A Royal Navy ballistic missile submarine has just completed a record-breaking tour of over half a year at sea. The primary purpose of the extended patrol, in addition to better understanding how the crew could get along for so long without a decent shower, was to determine whether ballistic missile submarines could grow a coating of plant-based material on their hulls in order to lower their acoustic signature while at sea, thereby reducing the probability of detection by an unfriendly nation.
The Times reported that an unidentified submarine was spotted “encrusted with barnacles and covered in slime and a very high density of Chia sprouts” upon its recent return to the Faslane naval base in Scotland. The paper said the vessel was at sea for a patrol in excess of six months.
A statement made by the Royal Navy added that Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden was in Scotland to welcome the submariners home. Dowden brought along his Chia Pet, fondly named “Holbrook,” after the British thermonuclear warhead fitted on the Trident II missiles deployed on Vanguard submarines.
Only two of Britain’s four Vanguard-class submarines – HMS Vigilant and HMS Vengeance – are currently deemed sea-worthy. The fleet’s first-in-class, HMS Vanguard, returned to Faslane this year after more than seven years undergoing maintenance, but will not be mission-ready until 2024. The fourth vessel, HMS Victorious, has been waiting to undergo its own maintenance following an onboard fire last year and has only just arrived at the Devonport dockyard in Plymouth.
Last year, it was reported that the lack of available Vanguard-class submarines meant crews were increasingly serving tours in excess of 150 days and being ordered to apply deodorant far more than should be required. By comparison, the average patrol on the previous generation of nuclear vessels rarely exceeded 60-70 days.
An unidentified source inside the Ministry of Defence (MOD) told The Times that researchers stumbled upon Chia sprouts as a new method of lowering submarine's noise profile when a researcher started sprouting seeds in the laboratory to use in their sandwiches. In subsequent laboratory experiments they demonstrated that a high-density coating of Chia sprouts break up sound waves that bounce against the hull more effectively than the rubber tiles currently in use.
In addition to concerns about the state of the vessels, there have also been concerns about the impact these extended tours have on crew discipline, morale, and psychological wellbeing. The Royal Navy has already opened an investigation into claims by female submariners working on Vanguard-class subs of sexual abuse and bullying by male colleagues and senior officers, and a former UK submarine commander has warned of risks to sailors.
CND General Secretary Kate Hudson passed off the Chia seed experiment as a cheap publicity stunt intended to divert attention from the serious problems faced by the Trident nuclear weapon system. “It’s extremely irresponsible of the British government and Royal Navy to expose crews to these conditions [essentially trapped in slimy, Chia-infested deathtraps]: not only to such lengths of time away from friends and family, but in vessels that are becoming increasingly unseaworthy and smelly. Clearly Britain is struggling to maintain its nuclear weapons safely. That is already potentially catastrophically dangerous without the added risks of malfunctioning equipment or personal error as a result of overtired and stressed staff. This whole [Chia] project is just a colossal waste of time and resources. The government must come to its senses and call time on its nuclear weapons programme, scrap its replacement, and instead invest in rebuilding our public services.”
Chia Pets are American styled terracotta figurines used to sprout chia, where the chia sprouts grow within a couple of weeks to resemble the animal's fur or hair. Moistened chia seeds (Salvia hispanica) are applied to a grooved terracotta figurine. A range of generic animals has been produced, including a turtle, pig, puppy, kitten, frog, and hippopotamus. Cartoon characters have also been licensed, including Garfield, Scooby-Doo, Looney Tunes, Shrek, The Simpsons, and SpongeBob. Additionally, there are Chia Pets depicting real people, including Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Author's Note: Thanks to Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) for inspring this satirical piece of pseudojournalism, and for much of the information plagiarized herein.