Unknown Waters: A Firsthand Account of the Historic Under-Ice Survey of the Siberian Continental Shelf by USS Queenfish (SSN-651)

By Alfred S. McLaren | Go to book overview

Foreword

Vice Admiral John Nicholson, U.S. Navy (Ret.), once observed that, whereas control of the seas generally required a combination of surface ships, submarines, and aircraft, control of the Arctic Ocean could come only through the nuclear-powered submarine. Nicholson, a true pioneer of Arctic submarining, knows by his own experience that true control can come only through exploration and mapping of uncharted waters under the ice spread across the Arctic. The most difficult and hazardous area of Arctic ice to explore is the shallow waters of the continental shelf north of Siberia, and that is exactly what this fascinating book is about. It is the true story of Captain Fred McLaren and his officers and crew of the nuclear submarine USS Queenfish (SSN-651), who made, through every conceivable hazard of ice and seafloor, history's first survey of that remote and important region.

Although six times the size of the Mediterranean Sea, the Arctic Ocean is the world's smallest ocean and remains to this day the least understood and charted. Before hearing my own siren song of the Arctic, I visualized the region at the top of the world in terms of a lot of ice and snow. This is true, but the more important fact is that the ocean supports much of that ice and snow. Because ocean waters are on the move, the ice floating on top is also on the move—constantly shifting and heaving great pieces of ice one on another. This action creates pressure ridges: high ice projections on top of the ice and deep ice keels below the water surface. Even on tried-and-true routes, one must realize that the only thing predictable about sea ice is its unpredictability. A submarine exploring a new route can find itself in shallow water due to a rapidly shoaling seabed or face to face with an underwater moun-

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