Red October for real: Maps suggest Soviet subs cruised Canadian Arctic

Posted: 12/10/2011 in all marine news

Bob Weber – 

The old Soviet Union may have been just as familiar with Canada’s Arctic waters as Canadians.

Sections of Cold-War-era nautical charts obtained by The Canadian Press suggest that Russian mariners have for decades possessed detailed and accurate knowledge of crucial internal waterways such as the Northwest Passage.

Those charts, which may offer the first documentary proof of the widely held belief that Soviet nuclear submarines routinely patrolled the Canadian Arctic during the Cold War, are still in use by Russian vessels.

In some places, they are preferred to current Canadian charts.

“In some cases the Russian charts are more detailed than the Canadian ones and the navigators have them out on the chart table beside the Canadian ones in order to cross-reference any questionable soundings,” said Aaron Lawton of One Ocean Expeditions, an adventure tourism company that charters the Russian-owned ship Academik Ioffe for Arctic cruises.

“I have travelled on the Ioffe in the Canadian Arctic for (many) seasons and have generally found that the vessel has always cross-referenced the Russian charts,” Lawton said in an email from on board the Ioffe off the Antarctic coast.

The Ioffe is owned by the Moscow-based P.P. Shirsov Institute of Oceanography. Vladimir Tereschenkov, head of marine operations, said the Russian charts were published by the Russian Hydrographic Service.

The sections seen by The Canadian Press are photographs of charts in current use on the Ioffe. Compiled from information gleaned over the years up to 1970, they are clearly marked with Soviet insignia, including the red star and the hammer and sickle.

Both sections are of highly strategic Arctic waterways.

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