News Cold War History...The End Of The Glomar Explorer

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  1. HS Cult Leader

    HS Cult Leader Elite Member Gold

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    CIA ship at center of 'strangest covert operation' to meet its end
    By Michael Harthorne

    Published September 11, 2015
    Newser

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    File photo - The Glomar Explorer ship is seen anchored in the U.S. Navy's National Defense Reserve Fleet anchored in Suisan Bay, California in this U.S. Navy handout file photo taken on May 15, 1977. (REUTERS/US Navy/Archives Branch, Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington/Handout)

    More than 40 years after it was the centerpiece of what PRI calls "possibly the biggest and strangest covert operation" of the Cold War, a piece of CIA history is headed for the scrap heap.

    After the Soviet Union failed to find one of its nuclear submarines that sank 1,500 miles northwest of Hawaii in 1968, the CIA swooped in, hoping to recover both the sub's nuclear missiles and its cryptography gear, according to Reuters.

    Under the code name Project Azorian, the CIA schemed to raise the 14 million-pound sub three miles to the surface—an undertaking considered impossible. "I think given a better background in marine engineering, we likely would not have tried," says the retired CIA employee who finally revealed the long-officially-secret story in 2012.

    The ship that the CIA came up with—and what is now being scrapped: the Hughes Glomar Explorer. The ship was unique to say the least: 619 feet long and too wide to fit in the Panama Canal, it featured massive hydraulics, ball bearings the size of bowling balls, and one huge claw with which to grab the sub wreck.

    The CIA was able to cover up the construction of the ship for four years by convincing the world Howard Hughes was building it to mine manganese nodules from the ocean floor.

    Project Azorian was modestly successful, with the Hughes Glomar only raising the bow of the Soviet sub. The CIA's infamous "Glomar Response" ("we can neither confirm nor deny...") has its origins in the agency's attempt to keep the project secret even as details leaked.

    The ship has had a long post-CIA career as an oil drilling rig, but with worldwide oil prices falling, owner Transocean has decided to send the ship to the scrapyard.

    Fittingly enough for a longtime CIA secret, Transocean won't say where the Hughes Glomar is being scrapped. (For more Cold War secrets, check out these spy photos of lost cities.)

    This article originally appeared on Newser: Ship at Heart of 'Strangest' CIA Mission to Meet Its End


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    The cover story propaganda film:



    The burial for the dead Soviets recovered:



    History:

     
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  2. HS Cult Leader

    HS Cult Leader Elite Member Gold

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    The Hughes Glomar Explorer (HGE) was built in 1973 by Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. for a covert CIA operation. The mission of Glomar Explorer was to raise a Soviet nuclear submarine K-129 that had sunk in the Pacific Ocean, resting on the ocean floor nearly 2600fm down, most likely rammed by the American submarine Swordfish.

    Oceanographers have long known that parts of the Pacific sea floor at depths between 14,000ft and 17,000ft are carpeted with so-called manganese nodules, potato-size chunks of manganese mixed with iron, nickel, cobalt and other useful metals. In the 1970's, Howard Hughes used the Deep Ocean Mining Project (DOMP) search for nodules as a cover for building the ship Glomar Explorer. Global Marine supervised construction of the Glomar Explorer, at a cost in excess of $200 million dollars, and operated it from 1973 to 1975 under contract to the US government. Glomar Explorer went to sea on 20 June 1974, found the submarine, and began to bring a portion of it to the surface. The Russians watched the "deep-sea mining" operation with interest, and tried to thwart it. An accident during the lifting operation caused the fragile hulk to break apart, resulting in the loss of a critical portion of the submarine, its nuclear missiles and secret codes.

    Hughes Glomar Explorer was equipped with a massive hoisting mechanism amidships and a "moon pool", a large internal underwater hangar to provide access to the ocean. The submarine was to be hoisted by a massive claw, which was stored in HMB-1. After Hughes Glomar Explorer and HMB-1 left port, the barge submerged, manoeuvred under Glomar Explorer, and the claw was hoisted into the moon pool. Glomar Explorer arrived on the recovery site on 4 July 1974 and conducted salvage operations for the next month. If the entire submarine had been recovered it would have been stored in HMB-1 after the salvage. In fact only the fore 38 feet of the submarine was recovered. The recovered section was small enough to be brought into the moon pool, where it was analysed and dissected.

