Posted by: arbeam | January 26, 2013

The Navy’s Deep Ocean Grab

Naval History Magazine Feb 2013 Navy’s Deep Ocean Grab

In a mission that was classified top secret for decades, the U.S. Navy partnered with U.S. intelligence agencies and oceanographers to recover spy-satellite film from the bottom of the Pacific.

MEEGAN M. REID / KITSAP SUN The Trieste at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport on Saturday.

The Trieste at the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport           Meegan Reid / Kitsap Sun

To Reach the Oceans Depths

The Navy operated three deep-submersible bathyscaphs—each named the Trieste —sequentially, from 1958 to 1984. The world’s first bathyscaphs were the creation of Swiss physicist Auguste Piccard, who proved the concept and sold the first Trieste to the U.S. Navy in 1958. Designed by and constructed at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, the Trieste II employed new equipment and concepts to explore and work as deep as 20,000 feet.

While the second Trieste operated from February 1964 (shortly after her completion) to April 1967, in 1965 construction began at Mare Island on the third and last Trieste . To support this covert submersible, the Navy created the Integral Operating Unit (IOU), consisting of an extensively modified floating drydock, the White Sands (ARD-20), and the fleet tug Apache (ATF-67).

This Trieste , which conducted her first dive in April 1968, was so highly classified the Navy initially did not attach a name to the craft. She originally was designed for only one mission: Project Winter Wind, conceived after nose cones from early Soviet intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests landed in the North Pacific in 1960. Development of methods to conduct precision deep-ocean search and recovery in support of Winter Wind would cost hundreds of millions of dollars from 1963 to 1971, far in excess of initial estimates but with unexpected benefits for the Navy, the United States, and oceanography.

The Trieste ’s participation in Winter Wind effectively ended on 21 May 1968 when the nuclear-powered submarine USS Scorpion (SSN-589) was lost in the North Atlantic. The covert bathyscaph was the only operational manned deep-submersible available to the Navy that was capable of diving on the Scorpion wreck. (The older Trieste II was no longer operational.) The third bathyscaph would have to come out of hiding.

During the IOU’s eastbound transit of the Panama Canal in late February 1969, the officer-in-charge of the White Sands was directed to remove the tarp covering her docking well, openly displaying the third Trieste for the first time. Subsequent to this debut, the older streamlined Trieste II was withdrawn from public view and later unceremoniously disassembled for scrap at Mare Island.

After investigating the Scorpion debris field in 1969, the IOU returned to San Diego. The bathyscaph emerged from overhaul in September 1970, and the Navy finally officially named her Trieste II , with the hull number DSV-1, designating her Deep Submergence Vehicle No. 1.

The Trieste II DSV-1 is on display at the Naval Undersea Museum Keyport WA

CIA Operation Hexagon


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