Fire under the arctic ice: When the world was on the verge of a nuclear apocalypse


Editor’s Note…

So far, the sinking of the Russian ‘Kursk’ Submarine in 2000 was the best known incident that almost triggered a full scale nuclear war between Russia and NATO. This fresh report from the Russian military journal ‘topwar’ about the 1981 incident in the arctic sheds light on yet another mysterious affair that almost brought about the apocalypse. One has to wonder how many other unreported ‘incidents’ happened during the cold war… 


Yes, the world, the home country did not know. And then, 18 January 1981 under the Central Arctic ice cape, burned at a depth of 150 meters nuclear submarine with two nuclear reactors, with 16 ballistic missiles (nuclear warheads which harbored firepower equal to four times the firepower of the Second World War). Ten compartments – 130 living souls, not counting three goldfinches in a cage recreation areas … Fire is always scary. But when under the ice giant thermonuclear burning, it’s not a fire, it is the beginning of the apocalypse … 

TASS report, if this were allowed to report, would sound like this: “January 18, 1981 under the Arctic ice, sank to a depth of 3 thousand meters missile nuclear submarine strategic K-424. On board were 130 people … Reasons specified catastrophe. ” So it could be, but is not, because on board the K-424 was a man who managed to beat the fate cancel catastrophe ship back home, the base … It was a submarine commander – 37-year-old captain Nikolai Ivanov . Today, this, unknown character, lives in Balashikha, guard works in customs … This author came to visit him. While welcoming hostess Svetlana Petrovna was setting the table, Nikolai took photo albums, unfolded nautical charts …

Old sailor tried to start this creepy story with a joke: – A friend of mine once asked me, “Why divers begin their stories so – I sleep and suddenly …” Just noticed. And this story, I too could start so if then managed to get to bed. At 12.00 I watch commander surrendered his first mate – Captain 2nd rank Boris Plyusnin, and went to lie down in the second compartment in the cabin … It was the regular combat service in the Arctic region. We were just north of Franz Josef Land. passed 23rd day under heavy pack ice, without the slightest opportunity to break them float if necessary.

Tried not to think about the ice shell, which hung over us like a deathly cover … In the country preparing for the XXV Congress of the CPSU, and our campaign, the success of which there is little doubt, had to be a gift from Congress seamen. Thus admonished us before going on active duty in the high latitudes … I had not yet managed to undress as silence dwelling unit cut open long shrill trill call emergency alarm. And then worried voice exec: – Emergency alert! Fire in the control room! I immediately rushed into the third compartment. Hardly otdrait bulkhead hatch as caught the acrid smell of smoke. – Where’s the fire?! – Partitions near the latrine! Partitions clogged with boxes of spare parts – ZIPom, was on the middle deck.

I ordered to unload her to get to the source of fire. Scattered boxes, but the flame was not visible. Smoke billowed from carbon filter cleans the air in a latrine.Fire raged in earnest. In Central reigned oppressive silence. I caught myself on the disturbing views, as some people have eyes with silver coins.That’s when I understood the meaning of the expression – fear has big eyes. In every look – speechless entreaty commander, save! You know, you should know what to do now! Whether it’s somewhere in the Atlantic, I would immediately surfaced.

But above us was a powerful pack ice and categorical prohibition does not manifest itself on the surface. every minute growing toxicity of our air. Chemist reported that the concentration of carbon monoxide increased 380 times. rose in central zampolit captain Arkhipov and asked permission to lead people not engaged in a struggle for survival in the second compartment. I solved. But first ordered to raise the pressure in the second and fourth, that is in the compartments adjacent to ours, third, there is not flooded to smoke. Nobody has the right to leave the emergency bay. This cruel Ivanov decided to break the law, based on his commander’s right to make decisions on the environment.

What good people not engaged struggle for survival? Let the less will be the victims … However, then tried to impute cowardice zamu why left the emergency bay and even people with battle stations led. Ivanov closed his deputy: ‘I told him to go to the second compartment. If we Plyusnina died Arkhipov crew would head. ” It’s hard to imagine how the boat was driven by Arkhipov, if fading compartment control the ship, the central post. likely submarine, would wander under the ice itself, becoming like “Flying Dutchman” is not yet filled with water through the burned-out seals and sunk to the bottom of the circumpolar basin. After the fire raged with such force that it melted steel door latrine. difficult to make infallible decisions in seconds and even in a poisoned atmosphere, even without having the complete information about what and where lights lit.

But Ivanov disposal naddut adjacent compartments was salutary correct: when the “extra” sailors crossed into the second compartment, carbon monoxide did not go after them, living compartment is not puffed. In the dim light of the emergency lighting smoke thickened to what has not been seen and fingers at arm’s length. Blue smoke drifted layers on consoles, dashboards … bathed in perspiration – in fact on the middle deck blazing flame. Third compartment was converted into a gas chamber death. The hardest thing was the remote, which ran from the reactor. With this post does not go away, die, while helping to move the ship underwater, otherwise all Khan. Most often, the way it happened – died of console-managers in their Partitions, holding up the last fingers on the buttons.

