The Scuttlefish

Love the Ocean. Wish you were here.

Category: military

Wish You Were Here – A Carolina Sunrise on an Island Haunted by History.


Photo by Chris Dixon

If you have a seaworthy old boat and can convince a bleary-eyed posse of kids how much fun they might have running along a deserted beach chasing ghost crabs and playing pirate by flashlight, your October view at Morris Island, South Carolina might look a lot like this.

Read more about the lingering secrets and tragic history of one of my favorite places in the world here. CD

The Last Dive Into Devil’s Hole.


James Houtz came into this world nearly 80 years ago during a raging snowstorm. He lived the first three years of his life in a tiny Colorado outpost called Allen’s Park, but at the age of four, he and his older sister moved to Catalina Island after their mother was offered a job running a popular Girl Scout camp. When the Houtz’s weren’t on the island, they lived in an equally remote cabin in the San Bernardino Mountains above Los Angeles. Jim was rarely indoors, spending his early years hiking playing and hunting in the hills or diving and spearfishing in Catalina’s crystalline waters. Eventually he also took up surfing, growing particularly fond of the long pointbreak rollers around Santa Barbara.

A fanatical obsession with diving eventually led Houtz to enlist in the U.S. Navy’s submarine forces on an underwater demolition team – the precursor unit to the SEALS. He dove to recover spent torpedoes and Regulus II missiles (the first nukes ever to be launched from submarines) and led in acoustical experiments aimed at helping ships and subs run silent through the water.

Houtz was honorably discharged in 1960. He became a diving instructor and fell in with a team of experimental mermen who were working determine what sorts of exotic cocktail of oxygen, nitrogen, helium and other inert gasses might prevent the deadly state of deep dive drunkenness known as nitrogen narcosis.

By the early mid 1960’s, Houtz began a well-publicized mapping exploration of the deepest depths of a gigantic, tidally influenced western aquifer whose sole connection to the earth’s surface is a tiny volcanic fissure near Death Valley – a scar called Devils’ Hole. The hole is home to a critically endangered species, the Devil’s Hole Pupfish, and is steeped in lore. Native Americans held that a beast hid in its depths that would leap from the water and pull careless humans to their deaths. The Reverend Ethan Allen believed it a gateway to Hell, while Charles Manson thought his Family could hide safely in its depths during the coming chaos of Helter Skelter, and find a lost city of gold.


Merl Dobry and Jim Houtz inch their way through a narrow passage on the way to Brown’s Room. The photograph illuminated a world of utter darkness darkness at 92 feet. Photo courtesy, Jim Houtz.

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The Japanese Mini-Subs of the Pearl Harbor. Terry Kerby on a Discovery that Rewrote History. A Scuttlefish Feature.


Terry Kerby at the viewing port of the deep sea sub, Pisces V. He was looking through this view port when he found a tiny Japanese submarine that rewrote the history of World War II.
Photo: Chris Dixon

Last week, The New York Times published a story I wrote that posed a question: Do Humans Have a Future in Deep Sea Exploration? The story focused on a pioneering deep sea submersible pilot named Terry Kerby and the laboratory he oversees on Oahu’s windward coast. The laboratory, part of the University of Hawaii and better known as HURL, has been the most important United States deep-sea research outpost in the mid-Pacific since the 1980s. As HURL’s chief pilot, Kerby is perhaps the most experienced submersible navigator alive. With a crew of five, Mr. Kerby and his twin Pisces submarines have discovered more than 140 wrecks and artifacts, recovered tens of millions of dollars in lost scientific equipment, and surveyed atolls and seamounts whose hydrothermal vents and volcanoes were unknown.



Kerby’s discoveries, made alongside the likes of Dr. Robert Ballard and Dr. Sylvia Earle, have rewritten the history of World War II and changed our very understanding of the deep ocean. But in 2013, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced it would be cutting off the meager funding that helped keep HURL and its subs afloat. Today, Kerby faces the possible mothballing of his fleet – and the world faces the loss of ¼ of the planet’s human-piloted deep subs. The forces at play are the same as in many other realms of science — dwindling budgets – NOAA’s deep sea exploration budget is $26 million per year, while NASA’s space exploration budget is on the order of $4 billion. Then, of course, there’s the issue of robots.

