Russian Submersibles Back To Surface At North Pole
Over the last week, there's been a lot of news coverage of the Russian expedition to the North Pole seafloor; the Russians apparently plan to use "data" gathered by the subs to claim the Arctic Ocean up to the North Pole as part of their territorial waters. While this won't ever be recognized (barring the election of a Kucinich Administration here in the U.S.) it certainly seems like the Russians pulled off a nifty bit of submarining, assuming their claims of actually reaching the seafloor are true. From the latest article in The Moscow Times:
A Russian flag was planted on the North Pole seabed Thursday as man reached the bottom of the top of the world for the first time in an expedition likely to accelerate the scramble for rich underwater deposits.Here's a picture alleging to show one of the submersibles on the seafloor:
Two mini-submarines, Mir-1 and Mir-2, carried three-man crews more than four kilometers below the Arctic surface and back up again in a nine-hour operation. A mechanical arm dropped the rust proof flag on the seabed from Mir-1 as part of Russia's attempts to bolster its claim for a vast part of the Arctic floor...
...The two submarines descended from a 25-meter-by-10-meter opening in the ice early Thursday morning. The first vessel was piloted by Sagalevich, who manned the submarine that took the footage of the wreck of the Titanic used in the Hollywood film by the same name.
"The most difficult part of the operation was surfacing," said Begak.
The submarines, which are only 8 meters long, had to make sure they found the opening, and not the 1 1/2-meter-thick ice. Begak said it was "like hitting a hole the size of the eye of a needle."
Mir-1 appeared above the water eight hours and 40 minutes after submerging, spending 40 minutes below the ice before it found open sea, Begak said. Mir-2 surfaced an hour later.
As they said, the most dangerous part of this mission was getting both mini-subs back to the surface without getting stuck under the ice -- either to the same hole they left from, or into a reasonably thin polynya. I'm personally wondering if they actually did take the trouble to actually go to the seafloor under the Pole -- loss of one of the subs would have been a big propaganda defeat for the Russians. They did a "test dive" a few days back, and there's no reason they couldn't have taken the photos and videos they're releasing now back on Sunday -- and even collected the "samples" they're going to provide. If they really wanted to prove they were there, they should have put a pinger on their package containing the Russian flag they left at the Pole. They may have, although I didn't see mention of one in any of the articles.
The bad news for the U.S. is that we can't even go to confirm if they were there or not. While the Alvin could reach the depths, we don't seem to have an icebreaker manly enough to escort her up there. Hopefully this may spur Congress and the Navy to coming up with funds for a new generation of deep submergence vehicles.
Somewhat off topic: Does anyone know the story behind the DSV-5 (ex-Nemo)? Everything I could find seemed somewhat mysterious. (For general information on non-commissioned submersibles, check out Eric's roundup of links.)