USS Scorpion Mystery Finally Solved!

USS Scorpion location May 1968
USS Scorpion located “few miles south of Azores.”
USS Scorpion Found
USS Scorpion “located 400 miles southwest of the Azores.”


The nuclear submarine USS Scorpion mysteriously disappeared in May 1968 while on her return trip from maneuvers in the Mediterranean.  The US Navy released the chart at the top of the page to the media on 24 May 1968. It shows that the USS Scorpion was due east of Lisbon Portugal “only a few miles south of the Azores.” when she sent her last message.  The Gallup New Mexico Independent published this chart on the front page on 28 May 1968 (link) (pdf-file). The same chart was also published by several dozen other US and Canadian newspapers. There is no mistake. The US Navy told the media that the USS Scorpion was “only a few miles south of the Azores” when she sent her last radio message.

The admirals  knew the deplorable condition of the USS Scorpion and began to worry about the wisdom of showing the last known position of a nuclear submarine with live nuclear warheads onboard. What if the USS Scorpion had crashed to the bottom a few minutes after sending her last message? If so, she went down in the territorial waters of the Azores. The big worry then was whether the newly refueled nuclear reactor busted apart and dumped nuclear radiation so near a foreign country? If so, the US Navy would be facing a monstrous nuclear clean up. And, what if the nuclear torpedoes were also leaking radiation?

The admirals were in a panic. If the Azores Government started to worry about radiation leaking on to their fishing grounds, Congress would be forced to conduct a full-blown investigation that would surely uncover the hairline stress cracks in the USS Scorpion’s hull near the stern. They could not deny the fatigue cracks because they were visible to the naked eye. Maintenance staff had seen then and so noted her file to protect their own butts. Scorpion also left Norfolk with 109 unfilled repair orders. Truth be told, the USS Scorpion was a wreck looking for a place to crash even before she left her home base and the admirals knew it. In fact, the 99 sailors who went down with the Scorpion had nicknamed her the USS Scrapiron a few weeks before they died. They picked the name because it clearly revealed the scrappy condition of the boat (link).

The only thing the top brass could do was dream up a big lie denying that the USS Scorpion was “only a few miles” south of the Azores when she sent her last message. They could only pray that no one compared the two charts shown above. Simply setting these charts side by side would be enough to show that the lower chart was indeed a fabrication.

The new make-believe story released by the admirals informed the press that, on May 20th, the Commander of the US Navy’s Atlantic Submarine Fleet issued an operations order (still classified top-secret even today). This top-secret order, that no civilian has even seen, supposedly diverted the USS Scorpion to the Canary Islands to spy on a few Soviet warships patrolling the area.

Fifty years have slipped by and the Soviet Union has gone out of business so why don’t the Navy show us this old document? If they are not lying, then there is no harm in proving it to the public.

But truth be told… the admirals lied their butts off! Instead of saying the USS Scorpion was “a few miles from the Azores” the admirals reported that at about 7:54 pm Norfolk time on 21 May, the Scorpion rose to within a few feet of the rolling surface and radioed the U.S. Naval Station in Greece that she was “250 miles southwest of the Azores Islands.”

The new fake location was a few miles west of the Canary Islands so if the admirals were telling the truth, why didn’t they just admit the first mistake and say the message was actually sent from a location “a few miles west of the Canary Islands?” They were obviously lying.

Of course, we still have to take the US Navy’s word because the 50-year-old spy mission is still classified as “top-secret” to keep from upsetting the nonexistent Soviet Union.

The lies told by the admirals put the wreck of the USS Scorpion south of its assigned course and a long way from the territorial waters of any sovereign nation. Now they claim that they can not reveal the EXACT site or allow anyone to dive the area in a mini-sub because they must protect the sacred burial grounds of US Navy sailors that they sent on a fatal suicide mission. Every relative of the 99 lost souls would be elated if they could be 100% sure that this is where their sailor is resting. The US Navy could carry them to the area so they could say a prayer and drop flowers in the water. But this is never gonna happen because the location they gave is not the true burial grounds of the 99 sailors they killed.

