Under the Ice in the Arctic

"Vertical surface, vertical surface, vertical surface," went the call over the intercom to the crew.

It was difficult to tell, but the sub was rising. On the monitors, the numbers were getting smaller. Two hundred feet ... then we passed the 100-foot mark.

As we got closer, the officers in the control room were in full concentration mode. You could see the tension on their faces. Chief of the Boat Tomas Garcia started calling out the depth.

"Twenty-five feet, 10 feet," Garcia hollered out. "Five, 4, 3, 2, 1."

Then the officer of the deck yelled, "full blow." The ballast was blown so the sub would break through the ice. It isn't a crashing feeling, but the contact with the ice did shake the sub a bit. Within moments, as more ballast was blown, the sub leveled off, having broken through more than two feet of ice.

'Rough Road' to an 'Outstanding Job'

Plenty of smiles and deep breaths were taken in the control room. The sub was safe. Cmdr. Brunner even got a bit emotional as he congratulated his men.

"This will be our last vertical surfacing in the ice camp," he said. "I just want to let everyone know, you all have exceeded my expectations throughout this ice camp evolution. We trained hard. We had a rough road to get here. You have done an outstanding job."

It took nearly an hour for crews to cut away the ice covering the hatch using chainsaws. Back on went the parkas as people ventured out of the sub and back onto the ice.

The Annapolis would be leaving later in the day with some experiences that would be shared throughout the Navy.

"I definitely think some of the tactics will change, especially in the weapons deployment area, based on the results we've seen," said Brunner.

The Navy will need to hone those tactics as the ice continues to melt, opening up this vast wilderness to exploration and a possible 21st-century "black gold rush."

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