A Ministry of Defence Salvage and Marine Operations team has ventured into the austere habitat of the Russian Northern Fleet to investigate salvaging a decommissioned Russian nuclear submarine.
The November class B159 sank in 2003 under tow from Gremikha to Polyarny where its nuclear reactors were to be dismantled. Eight Russian sailors lost their lives.
Defence Equipment & Support (DE&S) team colleagues Craig English and Nigel Hills had worked on projects such as HMS Royal Oak, a Dreadnought battleship sunk in Scapa Flow in 1939, and the US liberty ship SS Richard Montgomery, sunk off Sheerness in 1944.
They knew the boat was resting upright on the seabed at about 240 metres. There was little else to go on as the Russians had sent down a Tiger ROV to get images but it had got trapped and lost.
Over ten days, the team's samples of the soil and water around the wreck showed no radioactivity. The sonar imaging equipment was sent down on the ROV to check the hull for damage, and perhaps answer the question of how B159 sank:"It was an exciting and nervous time," said Mr English.
There was also another surprising find: "We really weren't expecting to discover what appeared to be the world's supply of cod around the wreck," he said.
"It's an exclusion area for fishing anyway, but the bright lights and activity of the ROV seemed to attract these huge fish and they even show up on our sonar images."
17 September 2008
MOD helps Russians view sunken sub
ZUI this article from the MOD Defence News: