National Geographic : 1952 Nov
636 National Geographic Photographer Robert F. Sisson A Huge Nose Identifies K-1 as a Lethal New Killer Submarine Killer submarines were designed from the keel up for one specialized job: to lie quietly in wait for an undersea enemy and torpedo it. Other submarines are named for fish, but killer subs bear only the letter K and a numeral. Three 195-foot-long killers have been built. Crammed with equipment, they provide scant room for their 51-man crews. K-l's bulbous bow contains sonar gear for tracking her quarry. Homing torpedoes enable her to destroy an enemy while both are submerged. Here the sub docks at Washington, D. C. that advantage by combing surrounding waters with their sensitive underwater ears. Navy men refer to the new technique as "dunking sonar." I witnessed a demonstra tion from the rear seat of a helicopter oper ating above the Straits of Florida. Somewhere beneath us was the guppy sub Chivo. While our 'copter hovered like an ungainly hummingbird, flashing blades lifting spray from the water, Lt. G. G. McKee pressed a button which lowered his sound gear. I watched it vanish beneath the green waves. A Good Day's Hunting For several minutes McKee listened on his earphones. Then a grin broke over his face and he nodded to me, indicating he had lo cated the Chivo. The gear was drawn back and our pilot, Lt. Comdr. John R. Thompson, moved on. Five "dips" were made before we called it a day. McKee informed me he had recorded three definite contacts and one probable. Eighty-three years have passed since Jules Verne published his highly imaginative novel, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He wrote of a mysterious undersea craft, the Nautilus, which cruised the bottom of the sea, exploring its wonders. Captain Nemo, commander of the Nautilus, proclaimed: "The sea does not belong to despots .. Below its level their reign ceases, their influ ence is quenched, and their power disappears." Verne's hero proved to be a very bad prophet. Two world wars have shown that submarines, in the hands of a relentless enemy, can wreak terrible havoc on the forces of free dom. Despite the ingenuity of modern sci ence, there is as yet no panacea, no one sure countermeasure, for the submarine. This article and its accompanying illustrations were approved for publication by the Security Review Branch of the Department of Defense.