Postmortems

Stories(*) about "Black Starts" - starting up power plants in the absence of power

Stories(*) about “Black Starts” - starting up power plants in the absence of power - turns out to be difficult and dangerous.

“I was serving in the engineering department on a USN aircraft carrier (non-nuclear) when a cascading casualty led to all boilers going off line. The ship had an emergency diesel generator aligned to automatically power up, but it failed to start due to a previously-unknown problem. So an 80,000 ton warship with 5,000 people on board slowly drifted to a stop, completely dark except for emergency 60’s-era-battle lanterns that were already starting to dim.
No steam = no electricity (the normal ship’s generators were steam-powered) and no electricity = no steam (because the start-up feedwater pumps and air blowers for the boilers were electric). One of the other two EDGs was already down with a casualty which left a single diesel generator that had to be started with compressed air stored in two huge bottles-so basically had two chances to get the ship moving again. (No electricity = no air compressors to refill the bottles.) After a few hours of double and triple-checking the alignment of the diesels, electrical systems, and boilers (the original steam plant casualty had to be diagnosed) using flashlights in temperatures well into the triple digits (no electricity = no air condi…you get the idea) we successfully started the one remaining diesel which provided AC to the boilers to start up.
By far the scariest day I ever had in the navy. Only saving grace was that we weren’t flying planes at the time.”

(*)Are these postmortem stories? Arguably - they are aftermath stories anyhow. I can repost publicly if it’s not right for this Community.
https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5629541

Interesting story, but not really a postmortem.

To be completely honest, it led me on a multi-hour youtube-and-wikipedia binge. But stlil, not a postmortem :slight_smile:

Indeed… I’m still happy to withdraw it, as off-topic content is tantamount to spam.

Still a cool story. Glad to see it there. Maybe there should be a “not-quite-postmortem-but-interesting-in-a-similar-vein” section?

On reflection, I think this post might meet our About text description: “Post all about the hows and whys of technology failures here.”
There are a few more conventional PM-like analyses in the HN discussion: