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

8
Mission Underway
En Route to the Arctic at Last

All of us on board Queenfish had fully appreciated our extraordinary good fortune in having been chosen to conduct the first hydrographic survey—acoustically tracing and recording a particular water-depth contour of high navigational interest— across the entire pack-ice-covered Siberian continental shelf. We all knew that an incursion into these vast, extremely mysterious, and totally uncharted waters was the opportunity of a lifetime—one that would test our collective capabilities and experience to the fullest. We were aware, as well, that Queenfish stood to bring back new knowledge that would be of enduring interest and value to mankind. The scientific and geological data collected would be unprecedented. The possibility even existed that we might discover new islands or a new landmass.

Initially we planned to collect ice-thickness data along the same route followed by Nautilus twelve years earlier, the result of a proposal submitted to the Arctic Submarine Laboratory and the Office of Naval Research as an add-on to our main mission. The idea was to analyze and compare both data sets to determine any changes that might have occurred in the vast Arctic Ocean sea ice during the interval between the two voyages.1

The expedition would require us to remain submerged the entire length of the survey. This was necessary not only to prevent detection by unwelcome or unfriendly eyes but also, and more importantly, to navigate safely through an extremely hazardous, ice-covered shallow-water environment. We would be generating our own oxygen while continuously removing carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, hy-

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