So watch died in GEMs helm – the main power plant – on a nuclear submarine K-8. So died in September 1975, three lieutenant-commander during a fire at atomarine K-47 group commander remote control. So died on K-19 senior lieutenant-engineer Sergei Yarchuk. He died of carbon monoxide poisoning in the eyes of their commander Lieutenant-Commander Milovanova who could not break away from the control of the reactor for a second … All this was heard and many battalion commander motion K-424 commander engineer Vladimir Morozov, ensures operation of underwater missile. Realizing that he was doomed, Morozov wrote a suicide note to the commander (communication device is out of order): “Comrade Commander, your orders carried out – move the ship provided. Lose consciousness, but remained in office. ” So acted the ones without pathos can be called heroes.

But there were other … Sergeant-sekretchikov ran on emergency alert in the central position (his duty to draft logbook), saw the smoke which stands there and turned back. Later it was found in the farthest compartment, in the tenth. As he passed through zadraennye alarm mezhpereborochnye doors only God knows. Maybe, in fact, a lust for life has turned him into a disembodied spirit. Answer the question, as he was in the stern, and not at his post, and could not: – I do not know how he found himself here! Sailor on the remote “Kama” did everything himself, did everything right, saying: “DMB in danger ! DMB in danger … “His fixated on this phrase – slightly damaged in mind. But the rest of the crew stayed until the last and function as it should.

Nikolai Ivanov: – I ordered ascend to periscope depth and prepare for the launch of LOH. Honestly, it was a little afraid to include, was heard a lot about its deadly effects on those who did not wear masks … LOCH System – Boat Bulk Chemicals – extinguishing gas is freon, which can be sent from the cylinders station LOH at any compartment. Freon great extinguish the fire, but is dangerous to humans, as well as any non-life-sustaining gas. So everyone who was in the third, including no longer remote (portable breathing apparatus), a kind of light-duty insulating masks that divers always carry with them in plastic boxes, and breathing apparatus IDA-59, whose cylinders filled with oxygen and nitrogen, allow to hold in the smoke and the water three times longer than in the lungs of the remote control.

For some reason, could not be included in any remote or in IDA junior navigator (“shturmanenok”), Lieutenant N. Shemitov and Ensign E. Balamatov and then paid dearly … Nikolai Ivanov – I bring to the central post a note. Red paste nacherkano hastily: “We have two dead bodies. Shemitov killed and Balmakov … “. And then there was a mechanical engineer Captain 2nd Rank Anatoly Chumak report: “Comrade Commander, half respiratory funds already spent. Another half an hour and all perish … ” Sam barely standing on his feet – swallowed smoke while giving orders. After all, whenever it is necessary to remove the mask … Well, I think as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb.

Once on board the corpses still withdraw from office, to hell with it with stealth, should emerge. It is now easy to tell – with vodka with homemade pickles, and then captain Nikolai Ivanov, as no one else knew that ascent impossible – over the head multimeter pack ice. Unless there is a miracle … And the miracle happened! Happened, perhaps only because the commander was named named heavenly intercessor sailors – Nicholas the Wonderworker. Other explanation for the fact that among the icy mountains suddenly appeared polynya, tightened only a meter thick ice – no.Submarine kicked him like a knife eggshells, and emerged under the January low gray sky polar circle. Somewhere far south remained the northern spurs of Franz Josef Land … Polar night gave them thick gray twilight. Nikolai Ivanov – first thing to do was to make the bridge victims.

But how to do it when the lifeless body did not hold in a vertical shaft wheelhouse hatch. And not to pick up their top – deep, and not push the bottom – high. Try to pull out from the well drowned. Out of the situation found our boatswain. – Comrade Commander, and if we tie them to their beds and so it raise? – Take Action! Removed suspended beds, strapped to him body lieutenant and midshipman and without any problems raised them to the bridge, fencing cutting . Now, the case took a boat captain of medical service doctor Anatoly Dvoyakovsky. He began to make them artificial respiration. And then there was another miracle! The dead come to life. Boys became seriously poisoned breath. If Ivanov did not look into my eyes subordinates, he probably would have crossed: thank God, would return without corpses! catch your breath at the top and a mechanical engineer Anatoly Chumak ugorevshy perhaps most of all.

The maximum permissible concentration (MPC) of freon and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere above the norm in the compartment 420 times! commander climb the bridge did not, although the temptation to get some fresh air was very great. But Ivanov was needed in the Central … Flame strangled freon. Third compartment vented. Began to understand what had happened. And then it was the time to break out a three-story mat. But Ivanov – restrained. Head of chemical service Lieutenant Commander Simonov found that young sailor secretly lit in a latrine, and butt stuck in a charcoal filter. Almost pure carbon was not slow to ignite. There was an effect of open-hearth furnaces.

Since the filter out in the enclosure with spare parts, then the impression that burn boxes; unsuccessfully tried to scatter them and as a result had stopped entrance to latrine … From penny candle, say, Moscow was burned. And from rotten stub barely icebreaker did not burn. Young sailor, even under court did not give: that fatherless take? Started smoking since the third grade. Although K-424 was a special cabin for tabakurov, young sloven lit a cigarette wherever he pleases. hike From K-424 returned to its course – without sacrifice, without loss of secrecy by performing all the tasks. Even the birds in a recreation area, is very sensitive to the gas composition of the air, and they survived. Now nobody complained that their commander torments frequent drills and breathing apparatus included instantly.

