Sunday, August 07, 2005

Russian Sailors Tell Story

Russian sailors from the rescued AS-28 mini-submarine describe their ordeal.

Sailors Recount Darkness and Frigid Temperatures Aboard Russian Sub Snagged on Cables for 3 Days
The seven men endured darkness and frigid temperatures for three days until their Russian mini-submarine was freed Sunday from the Pacific floor by a British remote-controlled vehicle as oxygen supplies dwindled.

"It was cold, cold, very cold. I can't even describe it," one crew member with reddish hair said as the sailors walked ashore with dazed looks and bloodshot eyes after their vessel was cut loose from cables that had snagged it.

The men aboard the AS-28 mini-submarine _ six sailors and a representative of the company that made the ship _ had opened the hatch and climbed out without assistance, officials said.

Six were taken to a hospital on the mainland for examination, waving to relatives as they went in. The seventh was kept aboard a hospital ship for unspecified reasons. They appeared to be in "satisfactory" condition, naval spokesman Capt. Igor Dygalo said.

At the edge of the gangplank leading off the ship that brought the crew to shore, the submarine's commander Lt. Vyacheslav Milashevsky held a long and solemn salute, then a slight smile crossed his face.

He was pale but told journalists he felt "fine" before climbing into a van with the others for the trip to the hospital. Another crew member in the van looked from side to side, gazing at the green trees and gray skies.

Milashevsky's wife, Yelena, said earlier that she was overjoyed upon hearing about the rescue. "I was happy. I cried from happiness. I danced," she told Channel One television.

The men had worn thermal suits to protect them against temperatures of about 40 degrees and were told to lie flat and breathe as lightly as possible during the rescue effort, officials said. To conserve electricity, lights were turned off and contact with the surface was kept to a minimum.

The crew member with reddish hair said he felt OK and was eager to be reunited with his wife and daughter. He was then ushered in the van taking the men to the hospital and did not reply when asked his name.

Russian authorities thanked the British and praised the international effort that included the United States, but criticism quickly arose over why the nation's once-formidable navy needed outside help.


Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, who supervised the rescue operation from a navy ship, clenched his fists and shook them in happiness when he saw the red-and-white-striped sub surfacing.

"We have seen in deeds, not in words, what the brotherhood of the sea means," he said. [Yes, we submariners do see each other as belonging to a brotherhood even across international boundaries. - ed.]

On Monday, he promised that the navy's rescue capabilities would be improved.

"The condition of the rescue service is one of our priorities and I will demand that they are maintained on the highest level," Ivanov said at a news conference.
Read the whole story, there is some interesting detail. And yes, it was fishing nets.

Again, thank God that they are safe.

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