of Blind Man's Bluff

About the Author

Andy Karam joined the US Navy in 1981, enlisting for submarine duty in the Naval Nuclear Power Program. An honor graduate from Machinists' Mate school in Great Lakes, Illinois, Andy reported to duty for Naval Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Florida and then to a land-based reactor prototype unit near Saratoga Springs, NY. Graduating with honors again (from a two-year program with an 85% attrition rate), he was offered a position as staff instructor, an honor reserved for the top 2% of all students.

Following his two-year staff rotation, Andy attended further training, specializing in radiological controls and radiochemistry controls. He reported to the USS Plunger (SSN 595) in early 1986, where he was to spend the rest of his enlistment.

Flying to Japan to meet the San Diego-based fast attack submarine, Andy immediately went to sea for a 70 day 'special operation' off the coast of the Soviet Union. During this 'spec op', Andy qualified almost all of his watch stations in just two months, something that typically took nearly two years. In fact, his qualification process was so rapid that, during the oral board for his Submarine Warfare pin (the coveted 'dolphins'), the Board Chairman devoted nearly five hours to ensuring that Andy had actually earned all of the signatures on his qualification checklist. By comparison, most such boards took only two hours. At the completion of this deployment, Andy was awarded a Letter of Commendation from the Commodore of Submarine Squadron 3, the first of three such letters he would receive while onboard Plunger.

During the next three years, Andy completed three more spec ops, earning, in addition to his letters of commendation, the Navy Achievement Medal and participating in winning a Battle Efficiency Award, the esteemed Marjorie Sterret Award, a Meritorious Unit Commendation, and a Naval Unit Commendation. Advanced to a leadership position in 1987, Andy qualified as an Engineering Watch Supervisor, the senior-most enlisted watchstander with responsibility for supervising the operation of the reactor and propulsion plants.

In addition to his duties in the engineering spaces, Andy served as the ship's periscope photographer and battle stations periscope assistant for nearly three years, for three spec ops. Not content with this, Andy qualified as Chief of the Watch, the non-nuclear equivalent of his EWS qualification 'back aft' (as the engineering spaces were called), which made him the only person in the Pacific Fleet to qualify both of these highly technical and responsible watches.

Leaving the Navy in 1989, Andy was advanced to Chief Petty Officer in the Naval Reserves, becoming the youngest CPO in a five-state area. He attended college, completing his bachelor's and master's degrees and becoming board-certified in radiation safety while working full-time in this field. He has continued working in this profession since leaving the Navy, writing over 30 scientific and technical papers. Andy is currently the Radiation Safety Officer and an adjunct member of the faculty at the University of Rochester and continues work on his Ph.D., which he is earning through the Ohio State University's Environmental Sciences Graduate Program. These experiences have given Andy a unique perspective on submarine life and operations, which he shares through his writing.

More About the Author

Andrew Karam is a scientist, author, and an expert in radiation safety, nuclear energy, and radiological security. Born in Akron Ohio, he attended Ohio State University for two years, earning only mediocre grades. Realizing that he needed more direction and self-discipline, he left school to join the Navy, enlisting in the Nuclear Power Program. In the next 2 years, Karam learned to be a nuclear-grade mechanic, mastering the theory behind nuclear propulsion as well as learning how to operate these complex machines. Finishing in the top few percent of his class, he was asked to stay on as an instructor, teaching for another two years and developing a love of teaching that has never left him. This was followed by additional training and then a tour on the aging fast attack sub, the USS Plunger - his book Rig Ship for Ultra Quiet takes you into the Plunger on her last "special operation" at the tail end of the Cold War.

Leaving the Navy as a decorated veteran, Karam was ready to return to school - in the next decade he earned degrees in Geological Sciences (BA and MS) and Environmental Science (PhD) while he was working full-time as a radiation safety professional. Since completing his doctorate in 2001 Karam has worked as a professor, a consultant, and made several trips overseas on behalf of the International Atomic Energy Agency; as well as traveling to Japan to provide assistance in the aftermath of the tsunami and reactor accident at the Fukushima Dai'ichi nuclear reactor facility. He currently works on matters related to radiological terrorism and emergency response.

