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

11
First Surfacings in the Arctic Ocean
En Route to the Geographic North Pole

Queenfish had reached the northeastern edge of the Chukchi Sea continental shelf and the deep water of the Arctic Ocean shortly after midnight on 2 August. We were now proceeding at almost twenty knots to a point north of Point Barrow, Alaska, whence we would resume retracing Nautilus's 1958 route across the Arctic Ocean along longitude 155° W northward to the North Pole and then southward along longitude 25° E to latitude 83° N. The route would entail continuous recording of the under-ice topography and overall water depths along the same track and speeds that Nautilus had followed twelve years earlier.1

With the top sounder just reported by the sonar officer to be “fully repaired and continuously measuring ice draft overhead,” Queenfish was ready in all respects to make her first surfacing in the Arctic Ocean. Quartermaster of the Watch Louis Soukey was instructed to be particularly alert for, and to immediately report, any polynyas or leads of 150 yards or greater in length that were sufficiently ice-free in which to conduct a safe vertical ascent.

The command watch officer and the officer of the deck were instructed to “execute” on the first such open water. “Execution” on a polynya or lead consisted basically of reversing course through the use of a Williamson Turn and then decreasing speed and depth in order to reach an “all stop and hovering” position from which to make a vertical ascent into the center of the polynya or lead directly above the submarine.2 It was to become a standard under-ice operational procedure during the weeks ahead.

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