A detailed account of the Kursk
Ilya Klebanov, who heads the Kursk inquiry
commission, said that the cause to the submarine’s
disaster would be named on November 8th. But nothing new
was said at that day, except for speculations from the
Commander of the Russian Navy, Admiral Kuroedov. The
Admiral was in the press saying that he had facts but
not evidence to support the version that the Kursk
was sunk by a foreign submarine. Mr Klebanov said he
also leaned towards the collision theory but advised to
wait until the submarine is raised before drawing any
definitive conclusions. The lifting operation is being
discussed with a number of Western companies and is
likely to take place in late summer or early autumn
The nuclear powered cruiser Peter the Great is
currently at the place of the accident, shelling the
area around with bombs and hand grenades. The Northern
Fleet officials say they are protecting the area from
The Norwegian vessel-platform Regalia arrived to
the place of the Kursk submarine accident. To
find the best stationary location, the platform locked
on satellite and adjusted its position using auxiliary
engines. The platform was to stay in this fixed position
throughout the length of the operation.
The Russian side evaluated independently radiation
levels, water temperature, strength of underwater
currents next to the submarine and light conditions. Regalia
is carrying a set of underwater measuring equipment as
At 5am, the divers started drilling a hole in the outer
hull above the 8th compartment. During this operation,
the divers encountered problems taking off the rubber
cover from the submarine’s hull. The Regalia
platform had to use crane to pull off 10cm thick rubber
At about 11am, the divers started to drill a new hole
above the 9th compartment, close to the rescue hatch. At
1:30pm, they returned to the 8th compartment due to
difficulties in making progress on the 9th compartment.
Before the divers cut the hole wide enough to get in,
they had made a smaller one, 10cm in diameter, to test
the water content and see if any radiation was inside.
The methods of drilling through the submarine's outer
and inner hulls are principally different. The divers
cut the outer hull of the submarine using a plasma
torch. The inner hull of the submarine (30cm to 40cm
wide) was cut by high-pressure seawater mixed with
diamond particles. This mixture is funnelled to a
special cylindrical cutting torch under high pressure
of, approximately 2 tons per square centimetre.
Halliburton provided all the cutting equipment. An
underwater robot that was attached to the submarine’s
hull did this job.
During the operations, the divers had to stay in the
so-called diving bell to avoid the painful procedure of
After all required analysis had been completed inside
the 8th compartment, it was concluded that there was no
danger of radiation exposure for the divers.
On the night of October 22-23, the clearing of the
debris between the outer and inner hulls of the 8th
compartment was completed. The space between the two
hulls contains various pipelines, equipment, and
high-pressure air tanks.
The divers had been drilling window (150cm x 75cm) in
the inner hull of the 8th compartment the whole day. The
intention was to spend 15 to16 hours on this part of
But the operation had to be interrupted due to stormy
weather. In the evening, a strong gale started with the
wind speed up to 25m per second.
At about 2am, the Norwegian divers decided to work
despite the strong gale, but the attempt was
unsuccessful. Strong wind moved the Regalia from
its stationary position.
At 9am, the diving operation resumed, but divers were
not able to continue cutting the hull due to the gale.
They were working on to discharge air from the
high-pressure tanks located between the two hulls next
to the 7th compartment. But the operation failed due to
the strong gale.
Late at night, the divers expanded the hole in the
inner hull of the 8th compartment, but they were not on
schedule (15 to 16 hours). The operation took more time
because the bulkhead (thick cross-sectional metal grid
that connects two compartments) was in their way – an
apparent miscalculation in the operation planning.
At 3:01pm, a Russian diver, warrant officer Sergey
Shmygin, was the first to enter the 8th compartment of
the Kursk. The captain of the 2nd rank, Andrey
Zvyagintsev, assisted him. Sergey Shmygin investigated
five meters of passage from the stern bulkhead and
towards the bow of the submarine. He noticed an air
cushion in the area of the 21st bulkhead. No bodies of
the crewmembers were found. The passage was too narrow
for the diver to move further towards the 7th
compartment. Consequently, Shmygin moved towards the
The diver managed to reach the hatch to the lower
decks of the 8th compartment, but the hatch was locked.