Customer Reviews

Well written, a lot of detail.
civilian tech rep
Not this one; very nicely done and well worth the read.
Robert Labrenz
A little too much detail around minor issues.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

46 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Dougherty on January 19, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I saw this book on the submarine list on Amazon.com, and decided to pick it up. I am very glad I did! This is an outstanding personal account of the author's time as an enlisted man on the USS Plunger, a 594 (Permit) class attack submarine, in the late 1980's. The author has written a "semi-fictional" account, based on a mix of his experiences and actual events during his underway periods on Plunger. He carefully avoids classified material, yet manages to convey a real flavor for the complex technical equipment and "interesting" people on board a nuclear submarine. We follow him, as a senior enlisted man, on the various duty stations in engineering, and learn a fair amount about the nuclear and steam propulsion systems along the way. Various operations are also detailed, including a tense trail of a Delta IV class SSBN in the Sea of Okhotsk, an area considered by the USSR to be "territorial waters". This is made doubly suspenseful by the fact that Plunger was an earlier model SSN and nearing the end of her lifespan, having been built in 1961, and her equipment was becoming increasingly balky and noisy. An interlude in which the submarine moves close (and in one case, too close) and photographs Soviet ships and submarines through the periscope is aptly described (the author doubled as the ship's photographer). After he develops and prints the highly detailed photos, carefully examining them for contrast and detail, the photos are accepted by the CO, stamped "top secret", and he no longer is cleared to see them!
Along the way, we also learn of the day-to-day life on a submarine. The constant battle to grab sleep, the constant qualifications and equipment checks, and some reality checks on the food (yes, it's the best in the Navy, but apparently that's not saying much).
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By M. Chapman on February 27, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Forget the recruiting posters, movies, and Tom Clancy thrillers. Go below decks with Andrew Karam and see the daily life of a nuclear submariner from the inside "the people tank." Karam's descriptions of sleep deprivation, lousy chow and coffee ("the best in the Navy, but still not very good", he states) and the constant battle to train the junior-most officers may set the Navy's recruiting efforts back 10 years.

Through it all Karam maintains his matter-of-fact, mature and occasionally bemused outlook on the most unusual and demanding world in which he dwells. He is a wonderful writer, without the swagger and jingoism of some of his contemporaries. He also presents the point of view of his fellow enlisted men, who know their boat and their jobs far better than the newly-minted Annapolis graduates to whom they answer.

Buy Michael DiMercruio's "Complete Idiots Guide" for technical details, but by all means finish with Andy Karam's book to fully understand life abord these magnificent and deadly war machines.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Jones on May 11, 2006
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As a fellow submariner, I read this book to see if it was as true to the lifestyle as I remembered. The good news is that it is very indicative of the submarine life, a life of mostly just punching holes in the ocean. The only down side is that the author spoke a bit to much about reactor chemistry. Even though that was his job, it is a bit more info than was necessary. That said, the book was true to the submarine reality.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By ddfris on July 17, 2006
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I gave this book as a gift to my husband who works as a submariner and reads a great deal while they are underway. He says that Karam's book is a very accurate account of day to day life of a submariner and that it would be a wonderful read for anyone interested in submarines and attack boats. For someone wishing to learn more about what their husband, brother, father, boyfriend, or friend goes through on a sub, this would be an excellent place to begin. As a current submariner, he felt that "Rig Ship For Ultra Quiet" did not hold his attention. Rather there was a "been-there, done-that" reaction to the first-hand accounts described in the book - nothing new for someone who is currently participating in the same life. It may, however, be a good trip down memory lane for those who have already retired from submarine service and wish to take a moment to reflect on days gone by.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Eric C. Welch on February 12, 2006
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Guaranteed to fascinate and hold your interest, this book recounts the boredom, terror, daily grind, and claustrophia of working on a nuclear submarine (USS Plunger) during the Cold War from the perspective of an enlisted man. The author, clearly very intelligent, went on to get his doctorate in radiation safety following his naval service. It's a fascinating account. Highly recommended.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
I've read just about every submarine book out there, and they all left me wanting more authenticity. Then I read Rig Ship for Ultra Quiet. Unlike almost every other submarine book on the market, this one was written by an honest-to-God submariner, someone who was spying on the Soviets during the Cold War. And an enlisted guy to boot - one of the guys who did all the real work to keep the boat running. This book made me feel I was actually on a submarine for a "special operation", and I loved it! So maybe it's not non-stop action, but that's real life - and this book is about the reality of life underwater. You can read other books about submarines, but you can't read one that's more authentic and more descriptive than this one.
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