HAMMERNEWS- Michael Hammerschlag

Current Political Commentary by journalist Michael Hammerschlag; Thoughts on foreign policy, Republican outrages, liberal strategies, science by 8 year correspondent in Russia/Ukraine over 22 years and longtime commentator; Website: http://HAMMERNEWS.com

Thursday, August 04, 2005

BLACKBASS DOWN- RESCUEING the RESCUE SUB + REPORTER'S BASRASSINATION




CREW IS ALL ALIVE + OK Times are EDT unless say "local".

1:20 am 8/7 EDT Petropavlovsk, Kamchatka: A life and death struggle played out for the imprisoned 7 man crew of the Russian rescue submersible PRIZE, whose propeller snagged on the aerial of a Russian coastal sub detecting hydrophone station (or the very long low frequency arrays) and fishing nets 623 ft below the ocean 43 miles off Kamchatka.... as they ran out of breathable air. This is a little sub designed for 1 day operation- officials first said they had air till Monday, then (midnight Fri) it was "over a day", then 18 hours, which means it will be lucky if they are alive by Sat. midnight- judging by the record of Russian official deceptions about the tragic and frustrating loss of the huge KURSK, which was so shallow it would have protruded 150 feet out of the water if stood on end- see Season of Plagues. Officials are alternately talking about fishing rope wrapped around propeller OR (when pressed) a snagged aerial, and claimed they were raising the sub with hooked or looped underneath cables, but Russian admiral Fyodorov said the antenna array is held down by 4 concrete anchors weighing 60 tons. Old stomping ground Moscow News, says reporters didn't believe fishing line story because there was no fishing there, but nets and junk are everywhere, including dead spots in the middle of the ocean.

Sources say ship carries 120 hours of air, but the normal crew is only 3 or 4, not 7. If trapped Thursday morning (NYT says longer) by 11pm EDT Sat they have been there 79 hours (or maybe another day more). Fresh reports are that they have chemical oxygen generators- which probably made the difference. The resting immobile crew has shut off heaters and most appliances, and donned thermal suits in the chilled titanium skinned ship (41-45 degrees), to preserve CO2 scrubbing and acoustic telephone power.

Sun 12:10am BULLETIN: 7pm Fox News says the British ROV with joint personel is at depth on site and snarl is only fishing net, which they are currently cutting off. I suspect this may be required cover story by the Russian military, but if true- rescue is imminent. (only Fox has live reports in US) One of the eccentricities of Russian officials is that they will keep lying even after other officials have admitted the truth, causing contradictory ping-ponging reports. 8:50pm CNN says INTERFAX says SUB IS FREE, and 11:26pm (4:26pm Sun local) that SUB HAS SURFACED, and 12:30am CREW IS ALL ALIVE + OK . The Scorpio had a problem and had to return to the surface after cutting all fishing/antenna cables but one, then the PRIZE rose to the surface after a second Scorpio effort removed the last fishing net from the nose. They had just enough remaining compressed air to blow the ballast to float up.

In a heroic international effort, a San Diego C-5a raced there with 40 specialists, two 4 ton 4x8x4ft Super Scorpio ROV's (remotely operated vehicle), that can cut through one inch (Scorpio 45 can cut 70mm) one report said) of cable, a Deep Drone 8000 ROV and ultra deep diving suits flew from South Carolina,; and the British Defense Ministry dispatched a six-man crew and a Scorpio 45 by RAF C-17 transport. Both planes landed by 5:00am EDT Sat morning (Petropavlovsk time is 17 hours later, GMT+13), - these guys can be saved if everything goes perfectly. A KNSD TV crew flying with the plane says they are transporting the ROV's by Russian ship 100 miles, arrival time is 6 hours later. Coordinated by the Norfolk based ISMERLO international sub rescue org; the instant response was partly due by late June multination Mediterranian Sorbet sub rescue exercises.

