Saturday, July 08, 2006

Geek time


Last night, about an hour before going to bed TP was reading one of her favourite sites, Museum of Hoaxes, and I made the mistake of looking across and seeing the above picture. It was a mistake because it haunted me for the next twelve hours.

Now let me just say that about fifteen years ago I was a major navy geek. I could have told you just about any of the details about any US, Soviet or Australian suface ship or submarine including recognising them by a fraction of their silhouette. In fact I almost got into trouble once after the first Gulf War when the USS Missouri dropped into Freo and I started listing off details (including weapon ranges) while aboard. The Cold War was still afire, albeit a dying ember, and most of that stuff was still not openly discussed despite being easily accessible in books. So, anyway, I looked across and saw that picture and instantly knew that it was a Typhoon-class submarine.

The Typhoon is, and I quote Hunt for Red October, a big sucker. It's a 175 metres long which is about as large as a WW2 aircraft carrier. It's the biggest class of submarines ever made. It's also a nasty piece of work carrying twenty SLBMs (submarine launched ballistic missiles). Fortunately, only six were ever made. Oh, and did I mention that it is Soviet/Russian. I, and every Western navy intelligence officer, would have killed for a photo like that above fifteen years ago.

So, Museum of Hoaxes wasn't sure that the photo was legit. To many it looked photoshopped. To me it looked legit, but I had to prove it. The easiest way to do that was to find out where the photo (a series of four actually) was taken. So I fired up Google Earth and started my search.

My information is roughly fifteen years out of date so it took me a while to track down the necessary data to begin my search. So I did some before going to bed, and then when I did hit the sack all I could think about was where the photo was taken.

All but one of the Typhoons has been retired and that one is currently being used to test the lastest Russian SLBM. The missile launches are taking place in the White Sea (the targets is a pennisular bordering the Pacific btw) so that's the first place I looked.

My initial information was that the tests were coming out of Arkhangelsk, but I couldn't find any place that looked like the photo. Then this morning I happened to check the small city to the south-west of Arkhangelsk, named Severodvinsk and guess what? I found this. Oh, what we would have done to have Google Earth/Maps 15 years ago. It was only later, after noticing the warships and this in port, that I discovered that Severodvinsk is home to the main Russian submarine base.

Now I'm not saying that the photo hasn't been 'shopped. But it seems likely to me that it is legit. The location looks right. It is certainly located in the right area. It also feels right. So I'm guessing that the photo is legit and to the lucky people of Severodvinsk that this is a fairly common sight.

Ah, it's fun being a geek.


CW said...

Ah now I understand. When I saw this picture in your Flickr I thought you guys were off in Russia on a pleasure cruise or some such for a minute there ;)

Assuming the picture is genuine, I wonder how many of those people on the beach noticed the sub...

Oh, and by the way you are now marked in my mind as Skribe the Navy Nerd ;)

skribe said...

They probably all work at the naval base and don't even bother with it anymore. A friend of mine works on Garden Island at Stirling and he took us over there a while ago. We were gawking at all the lovely hardware and he didn't even notice.