The attempt to open it was unsuccessful. Then Shmygin
reached the bulkhead hatch that connects the 8th and the
9th compartments and managed to open it. Water inside
the 9th compartment was muddy, and thus visibility was
much worse than inside the 8th compartment. The mud had
to be pumped out to improve visibility in the 9th
compartment. Shmygin managed to unseal a hatch in
gas-proof section in the floor where crewmembers could
hide in case of fire, but none of them was inside. After
that, Shmygin returned to the 8th compartment through
one of the hatches that led to the lower deck where the
turbine control post is located. Three bodies of
crewmembers were found there. The diving operation was
put on hold after that. During the first shift three
bodies of the submariners were found and raised to the
surface by the divers at 7:40pm. During the second night
shift the divers recovered one more body. The body was
blocked by boxes and it took two hours to get to it. The
body was raised at approximately 0:30am.
Seawater preserves remains of bodies much longer.
The divers did not have any difficulties recovering
them. Having been in seawater for several weeks, they
had a condition of so-called "zero buoyancy".
So it was not hard to carry them. The divers working on
the Kursk submarine were advised not to look at faces of
the perished submariners to avoid psychological stress.
Six psychologists were working onboard of the Regalia
platform ready to assist the divers.
Worsening of the weather conditions led to a pause in
the diving operation. Wind force increased to 23 meters
per second, strong breeze.
A note containing personal and service information
was found on one of the crewmembers, captain-lieutenant
The letter was written between 1:34pm and 3:15pm on
August 12. It reads that the most of the submarine's
crew from 6th, 7th, and 8th compartments moved to the
refuge section that is the 9th compartment at 12:58pm on
August 12. In addition, it said that two or three of the
crewmembers intended to make an attempt to leave the
sunken submarine through the rescue hatch of the 9th
Here is the content of the letter written by the
captain-lieutenant, the commander of the 7th compartment
of the submarine, Dmitry Kolesnikov, which military
officials revealed to the press.
The text of the letter is clear to read:
"1:15pm. All crewmembers from 6th, 7th and 8th
compartments moved to the 9th compartment. There are 23
of us. We took this decision because of the accident.
None of us will be able to get to the surface."
Then digits are written in bad hand writing:
"1:5… I am writing blind."
Two copies were made from this note. The official
part was given to the Commander of the Northern Fleet,
Admiral Vyacheslav Popov, and the personal part to
sailor’s wife, Olga Kolesnikova. The original letter
was given to investigators from the Military Prosecutor
Office of the Russian Federation. The note was
classified as “top secret”.
The Moscow-based newspaper Zhizn wrote that
one of the medical experts told them that the note also
contained the following words: "Captain died… I
am the only chief officer left onboard… It hurts…
Murdered… August 15th." The officials from the
Northern Fleet said the information was a fake.
The head of Rubin design bureau, Igor Spassky, said
at a press conference in St Petersburg the same day that
one of the purposes for divers was to examine the rescue
capsule. He said that it was very important to find out
why the submariners were not able to use it. Mr Spassky
did not deny that the use of the rescue capsule might be
complicated, and the Rubin design bureau intends to
simplify its design.
The divers were working in compartments 8th and 9th, but
no bodies were recovered. At that time 12 bodies were
raised from the boat. Most of them were dressed in warm
clothes. The clothes are usually put on under diving
Cameras were used to search sections of the 9th
compartment. It showed much destruction that would
hamper the divers moving ahead. Operation in the 9th
compartment was over.
First results of search in the 9th compartment showed
that no local fire started inside the compartment. One
of the raised bodies had no signs of any burns. Boxes
and equipment littering the area and the narrow passage
made it difficult for the divers to go down into the
section. Electrical lines are going through it up to the
inner hull. The auxiliary electrical engine of the
submarine is located there as well.
