National Geographic : 1959 Jul
Like Spacemen on Another Planet, Skate's Explorers Range over the Ice Observed Comdr. Calvert: "It is not every day a skipper can walk away from his ship and con template it from a distance while it is a hundred miles from land, in water more than a mile deep." A wan sun peeps above the horizon for the first time in nearly six months, heralding spring in the Arctic. Pressure ridges litter the ice at Skylight No. 6. "I walked among hummocks at least twice my height," says the 6-foot-3 -inch author. The barrel-like tube projecting from Skate's deck houses a television camera. much space on a modern submarine is like getting permission to build a private parking lot in Times Square (page 12). Of the scientists who would be going with us, the next arrivals were Walt Wittmann, the Navy's senior ice forecaster, and Dr. Eugene C. LaFond, of San Diego, our oceanographer. Five other civilians were assigned to assist in the charting and exploration of the new parts of the Arctic we hoped to reach. With 10 officers, 9 civilian scientists, and 87 crew members, we added up to 106 men for a total of 90 installed bunks. Obviously we were going to have to observe the time honored practice of alternating hours in the bunks-"hot-bunking," as we call it. At two o'clock in the morning of July 30, 1958, we slipped out of Connecticut's Thames River with only my friend Wilkinson-now a captain and division commander of all At lantic Fleet nuclear submarines-to bid us farewell. The Skate was Arctic bound. We had 3,800 sea miles to go before we would see ice. Lazing along at some 360 miles a day, Skate would travel at a depth of about 300 feet-far below the effect of JAMES F. CALVERT any but the roughest weather. As the days passed, I read and reread the on the earth's surface decreases as one goes first objective of my operation order: toward the Poles, the inertial machines can ITEM 1. DEVELOP TECHNIQUES FOR SUR sense their distance from the Pole. FACING IN PACK ICE AREAS.... ALL OTHER With a big assist from the Navy's Bureau ITEMS ARE SUBORDINATE TO THIS ONE.... of Ships, we soon had the satisfaction of know- IF NUCLEAR SUBMARINES ARE TO BE USE ing that the Skate would have this remarkable FUL IN THE ARCTIC THEY MUST HAVE equipment before sailing for the Arctic. ACCESS TO THE SURFACE. By late July, near the time of loosest ice But how? I was pondering this for the in the Arctic, our departure date was ap- hundredth time when Lt. Comdr. John Nichol proaching. Zane Sandusky and his assistant son, the executive officer, came in with a grave Roger E. Schmidt, from the Autonetics Di- look. "The underwater speed log is out, and vision of North American Aviation, Inc., we can't repair it. The spare part we need to supervised installation of our inertial naviga- fix it isn't available," Nick said. tion system. Half a room was turned over "How'd we come away without that?" I to Zane and his black magic-and getting that asked incredulously.