"On This Day" In Engineering History Blog

"On This Day" In Engineering History

Tune in to find out about significant engineering events that took place "on this day".

Previous in Blog: December 30, 1924 – Beyond the Milky Way   Next in Blog: January 4, 1847 – The Colt .44
Close
Close
Close
31 comments

Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

Posted December 31, 2009 11:00 AM by april05

Almost three weeks ago, myself and a group of approximately twenty Albany, New York area engineers, including a colleague from GlobalSpec, had the privilege of enjoying an after work tribute dinner-talk by Ray Misiewicz, retired Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory (KAPL) nuclear designer.

Ray - inspired by the sacrifice of ninety-nine men who died on a submarine like those he helped the U.S. to design during the Cold War - was gracious enough to speak to our group - the Hudson-Mohawk section of ASME - for a second year in a row. He spoke last year on the topic of the USS Parche - a submarine that had spied on the Russian Pacific Fleet back in the 1970's (click here for last year's blog entry).

As Ray pointed out in his presentation, in the entire history of the U.S. nuclear Navy, there have been only two submarines lost at sea with their entire crews: the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion. The Scorpion sank in 11,000 feet of water, 400 miles southwest from the Portuguese Azores Islands, in 1968.

The two-hour presentation focused on multiple theories that might explain the horrible mishap, since an official most-probable cause was never given by multiple government investigations. The investigations took place since the initial late-sixties tragedy through one that took place during the Clinton Administration.

Unfortunately for the families of the sailors involved, the majority of the media's attention - often a catalyst for expediting and prioritizing work in Washington - was likely diverted by two additional tragedies happening at approximately the same time. The USS Scorpion's loss happened somewhere immediately after midnight on May 21st, 1968, sandwiched time-wise between the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King - April 4th, 1968 - and Robert F. Kennedy - June 6th, 1968.

During the initial public investigation that located the wreckage, a mathematics expert, Dr. John Craven, chief scientist with the U.S. Navy's Special Projects Division, was consulted. Craven's team employed Bayesian Search Theory, a statistical method for locating the most probable location for lost objects. There are multiple applications - computer science, sports betting, etc. - for Bayesian Theory, as Ray Misiewicz's Las Vegas "Blackjack Table / Chivas Regal" PowerPoint slide image humorously pointed out.

Over the years, Ray has had the opportunity to speak one-on-one with family members who lost loved ones in the Scorpion tragedy, and to visit important ship-yard memorials.

Resources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Scorpion_(SSN-589)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Bayes

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayesian_search_theory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanic#Rediscovery_of_the_Titanic

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Guru
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Piping Design Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Richland, WA, USA
Posts: 20972
Good Answers: 780
#1

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

12/31/2009 8:23 PM

I once heard a purported explanation for the Thresher incident that went like this:

A common method for raising a submarine from depth is to blow compressed air into ballast tanks, forcing out the water. As explained to me, the vessel was built with 1.25" Schedule 40 air lines. Then someone noted that for blowing air at a greater depth, the air pressure needs to be higher. The original piping was changed to Schedule 80. Because of the greater expansion of air from the smaller I.D. line, the colder air froze the water around the nozzle into the ballast tank, stopping the process.

In a way, I suppose this could be plausible, but it is hard to imagine that the original Schedule 40 would have been so close to the borderline that a change to Schedule 80 would push it over the edge (or to the bottom).

I have wondered about this ever since (as well as some other "forensic engineering" stories I have heard). If anyone knows about this, I would be curious to learn more.

__________________
In vino veritas; in cervisia carmen; in aqua E. coli.
Reply
3
Guru
Australia - Member - New Member Fans of Old Computers - H316 - New Member Hobbies - Model Rocketry - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Port Noarlunga, South Australia, AUSTRALIA (South of Adelaide)
Posts: 3051
Good Answers: 75
#7
In reply to #1

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 1:25 AM

G'day gals, guys & gurus,

If memory serves me correctly the frozen ballast nozzles was partially to blame for the loss of the Thresher during sea trials after a considerable reworking of the boat.

First off a little background:

Nuclear submarines are operated in a slightly different way to diesel electric boats in that they are normally ballasted to be slightly denser than the water they are in and this gives them a slight negative buoyancy. They then utilize their forward motion and the control surfaces to maintain a constant depth.

