National Geographic : 1959 Jul
Up Through the Ice of the North Pole ship roars off on its great mission, the scene inside will be much the same-objective and quiet groups of men, each working efficiently on its particular task. A Sunday Morning Decision When the Skate is at sea on Sunday, we usually have informal church services at ten in the morning in the crew's mess hall. We have no chaplain on board. However, we assemble, read a few passages from the Scrip tures and the Book of Common Prayer, and it feels more like Sunday morning to us. As we were gathering this Sunday morning, I stopped by the ice detecting machine. For two hours we had had nothing but solid ice overhead, with an occasional very small open ing. As Walt and I stood looking at the trace, the familiar thin black line indicating open water began to show. It stretched on and on -a sizable lake! Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the thin black line was gone and heavy ice was overhead. By now we were 70 miles or so into the solid ice pack. This was a real ice lake, not just an opening in the fringe. Should we try to surface in this one? Wouldn't it be better to reach the Pole first, before we tried this admittedly risky and unfamiliar maneuver? After all, to reach the Pole we had only to continue. Attempting to surface, we might damage the ship enough to hazard the entire mission before we had accomplished anything. But Item One flashed through my mind again: ALL OTHER ITEMS ARE SUBORDINATE TO THIS ONE. The time to face this issue was now. "We'll have church later; right full rudder; station the plotting party," I said. Lt. Al Kelln, Skate's gunnery officer, was in charge of the plotting. Watching the trace on Walt's ice detector, he called out "Clear overhead" or "Ice overhead," as we passed under the boundaries of the lake. Finally we had a fairly good picture of the lake, and the Skate stopped underneath it. This required some delicate control by Lt. Bill Cowhill, diving officer. Bill's job is to keep us perfectly stationary until I tell him to bring her up slowly. We are coming up very slowly now but are still more than 100 feet down. I raise the periscope. The water is incredibly clear. I can see many jellyfish and other bits of marine life, but as I roll the prism to look upward, I see only a blurred aquamarine color. One of the dangers in this maneuver is that the ice lake may be covered with a sheet of new ice as much as six or eight inches thick. This may not show up on our ice detector, and yet could severely damage the Skate's delicate "sail," with its collection of peri scopes, antennas, and ventilation piping. I raise one of the vertical buggy-whip antennas so that it sticks straight up into the water above the sail. I can see the tip of the buggy whip as clearly as though I were looking through air, so transparent is this Arctic water. Jellyfish Serves as Speed Indicator The Skate continues to come up slowly, foot by foot. It is essential to keep the ship abso lutely free of forward or aft motion, else it may drift away from the center of our polynya and strike the encircling ice. Even if our log speed indicator were in order, it would probably be of little help here, such fine control is needed. I roll the prism down and look a huge jellyfish squarely in the eye. Here is the perfect speed indi cator! If the jellyfish is still, the Skate is stopped. I look again; my friend the jelly fish has not moved an inch. By now we are getting close to the surface. Tracings of an Ice Detector Guide Skate to Gaps in the Frozen Surface By bouncing electronic pulses off the ice above the submarine, the instrument sketched a detailed picture of the "ceiling." During the August, 1958, cruise the detector occa sionally showed only a thin black line-open water. Then the ship sailed back and forth to measure the breach for possible surfacing. This plotting party includes (left to right) Quartermaster 1/c Jerry I. Taylor, Commander Calvert, Sonarman 1/c Louis E. Kleinlein, and Lt. George A. Barunas. Inertial guidance system, developed by North American Aviation, Inc., senses earth's rotation and charts its speed. This extraordinary device enabled Skate to plot her precise position at all times. Designed for the Navaho missile nine years ago, the equipment was tested on surface ships in 1957 and installed on Skate and Nautilus. Zane Sandusky, an engineer with North American, rode aboard Skate on both cruises. KODACHROME(ABOVE), AND SUPER ANSCOCHROMEBY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICPHOTOGRAPHERJ. BAYLORROBERTS© N. G . S.