The Kursk Tragedy

On 12 August, an explosion wrecked the Russian submarien Kursk, and it sank in the Barents sea with 118 crew aboard. The public was not aware of the tragedy for two days, but the Russian navy located the submarine early on the 13th and began rescue efforts. For the first two days there was, according to reports, detectable knocking on the hull indicating some survivors. The event understandably engaged widespread attention, both because of the tragedy for the crew and their families, and because it represented political and societal issues on a world-relevant scale. A detailed timeline of the 10-day episode is given below.

A formal GCP prediction was made for the event, specifying a half hour beginning with the first explosion, at 07:28 GMT, at one-second resolution, and a long-term look at the whole period until resolution (access and confirmation that all are indeed dead) using one-minute blocks. These analyses are shown in the following graphs of the cumulative deviation of Chisquare. The final value of Chisquare for the half-hour period is 1898.4 on 1800 degrees of freedom, which has an associated probability of 0.052.

Half hour following

Ten Days of Waiting

The period from the 12th to the 21st of August, beginning with the accident and ending with the official announcement that all of the Kursk crew were dead, is shown in George deBeaumont's graphic presentation of the one-minute long term look at the data. The analysis timing is based upon: 1) First explosion at 08/12/00 07:28:27 GMT and 2) BBC website reports all crew dead at 08/21/00 14:29 GMT Chisquare is 13531.5 on 13383 degrees of freedom, with p = 0.182.

The first two days, during which knocking on the hull was detected, show a highly significant rise. After that, the data fluctuate with no long-term trend. As a picture rather than a scientific measure, the graph looks like an unfolding story, with intense engagement for the first two days, then confusion over the next week. See the timeline below for a more detailed description of the events over the whole period.

Kursk Tragedy, 12 to 21

The following timeline is from the BBC website. Notes in [brackets] are from the chronology published in the Trierischer Volksfreund on 21 August 2000.

Day one: Saturday 12 August

Russia's Northern Fleet Command loses contact with the Kursk nuclear submarine taking part in exercises in the Barents Sea. [Norwegian seismologists register two underwater explosions at about 09:30 MESZ (07:30 GMT). It is probably the accident of the Kursk.]

Day two: Sunday 13

A Russian sonic depth finder from the Pyotr Veliky cruiser finds the submarine, which has sunk to the sea bed at a depth of 108 metres, approximately 135km (85 miles) off Severomorsk. [The sub is located at 01:21 MESZ. Russian ships arrive seven hours later. Knocking signals are heard from the sub asking for help.]

Day three: Monday 14

A Russian navy official admits that the Kursk is on the seabed. It is claimed radio contact was made with submarine. This is later denied - the only way that survivors can communicate with their rescuers is by knocking on the hull. [The announcement is made shortly before 09:00 MESZ, 48 hours after the accident.] Officials say there are no nuclear weapons on the Kursk and say that the submarine's nuclear reactor has shut down. The Russian navy says the accident happened on Sunday. Russian officials play down reports that the Kursk collided with a foreign vessel, and suggest that an explosion took place on board. The UK and the US are among nations that offer to help Russian rescue efforts. There are unofficial reports that the knocking on the Kursk has stopped.

Day four: Tuesday 15

First unofficial reports emerge from Washington that US submarines monitored two explosions in the area where the Kursk sank. Raging storm hampers rescue efforts. The Russian navy attempts to lower a submersible vessel to the Kursk. Strong currents and the angle at which the sub is lying on the seabed mean that the submersible fails to latch onto the Kursk.

Day five: Wednesday 16

Poor underwater visibility hampers rescue efforts. New attempts to dock with the Kursk fail. President Vladimir Putin, who is on holiday in southern Russia, makes his first public comment on the crisis. He describes the situation as critical and says Russia has everything it needs to conduct the rescue mission. Shortly afterwards, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov says that there are no signs of life on the submarine. Late on Wednesday, Russia formally asks the UK and Norway for help. A plane carrying British navy LR5 mini-submarine leaves Scotland for Trondheim, Norway.

Day six: Thursday 17

Further Russian attempts to dock with the Kursk fail. The supply ship carrying the British LR5 and crew sails from Trondheim. The Seaway Eagle, carrying Norwegian divers, heads for the scene of the accident. Russian officials report extensive damage to the Kursk, saying the entire bow has been ripped open. It is reported that many of the crew were likely to have been in the sections of the submarine destroyed by the impact and are believed to have died instantly.

Day seven: Friday 18

A Norwegian seismological institute says it registered two powerful explosions on Saturday in the area of the accident at approximately 0730 GMT. A Russian rescue capsule briefly latches on to the submarine. Damage to the hatch prevents a secure docking, Russian officials say. President Putin returns to Moscow to monitor the crisis.

Day eight: Saturday 19

The British rescue team and the LR5, arrives at the scene of the disaster but is not deployed. The Norwegian ship, the Seaway Eagle, carrying Norwegian divers arrives at scene.

Day nine: Sunday 20

A remote-controlled camera goes down to Kursk from Seaway Eagle to inspect the body of the submarine. The first Norwegian diver reaches the sub. Norwegian divers say the rear submarine hatch is not too damaged to attempt opening it.

Day ten: Monday 21 August

Norwegian divers open outer hatch. The airlock below is found to be flooded with water, but no bodies are discovered. A few hours later, they open the airlock's inner hatch. The cabin inside is flooded and rescuers conclude the crew is dead. The Russian navy officially announces that all 118 crew are dead.

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