(Personal Note: I would have thought it more prudent to have a boat that was slightly positively buoyant that used forward motion and inverted wing hydrofoils to maintain depth. That way in the event of a problem such as this the boat would rise to the surface rather than sink and be crushed by the relentless pressure of the ocean.)

To surface the normal procedure is to drive the boat to periscope depth and then after confirming that it is safe to surface they blow compressed air into the ballast tanks and surface the boat.

Nuclear submarines very rarely blow ballast tanks at depth and there is a very good reason for this and that is that if you blow the ballast tanks at depth you end up with an uncontrollable and very rapid surfacing. The problems stems from the pressure of the air in the ballast tanks and reducing seawater pressure as the boat rises. The reduction in seawater pressure mans that the air in the ballast tanks expand pushing even more water from the tanks which in turn creates more positive buoyancy and so on. Unless you have a way of rapidly venting the air from the tanks, which I understand isn't that easy to achieve, you end up with a runaway ascent that you have no way of controlling.

The full story goes like this:

1. A small internal seawater line failed probably due to a failure in one of the braised rather than welded joints, but the leak was fairly insignificant and at least theoretically not something that should have caused the loss of the boat.

2. However, the leak caused a malfunction in one of the electrical panels which then caused the reactor to SCRAM leaving the boat with no method of propulsion and only a relatively small emergency electrical supply.

3. While there was nothing wrong with the reactor the SCRAM took some 15 minutes to reset and get the reactor back on line.

4. The minor leak now meant that the boat was slightly over mass and as a result had a greater negative buoyancy than norm. However, while the boat had forward movement this was not sufficient to prevent the boat from maintaining a constant depth or surfacing by using the dive planes.

5. Having no propulsion system the boats speed started to slowly wash off and during a last ditch effort to reach the surface the boat stalled and started to slip backwards.

6. As the boat continued to slip backwards and slowly head towards its crush depth the crew tried to perform an emergency blow that would have given the boat a positive buoyancy. However, this was ultimately prevented because of the freezing problem and the boat ultimately slipped pasts its crush depth and imploded killing the entire crew in a few milliseconds.

The order of the events may be a little off but from what I have read but the last message from the Thresher was

"... minor difficulties, have positive up-angle, attempting to blow."

which would tend to indicate that something along these lines was what happened.

I suppose a lot has been learnt from bitter experience and Thresher was the first boat of her class and a totally new design. Like most new designs she had numerous problems, so much so that she had to be seriously reworked and it was this reworking she was testing when she was lost.

This then raises the question since this series of trials was deemed dangerous enough to have the submarine rescue vessel Skylark follow the Thresher, why on earth were they diving in water that was greater then their designed crush depth?

Submarines are neve taken beyond a certain percentage of their crush depth so if the trials were carried out in water that was 90% or even close to 100% of the vessels crush depth then such and emergency would have seen the boat settle on the bottom and given the crew time to remedy the problems.

Regards, masu

PS: I forgot to mention that in later tests on Threshers sister boat the USS Tinosa they did indeed get ice forming on strainers that ultimately prevented the ballast tanks from being properly blown.

__________________
An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications.
Reply Good Answer (Score 3)
Guru
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Piping Design Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Richland, WA, USA
Posts: 20972
Good Answers: 780
#8
In reply to #7

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 2:25 AM

Thanks! This is a better explanation than the one I heard, on which I had some doubts.

(Oddly, and my oversight, a high-school friend of mine was a nuclear sub officer, but I never ran this scenario by him.)

__________________
In vino veritas; in cervisia carmen; in aqua E. coli.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22714
Good Answers: 411
#10
In reply to #7

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 6:41 AM

Nuclear submarines are operated in a slightly different way to diesel electric boats in that they are normally ballasted to be slightly denser than the water they are in and this gives them a slight negative buoyancy. They then utilize their forward motion and the control surfaces to maintain a constant depth.

The do have problems when they encounter a fresh water hole.