The Brit ROV ship reached it 5 pm Sat- (10am Sun there), the est. 73nd hour of their ordeal. The US ROV ship never even left the dock!!- allegedly waiting for advanced equipment on advice of some "Russian officials". Perhaps paranoid about US spying on their secret undersea gear and ashamed of the decrepit state of said gear- what a gambol if they were deliberately denied, and those poor men had died. Even next door Japanese were pointlessly sending a submersible by ship that wouldn't arrive till Monday or later (via Australia?), though the sailor's air may run out sometime Saturday? They have bitter custody disputes with the Russians over the Kuril Is. just south.

Stranded submariners don't just run out of oxygen, they are poisoned by accumulating exhalation CO2, with accompanying panic (I've tested the effects of this with a bucket in a bathtub- it isn't pretty). If they have enough lithium or calcium hydroxide canisters, CO2 can be absorbed. In the Kursk, the Russians refused foreign help till their mariners were long dead, though it was moot: a handful lasted only 4-10 hours in a freezing dark half flooded compartment after the experimental supersonic torpedo blew all the forward hatches off. Officials claimed they were talking to Kursk sailors 3 days after disaster.

There is anger now that the Navy waited up to 48 hours before requesting help, according to the commander Vyacheslav Miloshevsky's wife- they actually were stranded Wednesday, so actually were trapped for 4 days. It was kept secret for at least 24 hours, and first publicized when a crewman's wife called a radio station. Kommersant says the head of Navy Kuroyedov may be fired over this and the Kursk disaster. Though there was no problem with with the Russian craft, the near disaster is another of a series. Another nuclear submarine, the K159, being towed to the junkyard, sank in 2003 when the inflated collar collapsed, with the loss of over 9 lives. The BBC reports that just last month:
---"A nuclear submarine was to fire two liquid-fuelled intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), but both got stuck in their silos. The next day, a sister ship succeeded in firing a missile - but it exploded soon after take-off.
"All were lucky the ICBM did not explode on the sub," the military analyst Pavel Felgengauer wrote in his column in the Moscow Times.----

Russian prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the affair, and their Navy plans to buy two $1.5-6 million Scorpios. How they got trapped comes from the Independent: --- "One of the submariners, Captain Valery Lepetyukha, said the submarine had been sent to investigate an underwater surveillance antenna that had got entangled in fishing nets. He said: "We inspected one side then the other side of the device, that is to say, we were not immediately tangled.Then we found a hanging rope and went around it. While going around it, we apparently were caught by the net. We had no light in the back."---- The submarine boys at the bottom blog think that the AS-28 was actually looking for American bugs on their listening station, the placing of which was famously described in the book Blind Mans Bluff.

The Russians spent much time draping, dragging or attaching lines to pull it up or into more shallow waters, reportedly with their own ROV- Tiger (which had no heavy duty cutter arms). As expected, a prop snag on anything substantial can't be shaken loose, and there was serious risk of damage to the sub- they dragged it 200 ft before "lines parted". If they could have raised it above 200 ft depth, divers could help them escape into the water with scuba gear, since it has an rare bottom hatch. But give the Russian's credit: they don't sit on their hands when confronted with a problem like NASA, when they refused to even looking at the doomed Columbia with a telescope ("we couldn't do anything anyway" -See next post). Pressure at that depth is 19 times surface pressure, some 280 lbs per square inch, so opening an external hatch would compress air to 1/19th the volume, by explosive freezing flooding.

The trapped AS-28 was built in 1989. It is about 44 feet long and 18.7 feet high and can dive to depths below 1,640 feet. A vessel of the same type was used in the rescue efforts that followed the Kursk disaster, and is similar to US DSRV's, which I've toured. Designed to mate and rescue crew off sunken subs, the little subs can take 25-40 men at a time. On such a deep submersible- the majority of space is filled by ballast tanks and/or gasoline. Putin has not yet commented, though he dispatched Defense Minister Ivanov, who was on the surface at the site.

