Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Robotic aid arrives in rush to rescue 7 from Russian sub

Filed under
Sci/Tech

U.S. and British planes carrying robotic undersea vehicles landed in Russia's far east Saturday to help rescue seven sailors trapped in a mini-submarine 600 feet below the Pacific.

Both the U.S. Navy and Britain's military sent so-called Super Scorpios, and workers labored to deploy the vehicles as concerns rose over how much oxygen remained for the seven trapped men.

The Scorpios and their equipment will have to be loaded aboard a vessel and taken to the stricken mini-sub's location.

Moscow asked for outside assistance within hours of news breaking about the sub's plight--a speedy request that was a marked change since the Kursk nuclear submarine disaster in 2000, when Russian officials waited until hope was all but exhausted. All 118 died aboard the Kursk.

The mini-sub snagged on an underwater antenna on Thursday and was the subject of desperate rescue efforts and widely varying estimates of how much oxygen remained on board.

The commander of the Russian Pacific Fleet, Adm. Viktor Fyodorov, said early Saturday that there was oxygen for "at least 18 hours," a distinctly less optimistic statement than his earlier assertion that the air would last into Monday. Later Saturday, however, news agencies quoted him as saying there was air for "more than 24 hours."

The confusion over the air supply darkly echoed the sinking of the Kursk almost exactly five years ago. That disaster shocked Russians and deeply embarrassed the country by demonstrating how Russia's once-mighty navy had deteriorated as funding dried up following the 1991 Soviet collapse.

The new crisis is also highly embarrassing for Russia, which will hold an unprecedented joint military exercise with China later this month, including the use of submarines to settle an imaginary conflict in a foreign land. In the exercise, Russia is to field a naval squadron and 17 long-haul aircraft.

No comment from Putin

Navy spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo told The Associated Press that rescuers had managed to move the sub about 60 yards toward shore with the help of a Russian remote vehicle that was transmitting pictures. Fyodotov, however, was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that the process was taking too long and rescuers would try to attach a tow line.

The rescue effort underscores that promises by President Vladimir Putin to improve the navy's equipment have apparently had little effect. Authorities initially said a mini-sub would be sent to try to aid the stranded one, but the navy later said it was not equipped to go that deep.

Putin was criticized for his slow response to the Kursk crisis and reluctance to accept foreign assistance. By early Saturday, Putin had made no public comment on the latest sinking.

Too deep to escape

The sailors were in contact with authorities and were not hurt initially, Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Alexander Kosolapov said. Their mini-submarine was trapped in Beryozovaya Bay, about 45 miles south of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, the capital of the peninsular region in Russia's far east.

The mini-sub, which became disabled after it was launched from a ship in a combat training exercise, was too deep to allow the sailors to swim to the surface on their own or for divers to reach it, Russian officials said.

Although the Russian navy reportedly ended its deep-sea diving training programs a decade ago because of funding shortages, it does have a device called the Kolokolchik, essentially an updated diving bell, that can be used for some underwater rescues.

However, the mini-sub lies so deep that the device apparently would be useless.

U.S. divers, presumably with better equipment, rushed to the scene to help if necessary. In Belle Chasse, La., a marine services company sent sophisticated deep sea diving suits and a diving crew on board a military plane.

The Japanese ships were not expected to arrive until early next week.

Tangled up in `coastal object'

Dygalo, the navy spokesman, initially said on state-run Rossiya Television that the sub got trapped when its propeller became entangled in a fishing net Thursday. But Fyodorov later said the sub was stuck on an antenna, and Dygalo described the antenna as a "Pacific Fleet coastal infrastructure object."

The trapped AS-28, which looks like a small submarine, was built in 1989. It is about 44 feet long and more than 18 feet high. A vessel of the same type was used in the rescue efforts that followed the Kursk disaster.

Since Soviet times, the Kamchatka Peninsula has housed several major submarine bases and numerous other military facilities, and large areas of it remain closed to outsiders.

Despite strong criticism for Putin's response to the Kursk disaster, he was re-elected in 2004 and his supporters command an overwhelming majority in parliament, making the political fallout of the latest sinking likely minimal.

By Vladimir Isachenkov
Associated Press

More in Tux Machines

Chromixium Adds Polish to Chrome

Chromixium is a new Linux distro that goes one big step further than the few existing distros catering to the Chrome OS. It one-ups Google's semi-proprietary Chrome OS locked into the popular Chromebook hardware. Read more

Leftovers: KDE Software

  • Interview with David Revoy
    I bought a tablet to start to paint digitally during this period. I didn’t know many things about software, so my first years of digital painting were made with Photoshop Elements (bundled with the tablet). With digital painting, I could experiment with many themes I could never have sold on canvas. Then I met online publishers interested in my digital art and started to work more and more as a digital painter with an official Photoshop licence, Corel Painter, etcetera. In 2003 I ended my career as a traditional painter when a client decided to buy my whole stock of canvas.
  • There and back again, an algorithm tale
    Implementing Qt data models is anything but fun. For that reason, I don’t blame anyone for writing a beginResetModel / endResetModel combo any time a more complex change has happened.
  • Google Summer of Code 2015 – Week One : The Joy Of The First Paycheck!
    What I have done till now is collect constellation artwork used in Stellarium, and complied a list of 3 stars for each constellation which would be used to position the constellation image in the sky map. I started coding and have written the ConstellationArt class declaration. Earlier I had included a Q_PROPERTY to make constellations fade in and out, but I was told that this would be difficult to achieve since KStars doesn’t use OpenGL. In any case, I think getting the constellations to display correctly in the sky is more important than making them fade. That could always be done at a later point of time.
  • Suggesting new ways: Kamoso 3.0 Technology Preview
    The world changes, and with it, we change too. For this new version of Kamoso we wanted to iterate what we’re presenting.

Carl Sagan's solar-powered spacecraft is in trouble

  • Carl Sagan's solar-powered spacecraft is in trouble
  • Software Glitch Pauses LightSail Test Mission
    But inside the spacecraft's Linux-based flight software, a problem was brewing. Every 15 seconds, LightSail transmits a telemetry beacon packet. The software controlling the main system board writes corresponding information to a file called beacon.csv. If you’re not familiar with CSV files, you can think of them as simplified spreadsheets—in fact, most can be opened with Microsoft Excel.

Ubuntu Touch OTA-4 Update to Let Users Import SIM Contacts

A fresh OTA update is being prepared for Ubuntu Touch, and it should land soon. Developers have released some of the most important improvements that will be implemented in the upcoming release. Read more