After faking the spy mission, the admirals then reported that USS Scorpion crashed to the bottom for unknown reasons while on a “direct route home from the Canary Islands.” As you can see on the lower chart above, the fabricated wreck site was now “400 miles south of the Azores.” This was an obvious lie, but if they could convince the Azores Government that it was the truth, then they might avoid the anger of Congress.  Sending the USS Scorpion on a fatal suicide mission knowing she had the fatigue cracks in her hull and knowing her deplorable mechanical condition amounted to criminal negligence. The USS Scorpion was a sitting duck for the shock waves often generated during a shallow-focused vertical thrusting earthquakes in the seafloor.

Allow me to repeat: The USS Scorpion had 109 unfilled repair orders and signs of metal fatigue in her hull that were visible to the naked eye. And, to make matters worse, the emergency system to flood her ballasts tanks with air and float her to the surface was not working and the US Navy knew it before the sub left Norfolk.   

Uncovering the USS Scorpion Cover-up?

In 1974, the oil supply ship I was running was hit by a seaquake off the coast of Puerto Rico. We lost 150 oil pipes over the side and almost sank.  I started looking for others who had experienced the same thing but had a hard time finding any reports. My big break came in the 1990s when companies started digitizing old newspapers and putting them up on the Internet. Starting in the 1700’s, newspapers all around the world were reporting ships hit by seaquakes and other undersea upheavals.  Online archives are filled with violent encounters such as the ones shown at this (link). You can find another 2000+ eyewitness reports of submarine upheavals at this (link). Here’s a different (link) with over 12,000 reports from sailors telling you their experience with undersea earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. And there’s a lot more. I have over 5,000 handpicked reports from other sources that I am slowing posting on the net (Ships Hit By Seaquakes 1700 – 1899) (Ships Hit By Seaquakes 1900s to present). This stuff is mind-blowing.

The strange thing is these reports stop hitting the press in large numbers shortly after the USS Scorpion sank.

More Shocking Truth

The cover-up becomes obvious when you compare the huge number of seaquake reports prior to 1968 with the tiny number of such reports coming out today. There are just as many undersea earthquakes now as there were a hundred years ago and fifty times more ships, but rarely do we hear about a vessel hit by one of these events. If there were no cover-up, we’d be reading about a nasty seaquake hitting a ship or a pod of whales almost every week.

I’m also convinced that the British and Australian navies are in on it. All three have been fully aware of the danger since the early 1800s. Since then, several hundred US Navy vessels have encountered seaquakes, including 40 to 50 submarines. The first encounter with a US Navy ship in the public records occurred in 1852 off the coast of Vancouver Island (link). One of the most notable to make the newspapers happened in 1918 when double earthquake shocks shook the entire sixth fleet of Admiral Rodman’s heavy dreadnoughts (link).

This much is proven. The US Navy started investigating seaquake pressure waves in 1939 (link). In 1940, they wanted to set off large explosions just offshore to generate monstrous tsunami waves and destroy enemy coastal cities. They wanted to know all about using explosives to mimic seaquakes. They called this effort Project Seal. The US Navy also released a news article in 1962 asking for scientists to help them create artificial undersea earthquakes to sink enemy ships so their adversaries would believe an earthquake sank it. They called this geophysical warfare Blue Sky Research (link). This is just the tip of the iceberg — there is so much more convincing information that it becomes too overwhelming to read it all.

Reason for Cover-up

The main reason the Navy does not want you to know about the dangers of seaquakes is to hide the stupid mistake they made in the 1950s when they designed and built six Skipjack-class nuclear attack submarines. The Navy wanted the fastest, quickest turning, most silent nuclear attack submarine money could buy so they came up with the Skipjack design with its wide unsupported stern diving planes. They removed the upper and lower external struts that were normally used to support such wide horizontal appendages during fast maneuvers. They did this because the struts generated bubble noise (cavitation) and reduced the top speed by a few knots.