Interesting note, the submariners I know rarely talked about their experiences. Very good explanation.

p911

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Commentator

Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Posts: 69
Good Answers: 6
#13
In reply to #10

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 3:57 PM

You're right. We don't talk about our experiences. We're known as the Silent Service for a reason.

Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22714
Good Answers: 411
#16
In reply to #13

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 4:51 PM

Silient Service yes. but they have a tendency to keep talking to let you know they know something until you ask about it then and only then do they clam up.

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Commentator

Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Posts: 69
Good Answers: 6
#14
In reply to #7

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 4:01 PM

You have several partial truths there. But I'm not at liberty to discuss what they are. Sorry!

Reply
Guru
Australia - Member - New Member Fans of Old Computers - H316 - New Member Hobbies - Model Rocketry - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Port Noarlunga, South Australia, AUSTRALIA (South of Adelaide)
Posts: 3051
Good Answers: 75
#19
In reply to #14

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/02/2010 12:42 AM

Given the nature of the subject I can understand that and it's probably the reason the story continues to be intriguing even after four decades.

__________________
An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications.
Reply
Commentator
Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member United States - Member - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Berkley MA
Posts: 88
#25
In reply to #1

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/04/2010 7:22 AM

Since working at Electric Boat for a few years, the in-house training schedule always included a training session on the Thresher and the resulting actions. It was postulated as you said that due to the rapid de-pressurization of air entering the ballast tanks and subsequent freezing of entrained water that the upstream pipe burst causing air not to be vented to the ballast tanks but to the inside of the submarine. It was believed that the control of the material of the piping was also at fault. As a result of this investigation the SUBSAFE program was initiated. This program controlled every aspect of material that went into US submarine manufacture. This involved in developing a "pedigree" of the components that made up the systems on board. An example of this is in piping, knowing which mine the iron ore came from that was used to make the steel. In addition, this program also change the maintenence requirements to be more stringent and at a greater frequency.

A direct result of the Thresher accident was the redesign of the isolation valve from the air bank to the ballast tank to be open slowly (relative term) so as to prevent ice build up. Though many times while at depth while blowing tanks, I have felt the pipe and it was still cold, no ice buildup occured. This valve design has been incorporated into every US submarine that has been built to date.

I hope this gives additional insight into this topic.

__________________
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
Reply
Guru
Australia - Member - New Member Fans of Old Computers - H316 - New Member Hobbies - Model Rocketry - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Port Noarlunga, South Australia, AUSTRALIA (South of Adelaide)
Posts: 3051
Good Answers: 75
#26
In reply to #25

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/05/2010 2:10 AM

Thanks NukeGeek. When it comes to submarines much of the data and information can only be speculative at best, so having somebody that has first hand experience is to say the least enlightening.

__________________
An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications.
Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Piping Design Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Richland, WA, USA
Posts: 20972
Good Answers: 780
#27
In reply to #25

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/05/2010 2:26 AM

Thanks for the update. I guess part of what I heard way back when (1980±) wasn't too far off, after all.

__________________
In vino veritas; in cervisia carmen; in aqua E. coli.
Reply
Commentator
Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member United States - Member - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Berkley MA
Posts: 88
#29
In reply to #27

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/05/2010 7:20 AM

Just remember, in every lie or coverup, there is a small grain of truth.

__________________
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22714
Good Answers: 411
#2

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

12/31/2009 11:00 PM

This may ok it is off topic, but is wort mentioning. I remember in school Howard Hughes was building a research vessel to mine the sea bottom. People actually wanted to invest in it. When in fact it was a cover story called Project Jennifer to retrieve Soviet sub K-129.

Back to the topic, with the chess games the US and the USSR were playing one would think that very few people know what really happened.

p911

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Piping Design Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Richland, WA, USA
Posts: 20972
Good Answers: 780
#3
In reply to #2

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

12/31/2009 11:28 PM

That would have been the "Glomar Explorer," as I recall. Unless it was part of some cover story, as you mention, I think it went on to dredge up manganese nodules (appearance and size about like charcoal briquets). Manganese is useful in steel alloys and other places, but nothing much seemed to come from this effort, so for a while I called them "manganese noodles."

