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

12
Exploring the Nansen Cordillera
for Volcanic Activity

After our highly satisfying visit to the North Pole, we submerged early on 6 August to 390 feet and resumed retracing Nautilus's 1958 route south along longitude 25° E, which farther south passes through Nordaustlandet in the Svalbard Archipelago, beginning just above latitude 80° N. To our complete surprise, in less than an hour we were forced to maneuver to avoid an extremely deep-draft ice keel. It was in all probability an iceberg, located at latitude 89°–46′ N, another instance of where none should have been found. Allan Beal and Dick Boyle fully concurred with Queenfish's latest watchword for this expedition: “Expect anything and assume nothing!”

We had originally intended to follow Nautilus's route as far south as 83° N. We were also tasked, however, with checking for possible seismic activity along the Nansen Cordillera (today called the Gakkel Ridge, as mentioned earlier). The cordillera is a submerged range of mountains and V-shaped rifts separating the Nansen and Amundsen basins on the Eurasian side of the Arctic Ocean; it was then suspected to be tectonically active. The ridge is itself the northernmost extension of the huge Mid-Atlantic Ridge, running roughly from south to north in the central Atlantic and now known to be an area of considerable volcanic activity.1

About 130 miles wide, the ridge runs some eleven hundred miles from north of Greenland into the Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard and across the ocean bottom until it disappears into the continental shelf of the Laptev Sea. At its high point it stands about forty-nine hundred feet above the surrounding seafloor; at its low it is approximately eighteen thousand feet below the floor, which makes it the deepest

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