Sunday, May 25, 2008

Searching the Deep

The discovery of the wreck HMS Titanic in the 80's was fuel to my young imagination.
I remember poring over the National Geographic images with fascination as well as reading the articles in various publications.
I was a fan of the Clive Cussler novel "Raise the Titanic." and all the "cold war
race for the ultimate weapon story" that went with it.

Dr. Gene Seagram leads the top-secret Pentagon program Meta Section, which secretly attempts to leapfrog current technology by 20 to 30 years. One result: the Sicilian Project, which uses sound waves to stop incoming ballistic missiles.

The immense power needs of the Sicilian Project can be met only by an extremely rare mineral called byzanium. After satellite data pinpoints the most likely source of byzanium,
The byzanium — a chunk worth more than a quarter of a billion dollars in 1912 figures — was mined in the early part of the 20th century by a group called "The Coloradans." who book passage on the maiden voyage of the great White Star Line ship Titanic.

Well now,20 yrs later, it looks as if there was really a Cold War purpose...

Quoted from the UK Mail

A mission to find the lost wreck of the Titanic was actually a cover story for inspecting the wrecks of two nuclear submarines, the man who discovered the famous liner has revealed.

Dr Bob Ballard led a team in 1985 that pinpointed the wreckage of the enormous ship 73 years after it sank in the Atlantic. But he almost didn't succeed after his top secret mission to find two Cold War subs left him with just 12 days to find the Titanic.

The United States Navy lost two submarines during the 1960s - the USS Thresher and USS Scorpion - which had more than 200 men on board.


The Titanic leaves Southampton on its maiden voyage in 1912. Dr Ballard found the wreck in 1985

Officials feared at least one of them had been sunk by the USSR. When Dr Ballard approached the Navy for funding to find the Titanic using his robotic submarine craft, they asked him to discover the submarines first.

"I couldn't tell anybody," the oceanographer said.

"There was a lot of pressure on me. It was a secret mission. I felt it was a fair exchange for getting a chance to look for the Titanic."

He added: "We handed the data to the experts. They never told us what they concluded – our job was to collect the data. I can only talk about it now because it has been declassified."

The USS Scorpion was lost in 1968

The USS Thresher (SSN-593) was the lead ship of her class of nuclear-powered attack submarines. She was lost during deep-sea diving tests in 1963 after a high-pressure pipe blew causing the vessel to lose power and implode as it sank.

However, the USS Scorpion disappeared in 1968 amid speculation that it was sunk by Soviet forces.

Dr Ballard mapped both submarine wrecks using his newly developed underwater robot craft. He concluded that the most likely cause of the Scorpion's destruction was being hit by a rogue torpedo it had fired itself.

Investigating the wrecks gave Dr Ballard the idea of finding a trail of debris that would lead him to the Titanic. Both the Thresher and Scorpion had both broken into thousands of pieces.

He criss-crossed the North Atlantic seabed and eventually found a debris trail that led him to the luxury liner's final resting-place.

He found the Titanic split in two but had little time to explore further. It was not until he returned to the site in 1986 that he was able to make a detailed study

Today 30 yrs later, the loss of the USS Scorpion is still a mystery.

The speculation of her loss due to:

1. A Torpedo accident; From Wikipidiea, the Novel; Blind Man's Bluff theory:
The concerns focused on the battery that powered the torpedoes. The battery had a thin metal-foil barrier separating two types of volatile chemicals. When mixed slowly and in a controlled fashion, the chemicals generated heat and electricity, powering the motor that pushed the torpedo through the water. But vibrations normally experienced on a nuclear submarine were found to cause the thin foil barrier to break down, allowing the chemicals to interact intensely. This interaction generated excessive heat which, in tests, could readily have caused an inadvertent torpedo explosion. The authors of Blind Man's Bluff were careful to say they could not point to this as the cause of Scorpion’s loss — only that it was a possible cause and that it was consistent with other data indicating an explosion preceded the sinking of Scorpion. Notably, the authors cite examples of hot running torpedo incidents that had occured on other US submarines prior to the loss of Scorpion. (Although none of those incidents caused the loss of a submarine.)

2. The Retaliation theory:
From Wikipedia: Red Star Rogue: The Untold Story of a Soviet Submarine's Nuclear Strike Attempt on the U.S., by former American submariner Kenneth Sewell in collaboration with journalist Clint Richmond,
claimed K-129 was sunk 300 miles (560 km) northwest of Oahu on 7 March 1968 while attempting to launch her three ballistic missiles, in a rogue attempt to destroy Pearl Harbor.

Sewell claims that the sinking of Scorpion was caused by a retaliatory strike for the sinking of K-129, which the Soviets had attributed to a collision with USS Swordfish (SSN-579).

In 1995, when Peter Huchthausen began work on a book about the Soviet underwater fleet, he interviewed former Soviet Admiral Victor Dygalo, who stated that the true history of K-129 has not been revealed because of the informal agreement between the two countries' senior naval commands. The purpose of that secrecy, he alleged, is to stop any further research into the losses of either Scorpion or K-129.

And From Wikipedia: Scorpion Down: Sunk by the Soviets, Buried by the Pentagon: The Untold Story of the USS Scorpion. In the book Offley, gathering decades of his own research, hypothesizes that the Scorpion was sunk by the Soviets, possibly in retaliation for the loss of the K-129 Golf-II ballistic missile submarine earlier that year. The book paints a picture of increasing Soviet anger at US Navy provocations (specifically close-in monitoring of Soviet naval operations by almost every US nuclear submarine). At approximately the same time, the Soviet intelligence community scored a huge boon in receiving the mechanical cryptologic devices from the USS Pueblo. These machines, combined with daily crypto keys from the John Anthony Walker spy ring, likely allowed the Soviets to monitor in real time U.S. Navy ship dispositions and communications. It is Mr. Offley's contention that the Scorpion was tracked by several Soviet Navy assets from the Mediterranean to its final operational area south of the Azores, where it was then sunk by a Soviet torpedo. Among the oral testimony relied upon by Mr. Offley are recountings of SOSUS recording documenting torpedo sounds, evasion sounds, an explosion, and eventually the sounds of implosions as the Scorpion plunged past crush depth.

The only theory that hasn't been brought forth: They exceeded the SOE (Standard Operating Envelope) for the boat.

I would either go with a weapons accident or they had a bad day when trying to get down track and get home and they exceeded the SOE Combined with an electrical or mechanical fault in the control surfaces and it proved fatal.

I personally don't think that the loss of the Scorpion was due to a Soviet retaliation for the loss of K-129.
Professional Submariners don't flood down and open outer doors unless there is a grave threat to themselves or by orders from higher authority.
Even at the pinnacle of the cold war, Neither side would have given orders to destroy a naval vessel without due provocation. True, the Soviets might have had some insight due to John Walker,and the seizure of equipment from the USS Pueblo, But I highly doubt that they would have had all the info needed to be at a specific place and time to fire a fish and take out a submarine.
The writers of Red Star Rogue and Scorpion Down are both just that; Writers, I have read both books and find that they have no real understanding of either submarines or submarine operations.
They have connected a series of dots that lead them to a best fit conclusion that has a conspiratorial overtone that places the blame on the US Government and the Military for the unfortunate loss of a Ship and her men.

This Memorial Day, Remember those who are on Eternal Patrol and who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

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