The Biology of Human Survival: Life and Death in Extreme Environments

By Claude A. Piantadosi | Go to book overview

14
Sunken Submarines

The Barents Sea is one of the most inhospitable maritime environments in the world. Along the northern coastline of Scandinavia, the tumultuous surface freezes solid for four months every winter. In the peak of summer surface water temperature is C, cold enough that a lightly clad man in a life vest would survive less than an hour. Nonetheless, the Barents Sea provides the only major sea route for commercial shipping into and out of western Russia during the warmer months. It is also home to the Russian Northern Fleet, whose warships sail from Murmansk with relative lack of scrutiny compared to more temperate ports on the Baltic and Caspian Seas. Sailing with the Northern Fleet, despite modern advances in maritime technology, is almost as perilous today as it was a century ago. Since World War II the peacetime Soviet Navy has lost dozens of ships and many hundreds of sailors in the sea, including four nuclear submarines. The most recent tragedy occurred on August 12, 2000, when a state-of-the-art nuclear submarine sank with all hands lost, sending the Russian people into a state of national mourning.


The Sinking of the Kursk

While on a tactical naval exercise in the Barents Sea, the Kursk(K-141), an Oscar-II Class submarine carrying 118 officers and men, was shattered by two

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