Friday, August 05, 2005

Trapped Russian Bathyscaphe

UPDATE (2115 EST):
Russians eyeball AS-28

00:28 Tiger unmanned underwater device inspects AS-28 bathyscaph, pinpointsits location

Everyone up until now seemed to be waiting with baited breath to hear updates. Now they have done a TV inspection of the craft. However, what they still haven't said is if it is where they expected it to be from the towing, or closer to its original position. Hopefully it is closer to shallow water as previously reported...

UPDATE (1700 EST):
Russian Sub has been moved somewhat, Oxygen Supplies Better than Thought
Again, Interfax is the source to check. Two one-liners:


So, it appears they have indeed managed to snag either the sub itself or the cables that have gotten tangled up on the sub. Trying to drag the sub using this arrangement has got to be a tricky business, but desperate times...

As for the oxygen, I would guess that having the crew rest has decreased their oxygen use, thus extending their time left on the oxygen they have.

Things are looking up for these seven sailors at this point. Possible (positive) outcomes at this point:
a) They will drag the mini-sub shallow enough to allow divers to help the crew out of the boat;
b) The extra time they are buying themselves with respect to the air situation will allow the Brits and Americans time enough to get there and help free the sub;
c) Some combination of the above.
I will not even begin to speculate on possible failures. That is non-productive, and terrifying still to this ex-bubblehead.

UPDATE (1410 EST):
Russian Sub Caught by Its Anchor
From Interfax again:

VLADIVOSTOK. Aug 5 (Interfax) - The Russian mini-submarine that sank off the shores of the Kamchatka peninsula on Thursday is fitted with a coastal observation aerial, which is being held down to the sea floor by a 60-tonne anchor, and this is impeding the operation to raise the vessel, a top naval official said. "The anchor needs to be blown up" in order to be able to raise the AS-28 submarine, Adm. Viktor Fyodorov, commander of the Russian Pacific Fleet, told Interfax. "If the explosion is successful, the system will be raised to a depth of 100 meters and lit up by the Tiger [television camera], and we can at last be 100% sure that it's the submarine, and deepwater divers will be able to continue work," he said.

"Blow up" sounds worse than what they are planning on doing, I am sure. Too bad their anchors aren't like our sub anchors. We loose those all the time! It would come right off.

My take so far: The "Coastal observation aerial" sounds like an antenna, perhaps one that is independent in some way of the boat? Would explain the need for it having its own anchor. If they were trying to test some type of remote intel gathering antenna, that just sits there on its own and gathers data, perhaps when they were deploying it its anchor got fouled on the mini-sub? Maybe this is what is trapping the AS-28, and not fishing nets? It would also explain the extra crew on board - techs to deploy and run the antenna. Not sure - will wait for more updates, and pray for that crew.

Update (1318 EST)
Interfax now Says "Maybe" Mini-Sub is Snagged by Russians
Quoted from Interfax:
Rescue vessels belonging to the Russian Pacific Fleet have managed to catch an underwater object in their trawling nets, but it would be premature to say that it is the sunken mini-submarine, a spokesman for the Pacific Fleet headquarters told Interfax.

"I would estimate the situation to be 51% against 49% in our favor," the Russian spokesman said. I think this might be optimistic. As I said on Smash's blog, this sounds like a rather risk-laden plan.

However, if they do indeed have the sub, the plan is to drag it shallow and allow divers to try and free it. Again, risky, but the best plan the Russians have until the Brits or Americans show up with their UUVs.

Also on Interfax - not a story, just a one-liner blurb: The Russians are lowering cameras to see if they do indeed have the sub. You would think they would be able to have the sub tell them if they were caught - they were reportedly in "technical" communication with it previously (my guess - some sort of Russian-variant underwater telephone).

Update (1306 EST):
Reports of Sub Rescue NOT TRUE (yet)
MSNBC is reporting that the Russians have snagged the stranded AS-28 mini-sub with nets &/or wires, and are dragging to to shallower water.
However, Interfax quotes Vladimir Pepelyayev, deputy chief of the Russian Navy general staff, as saying that they were merely "trying" to snag the AS-28, and they are so far unsuccessful.

It appears that the Brits will get there with their UUV first. Dragging the AS-28 aside, they look like the best bet to save the mini-sub, by clipping away at the nets that have entangled it.

Update (11:48 AM EST):
The Brits are sending a remove UUV as well.
Bubblehead (ID) is covering other sources as well (Firewall prevents reading the Moscow Times, go figure)

Update (11:07 AM EST):
From LCDR Smash:
The US help being sent is a pair of 'Super Scorpio' UUVs. Looks like a pretty cool, and capable, system.
The Russians are sounding pretty firm about the 1 day of air estimate now. Possibly because the boat had seven crew onboard rather than the usual 3? Either way, they say the best plan is:
"The best way to get them out is to send in deep-water divers. We have the equipment for them, but we don't have the right kind of boat.''
Hopefully the Super Scorpio is the right kind of boat. If not, it sounds as if it could possibly clip the cables holding the Russians down, and let them make their way to the surface under their own power. Hopefully it can get there in time...

Update (10:39 AM EST):
The Sub Report has a bunch of different sources linked for this one, and this story is a good wrap up of the early information (h/t Rontini)

The Japanese will arrive by Monday, it seems. That is right on the hairy edge of the Russians air supply, if you use the three day estimate. Hopefully they are telling the crewmen to sleep to conserve air, as the Russians try the (dubious) plan of lifting the sub en toto to the surface.

CNN reports the US has been asked to help, too, but I cannot find an online confirmation. If so, we might be able to get there quickly with a DSRV (Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle) or SRC(Sub rescue chamber) - 48 hours is what they advertise, but I do not know if there will be a vessel on location that can ferry the DSRV to the scene. So, probably a SRC will be sent, as any auxiliary vessel can ferry it about.