__________________
In vino veritas; in cervisia carmen; in aqua E. coli.
Reply
2
Guru

Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: OH USA
Posts: 549
Good Answers: 27
#4
In reply to #3

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

12/31/2009 11:43 PM

The Glomar Explorer did recover a portion of that Soviet sub. It had picked it up and was nearing the surface when the sub either slipped or broke apart and part of it was lost. The remainder was recovered in the moonpool and analyzed.

The undersea miniing of Mn nodules was simply a cover story.

The amazing part of this story is the Soviets did not know where their sub went down but the US knew almost exactly where it was.

I was a Radarman/ECM specialist on an antisubmarine aircraft carrier in the 1960s and the cleverest submarine I ever worked with was Scorpion. Scorpion was assigned to us for a special operation in late 1963. Interesting.

Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Piping Design Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Richland, WA, USA
Posts: 20972
Good Answers: 780
#5
In reply to #4

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 12:29 AM

Thanks for filling in some of this story.

I wonder if the concept suggested anything for Tom Clancy's "The Hunt for Red October."

On a tangential but brighter note, weren't most or all of the crew rescued from the Squalus?

__________________
In vino veritas; in cervisia carmen; in aqua E. coli.
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 928
Good Answers: 55
#6
In reply to #4

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 1:14 AM

Bluestone wrote: "The amazing part of this story is the Soviets did not know where their sub went down but the US knew almost exactly where it was."

The United States spent a fortune planting undersea listening devices in the ocean. Their primary purpose was to listen to the tell tale signs of Russian submarines equipped with nuclear tipped Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles. The sensitivity of the system was said to be so high, that within minutes of an submarine turning its props in Minsk harbor, CIA officials in Langley were aware of the sub's location and deployment and knew exactly where that ship was at every moment during it's entire cruise.

US submarines and other warships don't make that kind of noise thanks to Quiet Propeller Technology using special CNC machines and proprietary software licensed at the time to Toshiba for use by their Heavy Machine division.

I forget when the story broke but it was discovered that people within Toshiba sold the technology surreptitiously to the Russians. Within months Russian naval vessels, nuclear armed subs especially, were found to have deployed the technology.

No heads rolled at Toshiba that I can recall. No criminal charges were ever filed. A slap in the wrist about marketing heavy machinery in the US was said to have been on imposed on Toshiba and that was it.

The cost to the American Taxpayer was not estimated but was rumored to have been in the billions of dollars. The cost to the US in terms of national security can only be speculated.

Years later a bill was introduced in Congress that would authorise the Pentagon to release sensitive data on advanced weapons systems technology to a Japanese contractor. The contractor won over US firms to build subsystems for an advanced fighter from Lockheed Martin (?). When I found out my US Senator voted "yes", I screamed like a stuck pig and reminded him of the Quiet Propeller fiasco. He wrote back that there was no risk of any security leak and that the contract would create jobs at home as well.

Cost overruns killed the project No increase in jobs ever happened and as for the sensitive data? Who knows? Ask the Gucci loafered lobbyists with their blank checks.

"Hello! I'm from the U.S.Government and I am here to help you!"

L.J.

__________________
"Both the revolutionary and the creative individual are perpetual juveniles. The revolutionary does not grow up because he cannot grow, while the creative individual cannot grow up because he keeps growing." Eric Hoffer
Reply
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22714
Good Answers: 411
#17
In reply to #6

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 7:54 PM

US submarines and other warships don't make that kind of noise thanks to Quiet Propeller Technology using special CNC machines and proprietary software licensed at the time to Toshiba for use by their Heavy Machine division.

Oak Ridge did alot of that research, That place is amazing..........so they say. and as far as quiet propellar technology, some of the test modules were sent out inconjuction with contractors, of with which (20 years later) the private sector is benefiting, such as composites.

p911

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Guru
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member United Kingdom - Member - New Member

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Harlow England
Posts: 16499
Good Answers: 662
#20
In reply to #6

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/02/2010 5:18 AM

Senitive technology always ends up being sold to the highest bidder, or being inadvertently given away by some muppet keen to show it off. It's the nature of capitalism and a free market economy.
In most conflicts a third party will usually benefit by selling stuff to both sides or countermeasures to the other (who shouted Exocet? )
Del

__________________
health warning: These posts may contain traces of nut.
Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22714
Good Answers: 411
#21
In reply to #20