Several attempts were made to get into the 3rd
compartment. 24 crewmembers were assigned to the
compartment. An entrance to the shaft where Koral radio
system is located is placed in the compartment. The
shaft could serve as a refuge in case of flooding. The
hatch to rescue capsule (designed to accommodate the
whole crew) is located in the second compartment. The
second compartment is the central command post of the
submarine. 36 crewmembers are assigned to the
Officials from the Northern Fleet said that the
crewmembers from compartment no.4 and likely no.5 could
have moved to the third compartment (24 people
Unofficial sources say that the diving operation will
focus on recovering confidential information. This
compartment contains hydro-acoustic equipment, secret
But work in the compartments no.2 and no.4 could
represent higher risk for the divers. Video cameras
showed that the passages inside the compartments were
blocked by edged metal. Sources in the HQ of the
Northern fleet said to a correspondent of the Russian
daily Komsomolskaya Pravda that designers
installed 50% thinner bulkheads separating the first
five compartments (reactors are in the fifth
Wind force is 17m per second, moderate breeze. The
search in the third compartment is completed. But
serious destruction and loose equipment did not let the
divers get inside the submarine.
The mud in the compartment had to be washed out
before it was possible to use cameras and to evaluate
situation inside. Details of the destruction caused by a
powerful explosion in the 2nd compartment were evident.
The Commander of the Russian Navy, Admiral Kuroedov,
ordered to stop operation in this compartment. The hole
drilled in the hull was sealed off by a steel plate.
During week 44, the divers managed to cut a hole in
the outer hull of the boat above the 4th compartment.
That is one of the largest compartments of the
submarine. Cabins, galley, ambulatory, gym and sauna
were situated there. 12 crewmembers are assigned to this
compartment. At night, divers cleared up debris between
the hulls, and prepared to drill through the inner hull.
The research vessel Horizont arrived to the
area of the diving operation to start monitoring the
area for radiation. It replaced another research ship
the Semyon Dezhnyov. The rescue ship of the
Northern Fleet Altay is in the area as well
assisting the Regalia.
Three sailors from the nuclear-powered submarine Kursk
are officially identified. They are Aleksey Korkin (6-th
compartment), Roman Martynov (8-th compartment) and
Roman Kubikov (7-th compartment).
The divers continued clearing a place from debris to
start drilling through the inner hull of the 4th
compartment. The Commander of the Russian Navy, Admiral
Kuroedov, said that once the work is completed in the
4th compartment, the divers would start on the 5th
compartment. Admiral Kuroedov also said that the search
in the 3rd compartment showed a massive amount of
destruction and evidence of fire.
At night, a Russian diver managed to advance inside the
4th compartment only for one meter since visibility
inside was very poor, even though the mud was washed
out. The nature of the destruction proves that the
explosion shock wave reached this compartment as well.
All bulkheads of the service and living rooms are
smashed down. There was no visible destruction of the
bulkhead hatch however.
The Russian Navy will defend not the version but the
standpoint that the cause of the Kursk’s
disaster was a collision with a foreign submarine, said
a representative the Navy’s HQ to Intefax on November
5th. He also said the leadership of the Navy would not
comment on other theories.
Two more bodies recovered from the Kursk
submarine were identified. They are Roman Kubikov and
The divers continued working in the 4th compartment of
the Kursk. They managed to advance two meters
ahead into the compartment. Debris stands in their way
creating a risk of damaging their diving suits. Besides,
visibility in the compartment was poor. No one was found
in the 4th compartment.
Due to insufficient results of the work in the 4th
compartment, the Rubin representatives onboard the Regalia
discussed the need to carry on the operation. The press
service of the Northern Fleet said that the operation
might be halted.
Halliburton corporation was contracted until November
10th. The platform completed operation on November 7th
and went back to Norway.