The amazing Project Jennifer - recovery of a Russian submarine

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The amazing Project Jennifer - recovery of a Russian submarine

After a Russian sub sank in 1968 the CIA created a secret ship named the Glomar Explorer that could recover the front section of the sub to examine the construction and obtain any cypher equipment.

Howard Hughes was secretly contracted by the CIA to design and build the massive special-purpose ship that would be used to salvage the sunken Soviet submarine from the ocean floor.

The Russian K-129 sub was photographed at a depth of over 16,000 feet, and thus the salvage operation would be well beyond the depth of any ship salvage operation ever before attempted.

The Glomar Explorer employed a large mechanical claw, which Lockheed officially titled the "Capture Vehicle" (CV) but affectionately called Clementine, that was designed to be lowered down to the ocean floor, grasp around the targeted submarine section, and then lift that section up through 16,500 feet of water.

It worked by attaching steel piping together in a manner similar to oil drilling rigs, and lowering the claw through a hole in the middle of the ship, 60-foot section of pipe by 60-foot section.

The salvaged "Target Object" was thus to be drawn into a huge compartment in the middle of the ship, called the Moon Pool by its crew, and the outer doors of the Moon Pool closed to form a floor for the salvaged section.

This allowed for the entire salvage process to take place underwater, away from the view of other ships, aircraft, or spy satellites.

Sailing from Long Beach, California on June 19, 1974, the Glomar Explorer arrived at the recovery site July 4 and conducted salvage operations for over a month.

Published reports indicate that during operations on August 12, 1974, the "Clementine" claw suffered a catastrophic failure when the Target Object was over half way up to the surface, causing the already damaged section to split in half, with all but the forward 38 feet or so of the bow section to sinking back to the ocean floor.

The recovered section did not contain nuclear missiles nor the cryptographic equipment or codebooks that would have been of such extraordinary value for U.S. military intelligence.

Thus many have characterized Project Jennifer as an intelligence failure. However, the recovered section did include two nuclear torpedoes, and thus Project Jennifer should be termed disappointing but not a total failure.

While a disappointing intelligence operation, Project Jennifer remains a technological milestone, as the deepest salvage operation ever conducted.

Its a facinating read and an amazing piece of equipment

glomar.jpg - 68.76kb
By netchicken: posted on 3-9-2007

Here is another picture of the Glomar Explorer, but the telephoto lens makes the ship look shorter than it really is.

glomar-explorerno.jpg - 78.3kb
By netchicken: posted on 3-9-2007

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