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/02/2010 7:53 PM

Technology develop at the colleges through government grants from DOD and such that amounted to huge $$$$$$, (can not give actual amount), was then turned around and sold for a fraction of the development costs to other countries that then commercialized it.

p911

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru
Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member United Kingdom - Member - New Member

Join Date: May 2007
Location: Harlow England
Posts: 16499
Good Answers: 662
#22
In reply to #21

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/03/2010 4:45 AM

Yeah, some dumb salesman prob got a big fat raise on the back of it too.
It's odd how the people first utilising a technology so often get 'leap frogged' by the next generation of users who have sat back and let the first guy spend the money.
Mind you, I'm the same, I'm don't spend my money on a flat screen TV until the price gets below my magic rule of thumb figure of £10 and inch...funny how that figure has held good over the years as a yardstick of good value.
Just bought a 26" with built in DVD player for £250
Del

__________________
health warning: These posts may contain traces of nut.
Reply Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru
Hobbies - CNC - New Member Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Engineering Fields - Electromechanical Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Aug 2007
Posts: 22714
Good Answers: 411
#9
In reply to #4

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 6:37 AM

The amazing part of this story is the Soviets did not know where their sub went down but the US knew almost exactly where it was.

I don't recall the name but the reason why we knew, we had buoy's set up listening to what was going on in the seas and was able to triangulate the location.

I believe the part that was recovered, we return the soviet bodies back after the story broke.

oops, L.J. beat me to it

p911

__________________
“ When people get what they want, they are often surprised when they get what they deserve " - James Wood
Reply
Guru

Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: OH USA
Posts: 549
Good Answers: 27
#24
In reply to #9

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/03/2010 11:48 PM

Since it was declassified years ago (and references have been included in several books and other publications) the name was SOSUS. Other responders are correct in that we knew where almost all Soviet submarines were at all times (and not just the nukes). During the height of the so-called cold war, the Soviets had several trawlers operating off the US east coast; mostly concentrated in the US Navy Atlantic Fleet designated operating areas. Although disguised as fishing trawlers they were, in fact, sub tenders. It was great fun to chase them under the tenders, illuminate and make them surface.

Submarines can be identified specifically by their underwater noise signature. Even though they may be of identical design and manufacture, their noise signature is unique.

Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: US - TEXAS
Posts: 196
Good Answers: 18
#11

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 10:35 AM

I recommend the book "Blind Mans Bluff" I think it went through several theories. Among several interesting storeys about the cold war sub duty.

Reply Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru
Hobbies - DIY Welding - New Member Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Engineering Fields - Civil Engineering - New Member United States - Member - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Red Hook, New York (Mid-Hudson River Valley)
Posts: 4364
Good Answers: 177
#12

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 1:41 PM

Hi'yall:

The acoustical listening devices that your were referring to that were installed by the USA is called "SOSUS", and is comprised of numerous underwater cables laying on the floor of the North Atlantic Ocean across the Greenland-Iceland-Scotland Gap, a natural choke point for the Soviet Navy that was/is based in Minsk. Each cable is equipped with passive listening sensors, much like the passive sonar buoys dropped by US Navy ASW choppers and P-3C Orion patrol aircraft.

Just adding in my 2 Cents.....

__________________
"Veni, Vidi, Vici"; hendiatris attributed to Gaius Julius Caesar, 47 B.C.
Reply
2
Commentator

Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Virginia Beach, VA
Posts: 69
Good Answers: 6
#15

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 4:20 PM

Old Goat is right; Sonya Sontag's Blind Man's Bluff is a very good book about the Submarine Force during the Cold War. She talks about two submarines' adventures while I was aboard them. I gave the book to my dad after I had read it and told him that he could now see some of the things I was doing.

For those interested, I recommend the following books:

Scorpion Down by Ed Offley, 2007, Basic Books (www.basicbooks.com) - An interesting historical trip and theory about how SCORPION was lost.

Rising Tide: The Untold Story of the Russian Submarines That Fought The Cold War by Gary E. Weir and Walter J. Boyne, 2003, Basic Books (www.basicbooks.com) - drawing on Soviet archives and interviews with the Soviet commanders, they provide an interesting view of Soviet Cold War operations, including K19 and various submarine ops off the US coast.

