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Blue Peter Presenter Takes The Plunge

Mon, February 05, 2007

Source: MoD

One of Blue Peter's intrepid presenters has successfully completed Submarine Escape Training with the Royal Navy (RN), which included an...

One of Blue Peter's intrepid presenters has successfully completed Submarine Escape Training with the Royal Navy (RN), which included an ascent through a pressurised water tank from 30 metres deep.

Gethin Jones, aged 29, joined a class of trainee submariners for three days of specialist submarine escape and rescue training to get an insider's view on the preparation future Royal Navy submariners undergo for a career underwater.

Although the Navy's submariners have not had to escape from one of their own submarines in recent years, teaching them how to survive in the event of an emergency, and instilling the confidence to conduct such a daunting task, remains an essential part of their survival training.

It is the third time that a presenter from the BBC's flagship children's programme has attempted the training at the Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT), based in Fort Blockhouse, Gosport. John Noakes was first to brave the water in the late 1960s, followed by Simon Thomas in 1999. Producer Alex Leger explained:

"The training at the SETT provides a really interesting physical challenge for our presenters and viewers are keen to see how they cope; that's what it is all about.

"I've had no worries - the instructors instil real confidence in you before you get in the water and I've felt totally safe in their hands."
 
Blue Peter Presenter Gethin Jones
"What they do here is unique and it's great for our viewers to see, so we were keen to come back again. Gethin was able to slip successfully into a well-oiled military system which has proven to be safe over many years."

Gethin has already proved his mettle with the Royal Navy before coming to the SETT. In 2006 he completed the Royal Marines Commando 30 mile yomp, although not quite within the time expected of his colleagues who were working to gain the coveted Green Beret.

Gethin fitted in well with his classmates on the course at the SETT and took the challenge in his stride. He said:

"The SETT is a world-leading centre of excellence that has trained submariners and civilian support staff from over 16 nations in the last 52 years, including submariners from Russia, Italy and the US more recently. I am delighted to have any opportunity to show off the expertise and professionalism of my staff and the RN."
 
Lieutenant Commander Bob Mannion, Officer in Charge of the SETT
"Training at the SETT has been a typical Blue Peter challenge; just being told that I was coming to Portsmouth for three days and then getting to do something that normal people just don't get the chance to do, which is the best part of being a Blue Peter presenter.

"It's been a real insight and I've really enjoyed it. Floating up in the tank to the top was a great ride up, especially the second time round when I could relax a bit more.

"And I've had no worries - the instructors instil real confidence in you before you get in the water and I've felt totally safe in their hands."

Gethin was treated exactly the same as the other 18 trainee submariners in his class. After intensive classroom training and explanation, they were in the water on day two and took it in turns to first try an ascent from a depth of nine metres to the surface, then from 18 metres – each of these without the benefit of an escape suit.

They had to exhale air all the way to the surface as compressed air breathed at depth expands in the lungs during ascent.

On the final day they braved an ascent from a depth of 30 metres, this time 'escaping' from a single escape tower fitted at the base of the tank. As they ascended to the surface at 3m/sec, they wore a submarine escape training suit which maintained a pocket of air around the wearer's head .

Lieutenant Commander Bob Mannion, Officer in Charge of the SETT, said:

"It was fantastic to work with the Blue Peter team and good to see them again after their last visit, six years ago. Gethin proved to be extremely comfortable under pressure and in the water, listening attentively to our instructors and progressing well through each stage of training.

"The grin on his face the first time he reached the surface was a sight to behold – especially after the rather more concerned expression he had adopted before his first ascent. I was also pleased to see the reaction of his classmates; rather than getting more nervous as the camera team witnessed their own training at such close quarters, they enjoyed the extra attention!

"The SETT is a world-leading centre of excellence that has trained submariners and civilian support staff from over 16 nations in the last 52 years, including submariners from Russia, Italy and the US more recently. I am delighted to have any opportunity to show off the expertise and professionalism of my staff and the RN."

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