High-Tension Submarine Drama in the Deep? The Real Scoop
UPDATE (2007-08-02 16:31:38) - Russian mini-submarine safely resurfaces after plunge at North Pole story - very terse
Today (Sunday, July 29th) is the day a three-man mini-sub is due to place a titanium capsule containing a flag and message some 14,000-ft beneath arctic ice. "The Arctic is Russian," expedition leader Chilingarov said before the mission departed last Tuesday. "We are going to be the first to put a flag there, a Russian flag at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, at the very point of the North Pole."
The nominal purpose of the expedition is to provide new evidence proving the North Pole is an extension of Russia's coastal shelf (Lomonosov Ridge). Russia would thereby perfect earler claims to mineral rights the size of Germany, France and Italy combined - a region estimated to contain 10 billion cubic meters of hydrocarbons, plus diamonds and ores.
Under international law, Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark control economic zones within 200 miles of their continental shelves. Russia laid claim to vast swaths of undersea Arctic territory in 2001. But the four other polar countries objected. Danish scientists maintain the Lomonosov Ridge is an extension of Greenland. The Russian expedition hopes to end the controversy with samples of the seabed unique to the motherland.
Since 1) The titanium capsule was probably drop-anchored surrepetiously months ago; and 2) Suitable continental shelf samples were likewise prepared in the past, the dramatic charade is about something else entirely. What? Regaining lost world esteem is more likely.
Dangers would be abundant. The mission has already been delayed due to ship engine failure. The submarine portion of the mission is astoundingly more difficult: The mini-subs must descend almost 3 miles in cold, crushing water and resurface within the ice-free zone cleared by the icebreaker. They must avoid a calamity similar to Russia's AS-28 mini-sub, whose crew nearly died during a much shallower ascent in 2005. And finally, they must also avoid frequent technical difficulties resulting in various unsuccessful rocket launches from Russian submarines over the past 5 years.
While nearby foreign submarines will secretly monitor every step of the whole evolution, strict public silence will certainly be maintained. Would Russia fake a 14,000-ft. dive for such high stakes? We might know it was not faked (early Monday) only if something goes terribly wrong. I sincerely hope nothing does, and wish for the safe return of all crews. Something tells me to expect another problem, however.
Submarines are always silent and strange.
Labels: fake AS-28 Duma deputies problem