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Project AZORIAN: The Ship

The Glomar Explorer
The ship would be called the Glomar Explorer, a commercial deep-sea mining vessel ostensibly built and owned by billionaire Howard Hughes, who provided the plausible cover story that his ship was conducting marine research at extreme ocean depths and mining manganese nodules lying on the sea bottom. The ship would have the requisite stability and power to perform the task at hand.

Constructed over the next four years, the ship included a derrick similar to an oil-drilling rig, a pipe-transfer crane, two tall docking legs, a huge claw-like capture vehicle (known as Clementine), a center docking well (called the “moon pool”) large enough to contain the hoisted sub, and doors to open and close the well’s floor. To preserve the mission’s secrecy, the capture vehicle was built under roof and loaded from underneath the ship from a submerged barge. With these special capabilities, the ship could conduct the entire recovery under water, away from the view of other ships, aircraft, or spy satellites.

The heavy-lift operation was complex and fraught with risk. While moving with the ocean currents, the ship had to lower the capture vehicle by adding 60-foot sections of supporting steel pipe, one at a time. When it reached the submarine, the capture vehicle then had to be positioned to straddle the sunken submarine, and its powerful jaws had to grab the hull. Then the ship had to raise the capture vehicle with the submarine in its clutches by reversing the lift process and removing supporting pipe sections one at a time until the submarine was securely stowed in the ship’s docking well.

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Posted: Aug 20, 2014 07:14 AM
Last Updated: Aug 28, 2014 11:18 AM