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 Herdenking van ramp met de Kursk infographic
Graphic shows steps in the recovery of Kursk (K-141).


Ramp met onderzeeër Kursk 20 jaar geleden

By Duncan Mil

August 12, 2020 - An explosion in the bow section of the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk on August 12, 2000, resulted in the loss of the vessel and 118 crew. An international team led by Mammoet-SMIT recovered the wreck and delivered it to the Murmansk drydock in October 2001.

At the time of the disaster, the Kursk was taking part in a major fleet exercise, along with the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov and battlecruiser Pyotr Velikity. Kursk was fully armed with Granit missiles and torpedoes and was to make a simulated attack on Kuznetsov.

At 11:20am local time, an underwater explosion rocked the exercise area, followed two minutes later by a huge blast. A Norwegian seismic monitoring station recorded both explosions.

Kursk sank in 108 metres (354 feet) of water at a 20-degree vertical angle. One of the explosions ripped a large gash in her bow, near the torpedo compartment. A Russian Navy board of inquiry later concluded that one of the submarine’s Type 65-76A super heavyweight torpedoes had exploded, causing the gash. The second explosion would have been the detonation of the remaining warheads aboard the submarine.

The Type 65-76As uses hydrogen peroxide as fuel. The danger is that this chemical can become explosive if it comes into contact with organic compounds. The first explosion was likely caused by a faulty weld that failed to hold the hydrogen peroxide fuel chamber together.

The disaster didn’t kill all of its 118 crewmembers right away. One of the ship’s officers, Lieutenant Captain Dmitri Koselnikov left a note dated two hours after the second explosion recording 23 survivors trapped in the five rear chambers of the submarine. Hoping to save themselves they passed from one section to the next, gathering in the ninth compartment, at the stern of the submarine, where the only rear escape hatch was located.

The Russian Navy failed to realise that the submarine had sunk. It took 11 hours for the sinking to be declared an emergency. Russian President Vladimir Putin received public criticism over his handling of the disaster. Putin, who was then on vacation at a seaside resort, refused international help and only accepted assistance from Britain and Norway five days after the accident.

PUBLISHED: 11/08/2020; STORY: Graphic News