Reply Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: Transcendia
Posts: 2963
Good Answers: 93
#18
In reply to #15

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/01/2010 9:50 PM

I've got about as much interest in going down in a Sub, sailing, as I do swimming in a toilet.

I read everything that ever comes along about it, simply because it is so damned important.

__________________
You don't get wise because you got old, you get old because you were wise.
Reply
Guru
Australia - Member - New Member Fans of Old Computers - H316 - New Member Hobbies - Model Rocketry - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Port Noarlunga, South Australia, AUSTRALIA (South of Adelaide)
Posts: 3051
Good Answers: 75
#23

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/03/2010 10:36 AM

Before I go any further I have to say that while I have had a life long fascination with submarines apart from touring an old Russian Foxtrot class and Royal Australian Navy Oberon class submarine I have absolutely no hands on experience with them. So please treat this as the opinion of engineer with a non professional interest in submarines and nothing more.

Anyway, this thread has triggered my curiosity and I have been doing some reading about the loss of the Scorpion. So far I haven't come across a theory that totally fits the known (or more correctly released or publicised) events and circumstances.

However, there appears to be a big hole or rather lack of one in the torpedo theories.

Now I haven't been able to locate any images I can post, but I have seen examples in documentaries of submarines that have been sunk by torpedos and mines1. Now the interesting point is how they remain relatively intact albeit with a thumping great hole in the pressure hull where the torpedo exploded.

When a submarine is struck by a torpedo it usually causes catastrophic damage to the pressure hull which usually means that there is wide spread and very rapid flooding. It also means that the pressure differential between the inside and outside of the pressure hull is dramatically reduced and consequently the boat doesn't suffer catastrophic implosion damage as it sinks past its crush depth. As a result the wreck remains relatively intact and doesn't implode because the breach in the pressure hull prevents the pressure differential from reaching a point where it can crush the submarine.

Now in the case of the Scorpion the wreckage clearly shows catastrophic implosion damage with the aft section being pushed some 15 metres into the forward engineering space while the operations spaces have been completely obliterated. This would seem to indicate that no matter what the cause immediately prior to imploding the pressure hull was relatively intact and capable of maintaining a pressure differential great enough to cause a catastrophic implosion failure.

That would then seem to indicate that the Scorpion was not a victim of either a run away torpedo of its own or one fired at it by a hostile Russian submarine or surface vessel.

What do you think? Is the torpedo hypothesis flawed or is this a load of garbage?

Note 1: In this instance both mines and torpedos are pretty much the same thing. Basically they are large explosive charges that detonate when they contact or get close to the submarine, they just get there in a different way.

__________________
An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications.
Reply
Commentator
Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member United States - Member - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Berkley MA
Posts: 88
#28
In reply to #23

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/05/2010 7:19 AM

I believe that the present (official?) theory is that the sinking was due to and internal explosion in the torpedo room of a "hot run" torpedo (This is the theory that was presented by Dr. John Craven, the Director of Undersea Research for the Navy at the time of the sinking, and the person who used Bayes' theorem of subjective probability to find her and Charles Thorne, the one time director of Weapons Quality Engineering at the Keyport Torpedo Station). The short version of the theory is that due to a catastrophic battery failure caused by vibration, causing the warhead of a torpedo to explode. This caused the torpedo room hatches to blow out causing catastrophic flooding and loss of the submarine. The cause of the aft section being pushed approx. 15 meters in to the forward engineering space is due to the ship hitting the bottom at approx. 40 to 60 kts. Also damage due to the internal bulkheads collapsing as the ship exceeded crush depth would also contribute to what the ship looks like resting on the bottom at 11,000 ft.

Alot of this discussion is covered in the book "Blind Man's Bluff", by Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew, published by Public Affairs Publishing, 1998. This book is interesting reading about this topic and other US Submarine operations.

