Launched back in 1994, the Kursk was supposed to be the greatest, and most pride-worthy vessel of the Russian Navy. It was said to be completely impenetrable; unsinkable. It was going to be the terror of the seas for decades to come. However that would never be. Not even a full six years after its launch, it landed in a heap at the bottom of the sea.
It was a great scandal, and just at the beginning of President Putin's reign in Russia. But he wasn't too concerned about it ultimately. The tragedy of the Kursk would give the world a little glimpse into how Putin would run things from then on. Deflecting his faults onto others. The Kursk became a controversial, and conspiratorial story of epic proportions.
Every nation had their own take on just what had happened. Of course the only country with a real stake in the tragedy was Russia, and Putin was intent on covering up whatever he could. Though he couldn't avoid the truth coming out about a group of men who manage to survive (for a time) in a compartment of the vessel. Maybe if action was taken, and blame placed after the fact...these men might still be alive.
15 All 118 Crew Members Died
Given Russia's incredibly delayed reaction to the explosion on the Kursk, each and every member of the crew perished. Russians claimed that they didn't even know the Kursk had been damaged until six hours after the fact. This has been proven to be completely bull. And with Putin on vacation, and not willing to come home, the crew suffered. Of course, given the sheer size of the explosion that sunk the vessel, Russian authorities made the statement that the entire crew died instantly. There was no possible way that anyone could survive such force. And if they had, they would have been quickly killed by the force of the ocean pouring into the sub. However, it came to light pretty quickly, that the Russian authorities were very wrong. And grief around the country turned to anger.
14 So Many Conspiracies...
There are so many conspiracies regarding just what happened to the Kursk back in 2000, that it is difficult to really choose a place to start. Every nation had their own idea of just what went on. The Russians made the claim that a NATO sub had collided with the Kursk, but managed to make it to the safety of a Norwegian dock (and there is at least satellite proof of the docking). They have also claimed that the American sub simply fired on Russian sub, using experimental torpedoes that are made for pounding giant holes in subs. The Americans came up with several theories about assorted types of faulty weaponry on board the vessel. And the French put out a documentary, ignoring all evidence, to state that two U.S. subs were intimidating the Russians, but got too close. To avoid the Kursk defending itself, one sub fired on it, and the Americans boogied out of there.
13 Putin Didn't Come Back From Vacation Until A Week Later
This is perhaps one of the best ways that Putin could have ever shown the world just how he intended to run his country. Not even four months into his presidency, Vladimir Putin was on vacation on the Black Sea. When the Kursk went down, Putin waited almost a full week before returning to deal with the situation. He would later say to Larry King that he should have returned right away. Even though he said, in the same breath, that it would have only been for public relations as he had the same amount of intelligence on vacation. Back when this happened, people were not afraid to speak out against him. During his press conference (once he finally returned to Moscow), the grieving families of the sailors showed their anger. They even called Putin incompetent...how many would dare do that these days?
12 The Explosion Was Felt In Alaska!
So powerful were the explosions that occurred on board the Kursk that seismic recording stations all over took note of the event. Two explosions were recorded. The first was recorded in Norway, to no surprise. But just over two minutes later, a second explosion rocked the ocean. This was said to be two hundred and fifty times the size of the first explosion! And this one was read all the way across the north, as far over as Alaska. That is no small distance. Imagine the marine life that perished just from the sonic boom that was the shockwave of the Kursk's demise. That second explosion essentially hit with the force of nearly three tons of dynamite! One stick of dynamite can move one ton of rock...so imagine what three tons of the stuff could do.
11 They Didn't All Die Right Away...
Above is part of a letter that was penned after the explosion on the Kursk. And it should be mentioned that the letter was penned on the vessel itself, by Lieutenant Captain Dmitri Kolesnikov. The majority of the letter was quite personal, and meant for his family, so of course that was not made public. But the letter's existence goes against anything that the Russian authorities had said. Not only did this one man survive the explosion. Twenty three people had survived, and were holed up in the ninth compartment of the vessel. Now they didn't think they had much hope for rescue...but if crews had been deployed immediately, and had not waited days to do anything about it...they could have been saved. So in spite of offers of help from the Allies, Russian turned its head, and twenty three men slowly drowned.
10 The Titanic Of Submarines
The Kursk was essentially the Titanic of the submarine world. It was the size of two jumbo jets! This beast was over five hundred feet long, and displaced over fifteen thousand tons when submerged. It carried two nuclear reactors to powers it's two steam turbines. And just to get a sense of what this thing would have weighed out of the water, just a section of the nose weighed in at five metric tons! The sheer scale of this vessel was staggering. It could carry twenty four torpedoes, each weighing about seven tons. And the crew was over a hundred strong. However, unable to learn from the Titanic, this vessel met its fate by perhaps the same ignorance, and arrogance. Regardless though, the Kursk is still the largest submarine to have traveled the depths...at least it was until Russia launched its recent Typhoon class sub.
9 Destroying The Evidence
Above is a photo of the Kursk, after it had been raised from the ocean floor. The process of raising the vessel took far longer than it ever should have, but that's besides the point. It seems as though there really was some degree of conspiracy with regarding just how the Kursk met its fate. You might notice that the submarine is missing the entirety of its front end. But that's not by explosion, or mistake. Sure, part of the nose was damaged or destroyed due to the massive explosion that occurred, but not to this degree. The remainder of the nose was actually sawn off by the Russians. Why? The story the Russians gave was that it would have been too dangerous, given that was where the torpedo bays were. They promised to pull it up a few weeks later (but they didn't). So what did the nose of the Kursk tell us about the nature of the tragedy? Russian mistake? Or American attack?
