Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunken Submarines

Various cities across Russia commemorated the seventh anniversary of the Kursk (Курск) disaster today. The K-141 Kursk sank in the Barents Sea on August 12, reportedly due to a series of events (two large explosions were recorded) after a torpedo detonated aboard the submarine. Alternative theories abound for the cause of the Kursk sinking. Ultimately all 118 crew were killed in the disaster.
Naval Commander Admiral of the Fleet Vladimir Masorin laid flowers at a monument to the Kursk submarine crew. The ceremony was attended by Kursk crew members' relatives who reside in Moscow, the Russian Navy reported.

Commemorative ceremonies were also held at
Serafimovskoye Cemetery in St.Petersburg, attended by commanders of the Leningrad naval base, relatives of Kursk crewmembers and St.Petersburg officials.

The Northern Fleet held a wreath-laying ceremony at the Kursk submarine memorial in the Vidyayevo garrison. Wreaths were dropped into the sea from the pier of the submarine force to which the Kursk was assigned.

The
Black Sea Fleet held a service in the Church of St.Vladimir in Sevastopol, and laid flowers and wreaths at a Kursk submarine memorial and at the graves of perished Kursk crewmembers.

The Baltic Fleet held a memorial parade. Flowers were laid at the memorial plaque for the Kursk crew at the Baltic Naval Institute.


Memorial events were held on the ships of the Pacific Fleet and the Caspian
Flotilla
In Brisbane, Australia, a new play about the Kursk disaster has been unveiled. Broadway, it ain't. The play was written by Brisbane-based play
wright/actor Sasha Janowicz. Janowicz was living in Russia at the time the Kursk sank, and remembers watching television reports of the events as the occurred and the effect it had on him even to this day.

"I was glued to the TV, watching every news edition, Russian or Australian, anxiously following the rescue operation coverage,"

Different theories about what caused one of the nuclear submarine's torpedoes to explode
on board causing subsequent blasts and its eventual demise in the Barents Sea have continuously surfaced since it occurred. One explanation is that the torpedoes were faulty, another that the ship was attacked, and another that it collided with a WWII mine.

But Janowicz, having devoted the past six years to researching and uncovering as much information about the disaster as he could, visiting Russia three times to talk to people connected to the event, is of the view, along with many others, that the ship
collided with a US submarine.

"I wanted to raise questions, maybe explain things previously
unclear in the news reports and share the loss, for the loss is akin to every human and by sharing it through compassion we remind ourselves who we are," the playwright says. The play focuses on the controversial decisions about rescue operations made by Admiral Popov, the 23 men who survived the initial blasts and the actions of the officers in the reactor compartment.

"Their actions were incredible and heroic. The crew of five managed to prevent a radiation spill,"
The play actually received financial donations of support from the families of the Kursk crew.

Lastly, fresh off their appearance in Titantic II, the Mir-1 and Mir-2 submarines are headed to the Komsomolets (Комсомолец) site this week for a survey of the wreckage.

Reports
are that footage from The Abyss will not be used in the news broadcasts.

The dives are scheduled to occur on August 15 and 18 and will provide a radioactive and environmental survey of the wreck site. This will be the first survey of the Komsomolets since 1995. The Komsomolets wreckage remains in a commercial fishing region, and despite claims by the Soviet (and now Russian) governments regarding only minor risks of radiation, the area remains vulnerable to the possibility of radiation leaks from the submarines reactors and nuclear-equipped torpedoes. From Global Security:
The site of the accident is one of the richest fishing areas in the world, and the possible leakage of radioactive material could jeopardize the local fisheries, valued at billions of dollars annually. Two months after the sinking, the oceanographic rescue ship Akademik Mstislav Keldysh using submersibles found Komsomolets a mile down. In August of 1991, Keldysh returned to the scene and examination of the wreck in May 1992 revealed cracks along the entire length of the titanium hull, some of which were of 30-40 centimeters wide, as well as possible breaches in the primary coolant circuit that could permit fission products to leach out into sea water. As of early 1993 Russian officials maintained that leaks were "insignificant" and posed no threat to the environment. Results of the August 1993 survey suggested that waters at the site were not mixing vertically, and thus the sea life in the area was not being rapidly contaminated. The 1993 survey also revealed a hole over 20 feet wide blown in the forward torpedo compartment.

Several underwater submersible missions to the site revealed that sea water was corroding the casings of the warheads and the hull of the submarine, a process accelerated by the rapidly shifting currents. Concern was expressed that radiation could leak from missiles and contaminate a large area because of the aperiodically high (up to 1.5 m/sec) currents in the area. The Radioactivity and Environmental Security in the Oceans Conference at Woods Hole
Oceanographic Institution on June 7-9, 1993 considered the environmental monitoring program on the Komsomolets submarine. An expedition during the summer of 1994 revealed some plutonium leakage from one of the sub's two nuclear-tipped torpedoes. The expedition was successful in sealing some of the holes in the submarine's hull.

The cost of raising the submarine was estimated at about of $1 billion, which would entail the hazard that the submarine hull might not remain intact during the operation. An alternative plan was to encase the submarine by hermetically sealing it with a jelly-like material. On 24 June 1995 work began on sealing parts of the hull, and the objective was achieved at the end of July 1996. The hull was said to be safe for at least 20 to 30 more years. As of the late 1990s examinations of the area where the sub sank measured only small leaks of radioactivity from the wreck.

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10 comments:

sj said...

Re: The Brisbane premier of The Kursk. One thing must be straighten up. No ‘financial support’ was received from the relatives of the fallen submariners of the ‘Kursk’ as the author states on this web page. The production of the play was done with no funding whatsoever. However the makers of the play received Russian uniforms in a way of donation from the Russian navy personnel and their close relatives.

The production team of 'The Kursk'

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