__________________
Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former.
Reply
Guru
Australia - Member - New Member Fans of Old Computers - H316 - New Member Hobbies - Model Rocketry - New Member

Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Port Noarlunga, South Australia, AUSTRALIA (South of Adelaide)
Posts: 3051
Good Answers: 75
#30
In reply to #28

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/05/2010 9:32 AM

G'day gals, guys, gurus & NukeGeek,

Some sort of problem in the torpedo compartment along the lines of the Kursk tragedy does fit much of the evidence. However, I very much doubt that the stern's impact with the ocean floor could have caused the telescoping at the cylindrical to conical transition.

There are several reasons for this:

1. Scattered Remains: The debris field seems to indicate that the submarine had broken up well and truly prior to it impacting the ocean floor. As a result the differences in shape, mass etcetera would have resulted in the various sections sinking and then impacting the ocean floor at different velocities.

2. Forward Hull Impact Velocity: The relatively smooth and hydrodynamic shape of the forward hull would have meant that it would have been travelling the fastest when it hit the ocean floor. The not insignificant trench it dug between the point it first impacted the ocean floor and final location would seem to confirm this. However, while the image of the forward section below does show signs of damage due to its impact with the ocean floor there are no signs I can see of longitudinal or telescope like damage.

3. Aft Impact Velocity: The shape, hydrodynamics, mass and distribution of it would have more than likely resulted in the aft section developing a backward or rearward component to its descent. However, as it is considerably less hydrodynamic than the forward section it wouldn't have been able to develop the same sort of speed the forward section did. Since the forward section doesn't show any sign of longitudinal compression then it's unlikely the aft would have telescoped as a result of its impact with the ocean floor.

4. Impact Damage: Finally is the impact or rather lack of it. The image below shows the aft control surfaces, and while there is extensive damage there is nothing like the sort of damage one would expect if it were travelling at any sort of speed when it impacted the ocean floor.

Put together that would seem to indicate that the telescoping of the aft pressure hull at the point it transitions from a cylindrical to conical profile wasn't a result of the impact with the ocean floor.

Ok, that's all speculation on my part and could easily be a pile of male bovine excrement, so what do my fellow CR4 denizens think?

Regards, masu

__________________
An elephant is a mouse built to government specifications.
Reply
Power-User
Engineering Fields - Mechanical Engineering - BSME Clarkson University 1992 Engineering Fields - Software Engineering - BSME Clarkson University 1992 Fans of Old Computers - TRS-80 - DataRock 1.0

Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Troy, NY
Posts: 401
Good Answers: 3
#31

Re: Overdue and Presumed Missing: The Loss of the USS Scorpion (SSN-589)

01/06/2010 4:09 PM

UPDATE FOR FOLKS ABLE TO VISIT / LIVING-IN UPSTATE NEW YORK IN LATE JANUARY / FEBRUARY 2010:

Folks,

I will present the talk "Arctic Submarine Laboratory" (see the synopsis below) at the Clifton Park Library on Friday, January 15th at 10:30 am.

"Arctic Submarine Laboratory"

The Arctic Submarine Laboratory pioneered scientific exploration of the Arctic Ocean Basin to enable United States submarine operations under the ice canopy. The evolution of the Laboratory from its origins in World War 2 through the present day is chronicled through some of the unique submarine operations it sponsored. In the early days the missions were limited by the undersea endurance of the post World War 2 diesel electric boats. That changed with the advent of nuclear power. Ride with the scientists and engineers on voyages aboard nuclear submarines as they sail through the Northwest Passage and explore the Siberian continental shelf off the northern coast of Asia. The talk also highlights how the Arctic Submarine Laboratory and the US Navy collaborated with civilian scientists in support of Arctic climate change studies during the 1990's.

Other dates for this talk include:

NYS Military Museum, Saratoga Springs, January 30th at 1:00 pm

Colonie Library, February 4th at 7:00 pm

East Greenbush Library February 28th at 2:00 pm

Ray Misiewicz

wicz2004@yahoo.com

Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 31 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.

Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

april05 (1); Bluestone (2); CaptMoosie (1); Del the cat (2); GRAY HAIRED OLD GOAT (1); Laughing Jaguar (1); masu (5); NukeGeek (3); Old Submarine Sailor (3); phoenix911 (6); Tornado (5); Transcendian (1)

Previous in Blog: December 30, 1924 – Beyond the Milky Way   Next in Blog: January 4, 1847 – The Colt .44

Advertisement