A Russian mini-submarine with a full complement of seven sailors remains trapped on the floor of the Pacific ocean for a second day. The Russian Navy has reportedly begun its rescue mission, attaching cables to the submarine in an attempt to either lift it and/or tug it to shallower waters. Interfax reports that the operation should take between one and four hours so, by the time you read this the operation may well have been completed.
Typically with any Russian military mishap, information is confused and contradictory – one Admiral told Interfax that the submarine’s arial had tangled with an anchor, and that in order to free the submarine, the anchor must be blown up. And nobody seems to have any clear idea as to how much oxygen remains in the sub – estimates have ranged from less than a day’s supply – in which case the air supply would have run out by now – to up to five days supply. One thing we are reasonably sure of is that the crew are still alive – they have been in communication with the rescue teams. However, once this rescue is complete, alongside criticism of the military’s technical preparedness expect further criticism of the way they have handled the flow of information to the press.
Britain, Japan and the United States have all sent assistance – primarily in the form of airlifting mini-subs of their own to assist with freeing the Russian sub. I understand they have arrived, although it isn’t clear from reports whether they are actually involved in the rescue attempt at this stage. Check out the US and British press for more news of their contributions.
I’ll update this post once any further information is available.
Update – 5:16 GMT: Ultraquiet No More is cautiously optimistic that, if anyone can survive a submarine accident, these guys can:
So, things are looking hopeful. Frankly, this crew has the highest
probability of survival – they are a rescue team themselves. The
Russians were timely in asking for help, and the British, Japanese, and
Americans were quick to respond. I remain hopeful, and we should have
some information soon.
Update – 6:38 GMT: Just going to show that some Russian military officers are still stuck comfortably in their cold war timewarp, Interfax reports that one Admiral is furious at Russia’s decision to invite in foreign help, claiming it gives away military secrets:
He expressed surprise that the Pacific Fleet command had said
openly that the sub had got caught on an underwater antenna instead of
"an underwater object." "This antenna is one of the main components of
an active system for the long-range detection of submarines," he said.
Wheras, actually, one of the most promising aspects of this whole affair has been the navy’s decision to invite in foreign help – even if they don’t actually need to use it at the end – in complete contrast to almost every previous incident – particulary the sinking of the Kursk in 2000. Even the general information coming out to the press – though horribly confusing and mismanaged – shows a general recognition that saving these sailors’ lives is far more important than trying to keep secret information that the US Navy probably has already.
Update – 7:00 GMT: Forgot to mention this earlier but, as it is becoming clear that the submarine is snagged on an antenna from a coastal monitoring system (see Ultraquiet No More for further info), I guess it’s fairly safe to assume that the crew were on some kind of mission related to that – maintenance perhaps?
Update – 7:15 GMT: I’ve just found this post by Lyndon at Scraps of Moscow. He’s unearthed a Russian language report (from RIA Novosti), which claims that the mini-submarine was due to undergo a modernization refit in March 2006. Lyndon speculates that this is someone’s advance attempt to deflect blame.
Update – 11:45 GMT: As I head off to bed there is still no news of the fate of the crew of the submarine. It’s very late in Moscow now, and news agencies there seem to have shut down for the night; there’s no news from any of the other international wire services either. It is well into the morning in the Far East, though, so expect to hear some more news in the next few hours. I’ll update this post tomorrow morning, UK time. In the meantime, check out Gateway Pundit, Ultraquiet no more and Bubblehead for the latest updates.
Finally for tonght, BBC News has a roundup of the Russian press reaction. They aren’t happy with the way the authorities have been handling the crisis, that’s for sure.
Update – 10:30AM GMT, 7 August:
They’re up and safe!
Seven Russians trapped deep in the Pacific for three
days have been rescued after their mini-submarine was cut free of nets
it was snagged in.
They were able to climb out of the vessel unaided when
it resurfaced. Fears for their safety had mounted because of dwindling
The BBC report goes on to detail the British mini-sub’s involvement in the rescue which, interestingly, seems to be at odds with earlier claims that the Russian sub was snagged on an underwater early monitoring system:
The managing director of the British firm involved in
the rescue – James Fisher Rumic – told the BBC the operation had taken
"There were a lot of fishing nets which we had to cut
away, but there were no steel cables, although some of it did look like
steel. Initial reports could have suggested there were steel rather
than nylon nets," Roger Chapman told the BBC.
"But it was a fairly long operation, with quite a lot of
cutting, but eventually when most of it was freed, the submarine blew a
ballast tank and came free and shot to the surface."
I’ll post more analysis in a follow up post later today.
Update – 10:37am GMT: One last quick update to mention, once again, that the coverage at submarine blog Ultraquiet No More is both excellent and comprehenisive. Go to the top of the page and scroll down – you’ll learn more than you would from any news report.
Final Update: I’ve just completed a further report on the successful rescue, and some of its implications.