Seamounts near the Caroline Islands
Robert Hamilton, of the New London, CT, Day, and one of the most informed newpaper writer around on the subject of submarines, has a good article (annoying free registration required after two days) in which he talks to local retired submariners about the area where the San Francisco (SSN-711) ran aground. The article (limited to the blogosphere's requisite four paragraphs) states in part:
•••During the Cold War, the Navy focused on charting the Atlantic because of the threat the Soviet Union posed from that direction. Submariners said that until recently some of the Pacific Ocean charts carried warnings based on soundings made by Captain Cook in the 18th century, and even modern charts can be based on soundings taken 20 miles or more apart.
Local submariners say the area where the sub was traveling is notorious for no-warning sea mounts; the water depth can change 1,000 fathoms in seconds.
“We know more about the backside of the moon than we do about the bottom of the ocean,” said retired Navy Capt. James Patton, president of Submarine Tactics and Technology in North Stonington.
The area in which the San Francisco was traveling, through the Caroline Islands chain, is one of the worst, with dozens of islands rising out of the water and many more uncharted seamounts between them.
I remember transiting once from Perth, W. Australia, to Hobart, Tasmania; the charts for the area basically had only a narrow lanes of sounding data, and a lot of blank areas. The Pacific is a big ocean; there's lots of places we haven't been yet, and the San Francisco may have been in one of those places.