Thunder clap, the crew will not cross. On the quay in Gadzhiyevo submarine met with the orchestra. Nikolai Ivanov: – When I reported to the Chief of Staff met us Division Captain 1st Rank Khrenov that we had a fire that broke march on polutakte. The orchestra subsided. “Let’s detail!” – his voice did not bode well. Reported everything as it was. And in response immediately rebuke: – Why do so many respiratory funds spent? And if there was a second fire? – I was the first fire, and if I did not put out, the second would have been … not exactly versed with the commander of the long and severe. course, no awards for strong and competent actions Firefighting beneath nobody got ice. “Avariyschikov” is not rewarded.

From serious punishment (commander is responsible for everything, even for what military draft sent to the submarine fleet mentally retarded guys) Ivanova wittingly or unwittingly saved the fleet commander Vice Admiral Lev Matushkin who declared commander K-424 reprimand. And although it came to the fleet commander and above, limited “strogacha”, because for one transgression punished twice under the statute is not allowed. – But the worst was yet to come, – Ivanov grins. – The next day began the next congress of the party and all the crews were taken to Lenin room to watch on TV grand opening. And we have, unfortunately, television refused. Does not work. Validation of the Political Department went on the floors.

If it was told that the “K-424 crew is watching the opening of the historical events in the life of the Soviet people,” oh! Such noise would be rose, we all would have immediately remembered. But half an hour boat craftsmen established the “box”.Again had passed! Miracle. rashly I – nerves were still inflated fire – zamu reprimand announced – for “unavailability of funds technical propaganda.”That hurt – he was older than me and in rank and age – complained to the Political Division. soared there: how is it – the opening day of the party congress commander announces zampolit reprimand? Tyranny, apolitical! In the history of the fleet was not like this! .. But in the history of the Navy and was not such that the fire was extinguished under the ice. A crew Ivanov did it. Eventually, Moscow understood from what hell commander escaped unscathed. And Ivanova presented the Order of the Red Star. But political workers remembered the story of the political officer – an idea not signed. Ivanov And again a couple of months left for military service – out of turn, without rest.

Commander of the submarine, which was supposed to go underneath the ice according to plan, hvatanul infarction. Ivanov had to rescue division. And he went, though, in memory, in my heart, nerves still lived stress ice fire. Then friends asked him: – It was terrible? – At first, there was no time to be afraid. I had to act and make decisions.Frightened when reports went on cadavers. Scary when your people are dying … – How punished sailor-smoker? – Nothing. He himself knew what he had done. This lesson both for him and for the whole crew – for life, any more bitter punishment. The team is appreciated. We also had to soon go to sea again … *** If not infallible and timely action Captain 1st Rank Nikolai Ivanov, victims on K-424 would be more than “Kursk”. Yes, and ecology of the central Arctic was put under serious radiation threat.

No to “Mamut” would not pulled from the sunken submarine kilometer depths even under the ice. However, none of this happened. And because the story of the ice-fire was quickly forgotten as the forgotten those who have acted in sverhekstremalnoy situation boldly and wisely. Ivanov was transferred to serve in Moscow – a teacher at the Air Force Academy named after Gagarin. Taught the basics of tactics airmen Navy. And there to rest and conducted. That’s only in the calculation of pension forgotten about 17 years of service in the Arctic for nuclear-powered ships, calculated as the ordinary teacher. Okay Order fenced – not for the sake of winning Ivanov went under the ocean ice, but that so meanly trim pension retired commander of a nuclear strategist, there had to be iron possess conscience.

And where only Ivanov wrote – and the minister of defense and the president of Russia, and his deputy. Answers come ornately polite, but with reference to the same incident office: former bosses are not made ​​on the designation of service in the standings polar nuclear ships in the “outset of the order.” Forgot authorities to impose the desired resolution in this most notorious outset. And now no one can not do anything. There is no such administrative power in the country to improve the unjust order. It remains to be consoled by the fact that the name of Captain 1st Rank Nikolai Ivanov, made ​​not in the “outset order,” and the history of the Russian submarine fleet.

A few words about how the fates of the heroic crew members. Resurrected “shturmanenok” Shemitov Nicholas, eventually became the flagship of the Russian Navy navigator. First Lieutenant Captain 2 rank Boris Plyusnin soon became the commander of the nuclear submarine. Perished at the hands of the Estonian nationalists in the derivation of the Navy training center Paldiski. Dr. Anatoly Dvoyakovsky lives and works in St. Petersburg. Well, Nikolai Ivanov retired as caretaker lives on the banks of the river Pehorka your cut pensions. – I have a good pension – sadly he jokes – just a little. Maybe the current Defense Minister of Russia Sergei Shoigu will give an order to fix the glaring injustice, to make “in the outset” the unfortunate name of the former commander of the order of nuclear cruiser and return it deserved award?

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