    After the recovery, Hughes Glomar Explorer was transferred to the Navy on 3 Sept 1976 and designated AG-193. The vessel is not officially assigned a name, but is commonly referred to as Glomar Explorer. She was transferred to the Maritime Administration on 17 January 1977 and laid up at Suisun Bay, California. The navy attempted to sell the ship, but failed. In June 1978 she was leased to Global Marine Development Inc. for commercial use. That lease was terminated in 1980. In 1979 it was proposed that the ship be transferred to the National Science Foundation for use as a deep-sea drilling ship, but that effort was not funded. The ship was returned to the navy custody on 25 April 1980 and transferred to the Maritime Administration on the same day for layup at Suisun Bay.

    HMB-1 was laid up after the recovery, but was transferred to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at some point. She was returned by the EPA in 1982, officially to be laid up in reserve. It now seems likely that it was then employed as the "mother ship" for the stealth ship Sea Shadow, a purpose for which it was employed during the 1990's. At some point HMB-1 was converted from an submersible barge with access from the top into a covered floating dry dock with access from one end. It is currently in storage, with the Sea Shadow inside.

    From 1978 to 1980, Global Marine operated the Glomar Explorer in a deep-ocean mining test in water depths to 3000 fathoms. Theship, which is 619 feet long and 116 feet wide, is now owned by the US Navy. With the exception of the brief stint as a manganese module miner, the vessel has since been mothballed with the Naval Reserve Fleet in Suisun Bay, California, where she could be seen by cars crossing the Benicia bridge on Highway 680 east of San Francisco. After years of being mothballed, the ship was recently taken to Hunters Point Naval Shipyard for commercial modifications, including the removal of an 840-ton gimbal and a 608-ton cage. The vessel is on a 30-year lease from the US Navy to Global Marine Drilling, and recently underwent a large conversion project to one of a kind deep sea drill ship. Conversion cost over $180 million and was completed during the first quarter of 1998. Glomar Explorer was equipped to drill in waters of 7500 feet and with some modification up to 11,500 feet, which is 2,000 feet more than any existing rig. The conversion included the removal of 25 million pounds of superstructure and equipment to prepare the vessel for its conversion to a a dynamically-positioned deep sea drilling ship. Houston-based Global Marine is one of the largest worldwide offshore drilling contractors, with a five-year commitment from two major oil companies for drilling in water depths up to 7,500 feet in the Gulf of Mexico.

    The Los Angeles Times broke the story in February 1975, and by March 1975 numerous news stories linked the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a ship publicly listed as a research vessel owned and operated by Summa Corporation, and the secret US government operation. After subsequent stories that the CIA had approached the news media to convince them to discontinue publication of stories related to the Glomar Explorer, Harriet Ann Phillippi, a journalist, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the CIA for any records that might exist which reveal the CIA’s contact with members of the media to attempt to persuade them not to publish articles concerning the activities of the Glomar Explorer. The CIA responded by refusing to neither confirm nor deny the existence of any responsive records. The CIA claimed that any records that might exist which may reveal any CIA connection with or interest in the activities of the Glomar Explorer, or any evidence that might reveal the existence of records of this type would be classified, and therefore, exempt from disclosure under exemption 1 of the FOIA. They also insisted that exemption 3 applied, as the National Security Act of 1947 precluded them from releasing information related to the functions of CIA personnel. This was the first instance of an agency using the "can neither confirm nor deny" answer in response to a FOIA request. Since then, the terms "Glomar response" and "Glomarization" are used to describe an agency’s response when they can neither confirm nor deny whether records exist.
     
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  3. babybear

    babybear r.i.p 8/3/15, Wherewolf of AZ VIP

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    I remember that.Howard Hughes had it built as a cover for deep sea mining,but really to bring up the Russian sub.
     
  4. SouthernListen

    SouthernListen I don't follow the crowd. Sorry about that. VIP

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    Who says government isn't a good steward of your money?
     
  5. HS Cult Leader

    HS Cult Leader Elite Member Gold

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    They did the same with the DSRV, it was built and sold as a rescue sub with special ships designed to carry it and drop it and they were positioned all over the world for "rescues". There was even a movie with Charlton Heston called "Grey Lady Down" to show it in action.

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    But in this great book called "Blind Mans Bluff" and documentry, they tell the true story of the DSRV, in fact the people said they would laugh at the story of it being a rescue vehicle. It was designed and built to go to the ocean floor and install spying pods under the Soviet deep sea submarine communication cables. They said that the Soviets would pull up the cable often to inspect it expecting the U.S. to cut into it and hook things up. They would find it intact and lay it back down on top of the spy pod and never knew the U.S. was constantly changing the pods and never touching the cables.


     
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