Thursday, 22 February 2018

glomar explorer

Our gratitude towards Things Magazine for directing our attention to the Central Intelligence Agency’s salvage operation convincingly disguised as the folly of an eccentric billion to mine the ocean floor for manganese nodules (profiled in a later featurette). Having in 1974 located the wreck of a Soviet nuclear submarine, K-129, in a remote part of the Pacific that had gone missing six years earlier, the CIA approached the reclusive Howard Hughes to provide a plausible cover-story for Project Azorian so the Soviets would be none the wiser.
The Soviets did harbour suspicions, however, and had ship deployed to monitor activities—the added scrutiny and the diplomatic pressure of President Nixon’s summit in Moscow (being caught stealing a submarine wouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as an act of good-will) caused the crew to rush to carry out the operation. As the steel claw was pulling up the fuselage of the vessel, however, the strain became too great and only the front section was recovered. The mission was abandoned after details of the project surfaced a year later, with the media rebuffing pleas from the CIA director George HW Bush, the press arguing that there was no commercial or intelligence value to the salvage operation. After articles appeared about the Agency’s efforts to suppress publication circulated, journalists tried to request through a FOIA-filing records on Project Azorian. The agency refused to either confirm or deny the existence of the documents in question (NCND)—what’s become the standard Glomar response, after the name of Hughes’ global marine exploratory vessel. Despite the revelation that the deep sea mining story was a ruse, industry interest was piqued and is sounded out in the subsequent articles from the BBC at the link up top.