The SRC apparently needs either a connection to latch onto (doesn't have a skirt like a DSRV) that all US subs have (not sure about old Russian Bathyscaphes), or they need to be attached by a diver or deep submergence vessel. I do not know if a diver with a hardsuit is going with the SRC, but it sounds like even if the SRC or DSRV can get there quickly, it might be up to the Japanese. I am not sure what kind of equipment they have, but if their subs are any indication, it is probably pretty slick.

Update (8:34 EST):
Heard via NPR, still checking for confirmation: US is sending an unmanned rescue vehicle. This is not something I am familiar with. Anyone? NPR also states that the crew only has 1 days worth of air left - checking on that too. If this is so, the Japanese may be too late when they arrive.

Something I forgot to think about was info from my last job. NAVSEA has a SUBMISS/SUBSUNK bill (have to be on a .mil site to see it, I believe) that immediately gets executed the moment a sub, any sub, is reported missing or sunk. So, we were probably prepping divers and rescue plans before the Russians even asked for help. Here is hoping that, at the very least, a diver with a hardsuit, or even better, a SRC, is en route.

UPDATE (6:50 EST):
The Russians say the crewman have between 3, 4, or 5 days. I don't know who 'First Class Captain of the Russian Navy Igor Dygalo ' is, but I think his estimate is probably the one to pay attention to - not only because it is the most conservative (I am a nuke, that is how we roll), but because the others come from Fleet HQ and the Defense Ministry. I don't know about other bubbleheads, but I would rather trust a CAPT who is close to the situation than a staff bubba who is riding a desk and trying to do PR damage control.

The good news is it sounds positive for rescue conditions.

Woke up this morning to the tagline on CNN: "Russian Submarine trapped on the ocean floor by fishing net!".

Other than the initial horror (no submariner ever really wants to think about getting stuck on the bottom - a dive/surface ratio of 1 is preferred), one thing in particular struck me as odd:
Stuck by a fishing net?
In training on the boat, we were often admonished to avoid going anywhere near trawlers or fishermen, as we could easily drag them under by their nets, and that is just bad news. So something was not right here. So, the full story, as far as I can tell so far:

It is not a military sub. It is a Bathyscaphe - a low power, lightly manned, but deep diving research vessel. Probably not enough power to pull down a net.
The net, and a mystery cable, are wrapped around its screw. So it sounds as if she has no propulsion, and therefore no way to free herself.
She is trapped in >600 feet of water. A deep depth, but escapable with the right equipment.
The Russians actually asked for help this time! So, this means the Russians were probably not doing anything sneaky, or they might not ask, like last time. The Japanese (underrated submariners themselves) are sending a rescue vessel. Hopefully this will prevent this from turning into a tragedy.

I will post more as I hear more. But for now, it sounds hopeful for the seven crewmen awaiting rescue.

Crossposted on The Discomfort of Thought (although not updated as frequently there as here...)



At 9:22 AM, Blogger Alex Nunez said...

Just got an MSNBC Breaking News popup on MSN Messenger stating that a Russian rescue vessel is towing the sub to shallower waters. No additional details yet.

At 10:02 AM, Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

I just got the same thing - step away from the computer for just a few minutes...

I will post an update as soon as I see a little more info.

At 10:04 AM, Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

Update from interfax posted, sub not rescued yet...

At 12:13 PM, Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

A quick perusal of older press releases show s a couple of items:
-They are in fact communicating via underwater telephone.
-Air supply: It sounds as if the 24 hour figure is strong. The crew have been advised to lay down, and only make contact every 30 minutes. Air supply is so low due to extra crew and initial use of the main engines (which suck the same air as the crew) to try and break free.
-Dragging the sub: Russian ships are dragging their ANCHORS to try and snag whatever is fouled around the sub, in the hopes that they can use this to drag the sub. This sounds even more risky than the initial reported strategy of trying to drag the boat up with nets. No guarantee of positive engagement between the anchors and the wire/nets fouling the sub, and no guarantee that the wires/nets won't further damage the sub if they put strain on them. It is wrapped around the prop apparently - ruptured shaft seals anyone?
-The sub is caught? Unsure. See update from 1318 EST. Cameras or divers will find out for sure soon...

At 2:38 PM, Blogger PigBoatSailor said...

I will be offline for a while - have to feed the mini-PBSs and all that. If anyone sees anything new, post it! Otherwise, I will be posting again in a few hours.


At 3:48 PM, Blogger Alex Nunez said...

What incredible drama.

This takes me back to Lubber's post last month which drew comparisons between astronauts and sub sailors.

Given the news of the week: first the heroic spacewalk to repair the shuttle, now the dash to save the seven men trapped in this submersible, I think that the correlation has been sufficiently reinforced.

I pray that both these stories have happy endings.

At 9:09 PM, Blogger Mike Tyukanov said...

'First Class Captain of the Russian Navy Igor Dygalo is exactly a desk-rider not to be too trusted. Captain 1st Rank (1st Class is a creative translation by Interfax) is just a rank, equal to an Army Colonel, like USN Captain. He is a spokesman for the Russian Navy, and infamous for his unreliable press-conferences over Kursk. So sources from Russian Pacific Fleet would probably be more reliable, if a bit. I haven't found a word from anyone really close to the real Navy, only staff spokesmen and high brass.

The best was (in Russian only) from one of the sub engineers, who at least explained that 1-day supply of oxygen means that if they have no additional oxygen, they can live a day on carbon dioxide removal only. However, they must have additional oxygen sources, they are a rescue sub after all, and they must have tanks in their rescue gear.

Thanks to you and other navbloggers for your blogging, and to USA, UK and Japan for help.

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