8 Did The Kursk Collide With A U.S. Sub?
As you might have already noted, there are several theories that the Kursk had collided with an American submarine. The Russians claimed to have found debris from the USS Toledo. To be fair, that particular submarine was actually docked in Scotland at the time. So both the Russian, and the French theories on what exactly happened are completely false. But there were indeed American submarines in the area at the time of the incident. Two submarines, as well as a spy ship were in the area. Why? It was the first time that the Russians had done nautical maneuvers in about a decade. So, of course the Americans were very interested in checking in on the historically naughty nation. There was evidence of a tower from an Allied submarine, found by the Russians though. So something happened down there...
7 Kursk Rescue Crew
The rescue crew sent out to the Kursk may have been praised for its work. But thanks to the bureaucracy of the Russian government, they weren't sent out until days after the incident. There may have been several warships in the area, but none of these were mounting rescue missions of any sort. The crew attempted to attach lines for fuel and air to the drowned submarine. Without power, the crew would eventually suffocate, and/or freeze in the frigid depths. So it seems they may not have drowned after all. The commander of the rescue team said ''Despite all the efforts being taken, the probability of a successful outcome from the situation with the Kursk is not very high.'' These were his words, as reports came in of crew members pounding on the hull of the Kursk. Likely praying for rescue.
6 Shkval Torpedoes
The Shkval torpedo is said to be a very experimental weapon that is built for the express purpose of blasting a big, gaping hole into the side of a submarine. And it just so happens that one of the theories surrounding the sinking of Kursk has to do with these. Said to be able to travel at many times the speed of a normal torpedo, the Shkval are made to be unavoidable at close range. Allegedly they can travel at 230mph (370 kph), which is an incredible feat underwater. Now the theories surrounding this weapon are sketchy with the Kursk, but there are several. One is of a malfunctioning torpedo that goes off in the sub, blasting the rest of the weapons. Another is of a NATO sub firing on the Kursk to destroy the Shkval torpedoes onboard. And then of course there is the controversy of whether or not the Kursk even had these weapons.
5 Russian Cover-Up Mission
What happened to the Kursk goes beyond cutting out the nose of the submarine in order to escape scrutiny for what was likely nothing more than faulty weaponry, or friendly fire. When the explosion occurred, even though the Russians apparently didn't know for at least six hours...the Russian fleet was quick to respond. As offers of aid came from across the Allied forces, the Russians turned them all away. Russia placed battleships over the area long before they bothered to send rescue crews. And they stated they found debris from the USS Toledo at the scene, Proving American involvement. The battle cruiser Pyotr Veliky (Peter The Great), was the ship to call in the explosion, but as it stood guard over the area, preventing aid from allies, twenty three men waited to die.
4 The Kursk Triggered The Fall Of Russia
It was this vulnerable, and scathing experience that seems to have led Putin to become the dictator he is today. If not for the Kursk, he may not have become so incredibly powerful. But, realizing he didn't like people tell him off, and criticizing him for his ineptitude, Putin went to work. Russian lawyer Boris Kuznetsov called the tragedy of the Kursk "Putin's first lie". He goes on to suggest that, "When the Kursk sank, the government began interfering with the legal and law-enforcement systems. The government began gathering all the mass media under its control. The entire process of undermining democracy in Russia, in many regards, began with this." It's sad to know that it took the grieving families of over one hundred men to turn this man into a monster...or at least a greater one than he was already.
3 A French Documentary Take
There was a French documentary that pieced together several theories to come up with something pretty unique. Somehow, this film was critically acclaimed, though it seemed to completely ignore evidence, in exchange for drama. The notion was that the Russians were testing the Shkval torpedoes. But it was bigger than that. They were demonstrating their power, so they could be sold to the Chinese. So the Americans sent in two subs to observe, and intimidate. One of these subs got too close, and collided with the Kursk. Fearing retaliation for the clumsy maneuver, the other American sub fired on the Kursk. Apparently the attack made perfect contact with the Kursk's torpedo compartment, which set off the experimental weapons inside. And then, of course, a cover-up ensued. This is what most people call propaganda.
2 Crazy Cost To Raise The Sub From The Seabed
Given the incredible size of the massive submarine, you could well imagine that it was not an easy thing to simply pull the sub off the sea floor, and back to dock. First off, it took far too long for Russia to bother accepting help from anyone. But finally, they accepted an offer from the Dutch. And they brought along with them the Giant-4. A ship which sported twenty six cranes with which to haul to Kursk back to dock. The raising of the sub happened fourteen months after the initial explosion. And how much did it cost to do the job? Over $115 million dollars! And that's just for raising it. Not to mention sawing off the nose of the vessel, or draining it of its nuclear fuel once it was docked. Or even the transportation to take it to the scrapyard.
1 The Embarrassing HTP Torpedoes
Considering how unlikely it is that the Russians were using Shkval torpedoes, there is another theory as to how exactly the submarine ended up at the bottom of the sea. HTP (High Test Peroxide) torpedoes are rather unstable torpedoes that were discontinued within the Allied forces after several unfortunate events in the 1950s. It is theorized that the hydrogen peroxide was likely accidentally released into the capsule of the weapon. The peroxide, when it contacts certain metals, turns to water vapor and rapidly expands. It is designed to expand up to five thousand times its volume. This is to help in the propulsion of the torpedo. However, it seems that the weapon may have been compromised, and the peroxide leaked, expanded, and exploded while still in the torpedo bay. This of course would have then affected the rest of the arsenal.