Chatham, England

Slaying a black widow

Date November 2009
Posted October 2012
Covertly infiltrating an ex-Soviet Cold War submarine
The inky black waters of the Medway swirled menacingly. Out there moored in the strong current was the dark silhouette of an abandoned submarine, listing dangerously to one side. Beyond the vessel - which was ripe, we garnered, for exploration - the river pushed out to the Thames Estuary and the opportunity for a lonely night upon the waves. Before either of these high-adrenaline destinations could be reached there was also the treacherous muddy slope of the river-side from which we had to launch our small inflatable canoe.


The small inflatable canoe bobbed on the flow as we let the tide drift us down towards the blind side of the submarine, paddling franticly then lest we were carried on past and off into the gloom of the estuary. Securing the boat to the submarine wasn't difficult despite the heavy listing. And now as we were about to clamber down inside the beast, that listing was only too apparent sat atop the conning tower. What if tonight was the night that the vessel finally capsized, taking us with it? With a final look around to make sure all was quiet around us, we hauled open the hatch and climbed down into the darkness below.

From the tight confines of the bridge we emerged via steel ladder onto the main deck, the only lights our torches. The off-keel angle of the submarine was even more sinister now that we had no horizon with which to align ourselves. Around us there was no mistaking this ship for anything other than an ex-USSR submarine: all of the signage, warnings and labels were in cyrillic...






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Further reading...

Foxtrot class Wikipedia
U-559 ellsbury.com

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