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Why Is the CIA’s Biggest (and Most Storied) Ship Going to the Breaking Yard?


Above: A drawing of the Hughes Glomar Explorer, which gave birth to the CIA’s infamous “Glomar Response”: “The CIA can neither confirm nor deny the existence of these documents. . . .” Image: American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

The CIA built the Hughes Glomar Explorer was in the 1970s by the  for one mission only: to retrieve the sunken Soviet submarine K-129. They expected a “treasure trove” of intelligence information on nuclear ballistics and torpedoes, but if the Soviet Union found out about their intentions, the Cold War might have become World War III.

So how did they hide it? This is where Howard Hughes enters the picture.

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This Is Russia’s Newest and Deadliest Nuclear Deterrent Submarine


One of Russia’s new Borei class submarine prepares for sea trial. Photo: RIA Novosti/RT.

Nearly 20 years in the making, Russia’s new “Borei class” (“North Wind”) SSBN (Ship, Submersible, Ballistic, Nuclear) submarine is the Russian Navy’s first updated nuclear defense submarine since the end of the Cold War. Dubbed “Project 955,” these ultra-sleek black beauties will be replacing “Project 941” Typhoon-class submarines and “Project 667” BDRM Delta IV-class vessels.

These names may come across as arbitrary or irrelevant, and to an extent they probably are, though they do emanate a kind of fear-inducing chill reminiscent of the 50+ year nuclear stalemate between the former Soviet Union and the United States.


Photo: RIA Novosti/RT.

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The ‘Beach Buoy’ These Children Were Photographed Playing Around? An Undetonated WWII Mine.


“My son was touching it and was knocking on it a little bit,” said mother Kelly Gravell. Photo: ABC News/Wales News Service (presumably snapped by Kelly Gravell).

On August 12th, Burry Port, Wales, UK resident Kelly Gravell took her 4 and 6 year old children down the the beach with their boogie boards. Walking across the sand, they noticed a “large object” covered in barnacles, and decided to investigate further.

“We get things washed up all the time,” Gravell told ABC News, “so we thought it was a buoy. We never thought for one second it was a bomb.”

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Join the E/V Nautilus Team on August 18, as They Survey the Wreckage of The Macon, The United States’ Last Great Airship


The U.S.S. Macon (ZRS-5), a 785-foot dirigible seen flying over lower Manhattan. The Macon served as an aircraft carrier for the US Navy before falling into the Pacific after being damaged in a storm off Big Sur, California. Photo: US Naval Historical Center.

This week, over 80 years after the world’s largest helium-powered “flying aircraft carrier” the U.S.S. Macon sank beneath the waves, E/V Nautilus will be conducting a new archaeological survey of the wreck site, and you can watch video footage in real time on August 18th by tuning in to Nautilus Live.


Above: The USS Macon begins construction in the Goodyear-Zeppelin hangar at Akron, Ohio. Photo: US Naval Historical Center.

The U.S.S. Macon and sister ship Akron (ZRS-4) were two of the world’s largest flying ships–only about 20 feet shorter than the similarly ill-fated Hindenburg–and today, remain the world’s largest helium-buoyed airships ever built.


The Macon berthed a squadron of five Sparrowhawk scout planes which, using a “skyhook” (see image above) could launch and retrieve the aircraft in midair. Photo: Public Domain.

Sadly, neither the Akron nor the Macon lived through their first two years of service. The Akron was first to go, destroyed in a thunderstorm off New Jersey in 1933. (The Akron also holds the gloomy distinction of being involved in the greatest loss of human life aboard an airship. Only 3 of the 76 passengers aboard survived the crash.)

Two years later on the United States’ west coast, the Macon followed her sister ship’s fate.

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16,000 Pounds of Cocaine in a Homemade Submarine and the Biggest Drug Bust in USCG History


The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton approach the suspected vessel on July 19th. Photo: Lanola Stone/Coast Guard via AFP – Getty Images.

$181 million dollars is the estimated value of the 300+ bales–16,000 pounds–of cocaine seized by the United States Coast Guard 200 miles off the coast of Mexico last month, what is apparently the largest confiscation of illicit drugs in the force’s history.

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