People running out of air underwater is personally agonizing- since I was just cave diving in the fabulous cenotes and longest underground rivers/tunnels in the world (~100 miles but only did a few hundred meters) in the Yucatan last year (with warm salt and cool fresh layers). I once came not too far from experiencing it at the end of the Bay of Fundy, body surfing the massive tidal bore into quicksand (quickmud) in Truro, NS.

Russian Wire from Moscow Times

Submariners blog - many fascinating insights

-------------------------------------


REPORTER'S BASASSINATION

HIT in BASRA: Intrepid courageous National Review and Christian Science Monitor reporter Steven Vincent went from the height of his profession- a July 31 editorial in NYT- to its bottom- kidnapped and murdered Aug 2 by corrupt or fake police for reporting the extremist Shiite takeover of Basra's police and universities, and their intimidation of women. He claimed hundreds a month were being assassinated by Shiite extremists and police associated with Moqtada al Sadr (75% according to sneering cops), while the Bridge over River Kwai Brits are blithely training them to a fine edge (you want to destroy the bridge??). Vincent had traveled for years without security among Iraqis and loved them, even dressing up as a pilgrim and attending the bloody flaggellations in the holiest Shiite Ashura celebrations in Karbala.

His excellent blog describes the chilling encounter with the Muqti cops [Eddie grabbed my arm and, smirking and snorting, shoved his cell phone in my face, where prominently displayed on its call screen was a mini-image of...the Twin Towers burning.], and trying to explain the situation to a decent naive US captain who replied,
"I mean, I've always believed that we shouldn't project American values onto other cultures--that we should let them be. Who is to say we are right and they are wrong?". - July 29

I mentioned this at the end of my Capital Times article OVER THERE (which Bochco just filched for his good new FX nepotistic series-Wed 10 pm)
"It's almost heartbreaking to hear our troops simplistically celebrate the election, but by their sacrifice, help install the Shiite Mullahs that have been the bane of our existence in Iran. Muqtada Al Sadr didn’t stop the violence because he saw the light, but because democracy was soon going to hand him the keys to the kingdom."

Fake or killer police are deeply terrifying- there is no defense for a reporter or anyone else- this also happened in Moscow. This stuff has much resonance for me: from end excerpt of my Putin's War on Media article, here's my deeply disturbing take on almost being whacked in Mockba:

[[[ Oct '93 1am, Varshavskaya, Moscow: Walking the 9 minutes home from the metro in a quiet secluded residential area, my worst nightmare became reality. A BMW slowed as it passed me, then continued. Directions, I thought, my brain having returned to its normal complacency after being kidnapped at gunpoint in St. Petersburg 2 years before. Fool. BMW's were the company cars of the Mafiya. 100 ft. from my building door, 4 huge guys appeared on an intersecting course, just as I had known it would happen. This was it- I'd never seen anyone near my building after midnight before. One of them didn't want to do it, though, and angled off from the others. "Where are you going, come on", they exhorted. Speed walking to the door, I sprinted to the 4th floor, caught the elevator to 8, and sent it to 6 to confuse them.. but within 30 seconds they were camped on my landing, loudly chatting for 5 minutes. It was a message.


They could have been sent by Mafiya, Communist, or Government bosses enraged at my articles (I’d criticized the Mafiya gangs, the Communist Parliament, Yeltsin’s crushing of other powers, the rampant corruption); a girlfriend’s other boyfriend; an envious neighbor; or dubiously I was just a random target of opportunity- a rich foreigner. I never knew. Like so many things there it was lost in a miasmic cloud of fear and ignorance. For the next week I circled around, crossing the mud and hills of the train tracks to approach from the other side, where I studied the building carefully. 2 days later a car idled at the entrance (also unprecedented) + I crouched for an hour in the cold, debating alternatives. Complaining to the useless local militsia just could lead to other future risks: for foreigners and journalists safety lay in anonymity. ]]]] - THE NEW EVIL EMPIRE- The Mafiya in Russia (available on special request)

text Copyright 2005 Michael Hammerschlag

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