Grounded submarine photographed with sonar



By João Medeiros -

This eerie wreck image is not computer generated. It's the sonar image of Russian nuclear submarine B-159 (called K-159 before decommissioning), which has been lying 248m down in the Barents Sea, between Norway and Russia, since 2003. The Russian Federation hired Adus, a Scottish company that specializes in high-resolution sonar surveying, to evaluate if it would be possible to recover the wreck.

"The operation was complicated as the submarine was very deep, so we had to use the sonar equipment mounted on a remotely operated vehicle, (below)" says Martin Dean, the managing director of Adus and a forensic-wreck archaeologist.

"We also had a problem with the surveying due to the density of north Atlantic cod attracted to the sound of the sonar and the light of the cameras. So at the beginning we had to turn off the equipment for 40 minutes and wait for the fish to go."

B-159, a November-class sub launched in 1963, was being towed to a shipyard in Snezhnogorsk, 1,000km north of St Petersburg, for scrapping when bad weather caused it to sink, killing nine crew.

"According to the sonar evidence, we can say that it sank stern first, headed down vertically and stuck 12m into the seabed, like a dart," says Dean.

"The hull then snapped at the aft end and crashed to the seabed, leaving about 8m of the outer casing, including the propellers, still buried vertically in the seabed. Surprisingly, the submarine is still in good condition for a salvage."


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