Illustration showing sonar in conning tower and forward torpedo room.

When a submarine is running submerged, normally two men are on sonar watch. One is on the JP in the forward torpedo room. The other is at the WCA stack in the conning tower. The conning officer is at the periscope.

Before taking over, get information

When you are about to go on watch, it is important for you to have a clear picture of all essential conditions. Take the time necessary to find out all the things you should know.

About sound conditions. The communication officer can tell you about sound conditions. He gets the information from the bathythermograph, an instrument which tells how water temperature varies with depth. Particularly you will want to know what maximum echo-range can be expected, if you are ordered to get a single ping echo-range.

About your submarine. From your quartermaster you can learn the speed, course, position, and depth of

  your submarine, the depth of the water, and the bearing of the nearest land.

About the previous watch. From the sonar operator you relieve, obtain a concise account of everything that occurred while he was on duty. This includes: any targets picked up and their bearings, the bearings of any other noises (fish, surf, etc.), and any telltale noises from aboard your own submarine.


Upon taking over the watch

1. Report. As soon as you take over, report: "JK (or JP or QB) operator relieved. Smith has the watch."

2. Check settings. Take nothing for granted. Check every setting on the gear. If you are operating JP, be sure to magnetize the hydrophone.

3. Start the search. Unless you receive specific orders to search a particular area, go through the routine search plan for the gear you are working on.

If the submarine surfaces

When the submarine is preparing to surface, you will have to search carefully all the way around to make sure everything is clear. After surfacing, you may be ordered to secure your gear.


Standing a routine sonar watch is a most difficult job. Most of the time nothing happens. You search and search, but hear nothing except sounds from your own ship or possibly from fish. You get weary. The temptation is to go through the motions and let your mind wander off to other things. But you must keep your mind on the job. You must be alert. You are the ears of the ship. Your skipper and your shipmates depend on you to do the listening for all of them when you are on sonar watch.


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