Commentaries, Reminiscences and Sea Stories
Chris Smoot

Some Commentaries on Finding the Scorpion
Posted on 8/8/2007

(An e-mail thread between E.G. Adams and Chris Smoot)

CS to EGA, Wed 8/8/2007 8:56 AM Earl:

I was told some years later that I had been given credit for the plan to find the SCORPION, so I feel somewhat qualified after all these years to say something about it.

I was living in Hawaii a few years ago. A friend invited me to a submariners convention. He told a retired admiral that I was on the BOWDITCH June-August 1968. That admiral shook my hand and said that he had been stationed at Catholic University in DC at the time, and that he had been tracking our progress. He told me that we had found the sub one day faster than they had predicted we would.

We had a chuckle over that idiot Craver who had claimed to have found it by sitting on his butt somewhere. Craver claimed in Blind Man's Bluff (apparently meant as a fictional account of some sub stories) to have told us exactly where it was in october. By then the MIZAR had already dragged the photo sled through the area and compiled the photo mosaic that all of us have seen over the years, although I don't think the newer generation of Ogos even knows what it is.

So, we left Bremehaven, went to the mouth of the GibStraits, and followed a pattern I laid out based on the last three fixes we had from the SCORPION. It looked like they were going from seamount to seamount as we knew them at that time. So, we headed for the Cruiser/Great Meteor group and ran right up on it. No problems, mate. It was 175 nautical miles away from the position given us by the SOSUS/whoever people, so we naturally took the credit. Nobody could say anything about this until 1993 of course.

On the next cruise we went back to the site with the work group plus a bear mother ship and positioned the transponders for the MIZAR, who couldn't do a damn thing because they were dragging that sled. Then we derived their program, drew them a map, and had a high-line transfer with a tincan to get the info to them.

When I got home in August, I went down to South Carolina to visit my folks and celebrate my birthday. My brother-in-law had been a pigboat sailor. He said to me "So you found the SCORPION" to which I denied-several times. Then he trapped me. He asked me if they had been sending my mail to the BOWDITCH, and I said "yes." Then he showed me a headline in the local paper which said, and I quote: "USNS BOWDITCH finds SCORPION submarine 240 miles southwest of the Azores." I almost fell off the seat! So, I took the article back to the NAVO spook shack and showed it to them. That taught me a lesson with Navy higher-ups (no offense), and I never trusted them them rest of my career with the excepton of John McDonnell and Tom Callaham, both of whom I eventually named seamounts after.

And that is my story of the SCORPION. I have the tapes made by Bob Ballard also.

Yours in the brotherhood

Chris Smoot

EGA to CS, Wed 8/8/2007 1:29 PM

Thank you, Chris.

Often the complete, and completely accurate, story of historical events never gets told. Usually because we each only see our small part of larger events, and there is no one to put the pieces together correctly.

I hope the web site will tell a small part of a big story, U.S. Navy Special Projects, which was part of an even larger story, the Cold War, from the individual perspectives of the men who lived it.

I'd like to use your story on the site, with your permission.

Perhaps you could provide some clarification. We could navigate on Bowditch of course, but we had no way to investigate the ocean floor at a given position. Only the camera on Mizar's sled could do that. So..Mizar followed our position? I remember the ops in June, and the high-line transfer to the destroyer, but I was on Mizar in September.

That trip to Mizar in September had, I thought, been a disaster. I took my three most reliable transponders, and we planted them OK. But we did not have the associated shipboard equipment, the ASPS-III. I had only the test set, which could generate a test signal and a release signal to test the release solenoid at the bottom of the battery pack. Mizar's "scientists" had a fancy "computer-controlled" sonar, which they claimed could interrogate the transponders, and they used my test set to transmit the release signal through the sonar when it was time to bring them up. IT DIDN'T WORK! So far as I know, all three transponders died on the bottom, although strangely enough we did recover a single lonely strobe light, with nothing attached! I thought the Commodore was going to throw me over the side to join my transponders he was so pissed! A shipful of Scientists and Engineers, and it was all the fault of a 20-year-old ETR2!

I spent most of the cruise in September standing sled watches, staring at that damned oscilloscope display of the bottom pinger return and trying to keep the sled from bouncing off the bottom.


CS to EGA, Wed 8/8/2007 1:58 PM I assumed that we had succeeded in posiotioning the configuration. When we got back down there from our Amsterdam inport, I think it was 11 transponders already on the ocean floor, laid by the MIZAR. However, they didn't have the wherewithal to calibrate the net, so they sent us back down there. I had personally been on many transponder ops, so to me fell the brunt of the survey work. I'm the dumb ass who spoke into the communications network and told the MIZAR to get out of th eway so that we could do our work. I remember INDIGO PAPA to this day.

Anyhow, we ran the baseline crossings and determined the transponder depths. You can still see the transponder positions in the photos, almost all of them. I got the photos from the oceanographer of the Navy years ago. Some time later the photo mosaic showed up in the OSP office. Jesse Sampson was that director at the time I think. If not, John McDonnell.

Over the years I have seen or heard everyone including Adam's housecat try to take credit for finding the sub. It has been all I could do to hold my tongue. When I got Ballard's copy of his Jason pictures, all I had to tell him was the dates I was on the BOWDITCH. Same with that retired admiral. The Submariners all know what happened. Interestingly, I went back to the records before I retired to see who was on watch because most of them are dead now. The records were all missing from NAVO.

You can certainly use this story if you so desire. The other watchstanders that I remember were Herb Tappan, Charlie Beatty, and Rick Tyler. I think Bob Sprague was the SNR, and he had never been on a transponder ops!


Mizar, Scorpion...Sargasso Sea...and The Gulf of Alaska
Posted on 7/15/2007

I was on the BOWDITCH off and on 1966-1969, mostly doing the transponder ops. One was laying the net for the MIZAR over the submarine SCORPION. After we found it in June, we had to go back and run that for them. We had a highline transfer with a tincan to give the fleet the program and map. We also exchanged movies. We on the BOWDITCH had had "Pinocchio in Outer Space" for three straight months, so this was our chance to finally get rid of that dog. We were all laughing on deck as the movies passed each other. They were also laughing. We found out why. They had sent us the same movie!

Another time we were trying to lay a transponder triad in the Sargasso Sea. Just about the time we would get one positioned, it would start giving really funky numbers. Come to find out, about 1000 dolphins were in the area. They had picked up the release signal and were cutting them all loose. After about a dozen tries, we left the area for a week before coming back and completing the mission.

Has anyone told you about being on the DUTTON in the Gulf of Alaska when the three lows converged on us. Damn near broke the ship in half. We limped back into Oakland. I was one of the idiots who took her back out of the yard. Still can't believe it! 94 knot winds and 54 foot seas. Still thanking my lucky stars.

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