May 30, 2003 — -- A U.S. nuclear submarine has taken on some unusual damage during maneuvers.
As the new Seawolf class sub USS Connecticut surfaced in the ice pack between the North Pole and Alaska on April 27, a polar bear chomped on its rudder, then attacked it.
The Connecticut was only partly surfaced, with its sail and rudder sticking through the ice.
"When an officer looked outside through the periscope, he was surprised to find a curious polar bear stalking around the vessel," Petty Officer Jennifer Gray reported on a Navy broadcast.
Mark Barnoff, a scientist with Pennsylvania State University's Applied Research Laboratory, had been working on a sonar experiment in the area, and was touring the Connecticut when the polar bear struck.
He said the polar bear's action caught the attention of the submarine's crew. "To watch the experienced sailors watch this, especially the older ones, was interesting," he said.
Barnoff took a series of pictures captured with the periscope showing the bear chewing on the rudder and then batting it around.
The bear stalked the submarine for around a half-hour, said Barnoff. "It wasn't in a rush to do anything. It was on its own schedule," he said.
Barnoff said by the time officers on the boat gave the all-clear, he was glad to leave. "It was a beautiful day," he said.
The Navy reported the damage to the Connecticut was minor. "Rear rudders of U.S. submarines aren't designed as snacks, but [the bear] had to find this out for himself," Gray said.
Seawolf-class submarines are among the largest attack submarines ever produced in the United States. They measure roughly 350 feet long by 40 feet by 35 feet.
Each Seawolf-class submarine carries a crew of approximately 130.