Since 1968, a Navy Nuclear Submarine Is Still Trapped 10,000 Feet Below the Waves

Warfare History Network

Warfare History Network

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Sunk by her own torpedo?

Since 1968, a Navy Nuclear Submarine Is Still Trapped 10,000 Feet Below the Waves

Did an overheating battery sink Scorpion and did a warhead cook off? This bears some consideration. The wreck shows that the torpedo loading hatches and escape hatches leading to Scorpion’s torpedo room are open. If a 330-pound HDX warhead had detonated, it would likely have caused sympathetic explosions of nearby torpedoes. If that had been the case, the entire forward section of the submarine would have been torn apart. The wreckage, while severe, does not show any external distortion from massive internal explosions. What is more, unlike virtually every other compartment, the torpedo room was not crushed by external pressure. This is highly significant. It means that the torpedo room was probably already flooded when the submarine sank.

Even in the age of ultra-sophisticated nuclear submarines, with their advanced computers, sonar, navigation, and communication systems, the hard truth is inescapable: the sea is the most hostile environment on Earth. It is totally unforgiving of human error or overconfidence. The pressures below 2,000 feet can crush a submarine like an aluminum can in seconds. For reasons that even now are a closely guarded secret, that happened in late May 1968 when the nuclear attack submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) sank in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean as she was returning from a long deployment. Ninety-nine officers and men were on board the Scorpion.

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