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January 15, 2005

Nuclear Sub Crashed Into Undersea Mountain

This NYT article by Christopher Drew doesn't mentioned whether any nuclear material leaked from the sub when it crashed into a huge underwater mountain. It does tell you that one seaman died and 23 were seriously injured. And oh yeah, the map the sub was using didn't show a mountain in their way, just more water.

The problem is that the deep sea is the last unexplored area on earth.

Chris Andreasen, the chief hydrographer for the Office of Global Navigation at the intelligence agency, acknowledged in an interview that on the chart, "there's nothing shown that would be a hazard" at the crash site. ...

Mr. Andreasen and other scientists said that while commercial shipping interests had helped chart the most common transit routes, large areas of the ocean depths remained little charted.

Dr. David T. Sandwell, a geophysics professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, said that about 40 percent of the oceans were "very, very poorly charted, and those areas are mostly in the Southern Hemisphere."

Apparently, the nuclear-powered sub was also speeding when it crashed. Oh, and the Navy started stationing a significant number of subs around Guam in 2002 but never requested updates for its charts of the area. (The chart that failed to show the mountain was created in 1989.)

This story fascinated me for several reasons: first, because with all the technology we have, there are giant swaths of the Earth that we absolutely, completely don't understand. The deep sea is the original breeding ground for all life on Earth and yet we haven't taken the time to understand it. Instead, our scientists expend energy trying to figure out what's going on on the surface of a Saturn moon. Wouldn't you expect scientists to first completely understand their own planet before moving on to the far reaches of the solar system?

Second, it left out so many crucial details about the nuclear energy on the submarine. I know that anti-nuke activists hate the fact that nuke-powered submarines exist and I am personally concerned about whether or not that Navy sub left a trail of nuclear waste in its wake.

But I guess I should care more about whether a bunch of reckless, rich white people got caught in an avalanche on a clearly marked deathly area of a ski resort mountain than I should about the fate of the Pacific Ocean. At least, that's the impression I got from the news today on NBC's "Today Show" and MSNBC's news program. They both had plenty of reporting on that stupid avalanche in Colorado and zero on the sub crash.

Posted by cj at January 15, 2005 10:13 AM

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