Monday, August 20, 2007

Four Months Submerged at the Pier

She has been sitting on the bottom for over four months and now it’s the US Army, or is that, the US Navy to the rescue.

(Juliett 484 (K-77) Summer 2006)

The Juliett 484 (K-77) Soviet era cruise missile submarine and co-star in the movie “K19: The Widowmaker” with Harrison Ford has been a floating museum in Providence R.I. for the last few years. The sub stopped being a floating museum back in April of this year when an intense spring nor’easter overwhelmed its rusting and leaky aft ballast tanks. Stern down the sub started taking on water through the aft public access hatch cut through its pressure hull. She flooded stern first and within about a day she was on the muddy bottom in over 35 feet of water. The next day she settled and rolled to port, parting a mooring line like a gunshot. The US Coast Guard closed the pier for public safety reasons.

From the outset the USS Saratoga Museum Foundation, owners of the Juliett, have said they intend to raise and restore the submarine but were unsure where to get the funds to so. The first hurtle a detailed salvage survey and engineering work is no longer a concern. U.S. Navy and Army divers will be conducting the survey dives and Navy Engineers will also be involved.

The US Army LCU (Landing Craft Utility) New Orleans (LCU-2031) has arrived in Providence RI from Tampa FL and will act as the diving support platform. Approximately 30 divers will be involved as part of the Department of Defense's Innovative Readiness Training program. The Army divers are coming from Fort Eustis, Va., and the Navy divers are coming from Norfolk, Va.

Both the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) will be involved in the operation. NECC will be conducting the diving operations and NAVSEA will be providing the engineering expertise for planning the eventual recovery of the submarine.

(LCU-2031 at the Pier in Providence RI site of the sunken K-77.)

The Providence Journal quoted Lt. Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, public affairs officer with the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command as saying “The idea is to give the divers training that differs depending on the location and conditions in terms of underwater visibility and other factors.” continuing that “Whenever possible, we want to simulate a realistic training environment”.

As with all things submarine related the Army and Navy involvement in the recovery of the K77 has been kept low key until finalized. This blogger knew about the Navy’s involvement over a month ago but like a good sailor kept running silent until the news broke today.

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