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September 12, 2015

The Glomar Explorer

The Glomar Explorer was a giant ship built by the CIA for one purpose: to raise a sunken Soviet submarine from the ocean floor. It was later turned into a drillship. With falling oil prices, however, it looks like it's finally going to be scrapped. From Dri's link in the sidebar:

The ship’s origin story began in March 1968, when a Soviet Golf II class ballistic missile nuclear submarine, the K-129, sank in the Pacific Ocean. This was at the height of a high-risk cat-and-mouse game between the USA and the USSR. After the Soviet Navy failed to pinpoint the location of the wreckage, the US Navy found it. So the CIA decided to raise it off the seabed.

The cover story was at least as interesting as the the mission itself.

From about 1970-74, the CIA managed to convince the world that billionaire inventor Howard Hughes had decided to invest millions to mine “manganese nodules,” balls of heavy metals that lie on the ocean floor. Via fake press releases, events, technical specs and front companies, the CIA convinced the world that Hughes was leading a new ocean-mining rush.

This cover story was so good, in fact, there was a public outcry over deep sea mining. I recall it from when I was in grade school. Environmentalist progs were up in arms about how ocean life would be adversely affected. The controversy even made its way into the Weekly Reader and my Saturday morning cartoons. (Sidebar: A lot of left-wing garbage made it into cartoons back then. There was a big movement at the time about violence in cartoons, for example. It was assumed that kids, who play fight any time the sun is out, couldn't tell the difference between dramatic violence and real violence. This stupidity ruined some great cartoons. The violence of earlier cartoons like Superman and Jonny Quest was deemed too great, as if kids were going outside and hitting each other with giant hammers after watching The Roadrunner. But left-wing agitprop was fine, and it suddenly appeared everywhere on Saturday mornings.)

Anyway. Idiots assumed, naturally, that shallow waters would be affected and that coral reefs would be targeted and torn to pieces. One of the cartoons I watched--some undersea adventure cartoon--depicted the heartless, evil corporation using giant undersea vacuum cleaners to suck up manganese nodules. The machines even looked like a giant Hoover vacuums. And in their overarching corporate greed, they were driving these dastardly machines over delicate coral reefs--as if deep sea manganese nodules can be found in shallow atoll and reef waters. But it was useful agitprop, I guess. I assume it was agitprop, because how stupid would it be to confuse deep sea and coral reef waters?

The fact that these environmental progs wasted so much time and effort reacting to a CIA cover story--and that Howard Hughes' very public effort to mine the ocean floor was total bullshit--makes it all satisfyingly laughable.

The point is, a CIA cover story that makes it into your Weekly Reader and your Saturday morning cartoons is one heck of a cover story. I'd love to see a movie treatment of this, the Argo version.

Wikipedia entry.

Theories on manganese nodule origin.


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posted by rdbrewer at 12:10 PM

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