Saved at the last gap

Posted: 04/04/2012 in all marine news

John Harding –

On Thursday, August 4, 2005, the Russian Navy mini-submersible AS-28 became stuck 200 metres under the Pacific Ocean, off the country’s province of Kamchatka, in cables securing the hydrophone underwater submarine listening system it was repairing.

The 13-metre-long mini submarine wasn’t actually supposed to be repairing anything; it was designed to do one thing, rescue submariners trapped underwater in their craft.

There were seven sailors on board. Its normal crew was four, with space to carry 20 rescued sailors. It had a limited air supply because it was never intended to be submerged for more than six hours at a time.

It was meant to go down, transfer trapped submariners from a stricken sub via an airlock and take them back up.

On this particular day, it was carrying seven bottles of compressed air, giving maximum breathing time for those on board of about 72 hours.

Five years earlier after an accident on the nuclear submarine Kursk, the Russians, highly protective of their military secrecy, had refused international offers of help.

All 118 sailors on board died. This time, the Russians recognised their technologically out-of-date navy lacked the equipment to save their sailors and put out an international SOS.

Teams from the United States, Japan, Australia and the UK responded. What followed was a desperate rescue attempt against a ticking clock as nerve-tingling as any Hollywood disaster movie.

The British team was led by Royal Navy Commander Ian Riches, and Stuart Gold from the private company that ran the UK’s Submarine Rescue Service.

Gold had spent ten years in his job, an expert in submarine rescue and veteran of numerous practice exercises.

But his skills had never been required in a real-life situation. Until now.

Full story…



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