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This audiobook tells the story of the brave officers and men of the nuclear attack submarine USS Queenfish (SSN-651), who made the first survey of an extremely important and remote region of the Arctic Ocean. The unpredictability of deep-draft sea ice, shallow water, and possible Soviet discovery all played a dramatic part in this fascinating 1970 voyage.
Covering 3,100 miles over a period of some 20 days at a laborious average speed of 6.5 knots or less, the attack submarine carefully threaded its way through innumerable underwater canyons of ice and over irregular seafloors, at one point becoming entrapped in an "ice garage". Only cool thinking and skillful maneuvering of the nearly 5,000-ton vessel enabled a successful exit.
The most hazardous phase of the journey began 240 nautical miles south of the North Pole with a detailed hydrographic survey of an almost totally uncharted Siberian shelf, from the northwestern corner of the heavily glaciated Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago to the Bering Strait via the shallow, thickly ice-covered Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi seas.
The skipper of the Queenfish had been trained and selected by Admiral Hyman Rickover and, inspired by this polar experience, McLaren became one of the world's foremost Arctic scientists, studying first at Cambridge University and then obtaining his doctorate in physical geography of the Polar Regions from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
This fascinating book was written by the man who captained of the USS Queenfish during her voyage beneath the Arctic Seas in an historic assignment to map the often treacherous areas which could only have been done by a nuclear submarine. I got comfortable with a cheap atlas, and a free world map from Doctors Without Borders ( which I interest-folded to the Arctic) and settled in to join the captain and crew on their exploration. Although maps are flat, McLaren naturally gave latitude/longitude references, making it easy to follow along. Certainly, there is a lot of navy/submarine jargon, but Dirk Pitt/Clive Cussler aficionados will have no problems with that. There are numerous historical references to much earlier explorers, as well as the journey of the USS Nautilus, given with appropriate respect.
It is also a brief of McLaren's professional life and gives some insight into naval life and politics for those of us who have never been in that field. And how many of us could really have willingly faced the dangers, boredom, and claustrophobia of such a life. Not important to most, but one of those was a man who served as SONAR technician. This man had a masters degree from Juilliard in the cello!
If you have any interest in Arctic exploration, submarines, and the evolution of such adventures, you will, indeed, enjoy this well-written book.
Jack Chekijian did an outstanding performance and probably deserves a medal just for his facility in pronouncing all of the Russian place and explorer's names. Hearing this book was a marvelous experience.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful
As someone who has a keen interest in all aspects of submarines, I was instantly drawn to this book when I saw it.
The book tells the tale of the USS Queenfish and its artic mapping mission in 1970.
However, this book was not what I was expecting. That is not to say that it isn't a well written account of the Queenfish's important voyage of discovery, but for me personally it fell short of what I thought the book would offer.
I was expecting a more personal account of the mission with a more human-oriented perspective with the telling of many anecdotes, personal perspectives and how man and machine worked together to achieve the feat that was accomplished.
Instead, what this book offers up is a somewhat dry and report-like telling of the story. In my view, the book spends far too much time padding out the story with history and geographical lessons that take up far too much of the book. Unless you've got a very good understanding in your head about where all the somewhat obscure places referenced are, then like me, you'll be totally lost. There's also no need to tell us just how many cubic feet of water flows from one river into a particular sea.
If you're studying for a degree in artic geography or something similar, then certainly all the details will be of some reference use to you, but for the majority of listeners I feel, the excessive historical and geographical information is just not necessary.
Insights into the legendary oddities of Hyman G. Rickovers interview techniques for candidates for the nuclear programme were interesting, but once the reader was painted a picture of the scenario I felt there was too much spent on this aspect when the story began telling us about several non-related candidates experiences.
There were some points of interest of course and the incident of the rogue wave near the start of the book boded well for the type of story I was looking for. However, there's just not enough of that sort of story telling he