We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

When Arctic Ice Locks up Your Submarine, It's Time to Break Out the Chainsaw

The U.S. Navy runs into an unusual obstacle as it increases its activity in the far north.

Feb 8, 2012 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 6:24 AM
Lucas Jackson/Reuters | NULL


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Mechanical engineer Nicholas Michel-Hart chainsaws through ice blocking the hatch to the nuclear submarine USS Connecticut last March. The boat surfaced through three feet of Arctic ice 200 miles north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, where the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab conducts underwater communications and sonar experiments for the Navy.

Locating subs in the Arctic is difficult because the jagged undersides of ice garble sonar tracking. So APL researchers brave –30 degree Fahrenheit temperatures every spring to test devices like Deep Siren, which uses satellites and acoustics to send messages through more than 100 miles of water. The weeklong experiments also increase the Navy’s visibility in the area. “The Arctic is governed by international agreements, but now that the ice is retreating it’s getting a lot more interesting,” says APL field engineer Keith Magness (observing, second from right). “Countries are trying to expand their coastline to claim resources, and this is one way the Navy maintains its presence.”

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.