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

Preface

Almost thirty-eight years ago the crew of the nuclear attack submarine USS Queenfish (SSN-651) completed the first hydrographic survey ever undertaken in international waters of the entire continental pack-ice-covered shelf off the Soviet Union's Siberian coastline—a distance of some thirty-one hundred nautical miles. An arduous feat of seamanship and navigation under cold war conditions, it was accomplished under my command during the summer of 1970.

Our voyage of exploration began officially on 30 July 1970 in the Bering Strait with a retracing of USS Nautilus's historic 1958 route across the Chukchi Sea and Arctic Ocean via the North Pole. A brief oceanographic survey of a section of the Nansen Cordillera (now called the Gakkel Ridge) was then conducted to determine whether it was tectonically active. From there Queenfish proceeded southward to the northwestern corner of the Laptev Sea, off the northernmost island of the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago. Arriving on 10 August 1970, we began the main purpose of our voyage, a survey of the largely uncharted ice-covered shallow waters of the Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi seas. The survey was completed nineteen days later, on 29 August, in the southwestern Chukchi Sea just north of the Bering Strait. Altogether, from her departure from Pearl Harbor on 6 July 1970 to her return to Pearl Harbor two months later, on 11 September, Queenfish traveled more than fourteen thousand nautical miles, almost all of it submerged.

The Arctic-Siberian Continental Shelf Exploration, or SUBICEX 1–70 (Submarine Ice Exercise), as the expedition was officially termed, was one of many undertaken during the cold war by an extremely versatile and capable group of U.S.

-xvii-

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