Removing these external supports was a monstrous mistake.

The wide horizontal dive planes on the Skipjacks often flapped up and down slowly like some giant prehistoric bird lifting off the ground. The internal supports could not take the constant bending stresses. After 4-5 years of service, the supports started to show hairline cracks (metal fatigue) in crucial areas that could not be seen by simple inspection. In addition, the Skipjacks also suffered a lot of shaft and propeller vibrations that added vibratory stress to the already fatigued internal supports. Because the hull of a submarine changes shape under increased diving pressures, aligning the long shaft and propeller so they didn’t vibrate at various depths was a nightmare.

The more stress-weakened the internal support brackets became, the more vulnerable the horizontal diving planes were to sudden shock waves generated by vertical-thrusting seaquakes, especially an extremely shallow reverse-fault event near six magnitude.

When the USS Scorpion was new, the wide horizontal planes could take the blow. But after 4-5 years of bending fatigue, the diving planes became the most vulnerable part of the submarine if it was hit hard by seismic shock waves traveling up from and earthquake in the seafloor.

Seaquake Shockwaves Exploits Flaws

In 1966, two years before the USS Scorpion disaster, O.L. Martin, Jr. with Maritime Safety Division at the U.S. Naval Oceanographic Office published a special report entitled UNDERWATER DISTURBANCES! It was all about the danger of seaquakes and undersea volcanic eruptions. Read his report (link). At the same time you read it, ask yourself if the shock waves and pressure disturbances mentioned by the US Navy’s Maritime Safety Division in 1966 might injure marine mammals, sea turtles, and fishes with swim bladders. You don’t need to read too close. Just look in the left column of page 59 where the article clearly states that:  “MARINE LIFE CAN BE DESTROYED BY A SEAQUAKE.”

Also, notice on the last page where the article informs: “Damaging seaquake…..The ship may be thrown about in the water with such force that mast, booms, superstructure, and machinery, as well as the hull, may be damaged. It is possible for seams to be opened to such an extent that flooding cannot be contained and the vessel sinks.” Keep in mind that this is an exact quote published in 1966 by the US Navy’s very own Maritime Safety Division! The US Navy clearly stated that seaquakes could open seams, sink ships, and kill marine life.

In 1967, one year before the USS Scorpion disaster, US Navy Ensign Frank P. Rossi, assigned to the Environmental Data Service, Environmental Science Services Administration, Washington, D.C. published a US Navy authorized article entitled Seaquakes: Shakers of Ships. These four pages are shocking. Read them (one, two, three, four).

In the early 1960’s, Geophysicists Dr. Hugh Bradner  and Professor John Isaacs, the Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, became to wonder if a nuclear submarine was steaming over an earthquake in the seafloor, would the added hydrostatic pressure in the water show up on its depth gauge as a sudden descent. Then one day at a cocktail party, they ran into a Navy commander who had been watch officer on a submarine during an earthquake. In less than four seconds, his depth gauge had gone beyond test depth. Then, much to his relief, it returned to normal (see page 73). Both Dr. Bradner and Professor Isaacs warned the Office of Naval Research that an earthquake could easily sink a nuclear submarine, especially if there were fatigue cracks in her hull.

In other words, the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research knew the Scorpion was vulnerable before she left the dock. That’s why the admirals restricted the USS Scorpion to only 300 feet on her suicide mission.

There were no seaquakes in the official US government records, but purging these files would have been a simple matter of an admiral making a 2-minute phone call. And, there were no seismic stations in the Azores capable of detecting a dangerous quake near where the USS Scorpion supposedly was when she sent her last message. And, if they did pick up the quake, they never put two and two together. On the other hand, there were several US Navy underwater listening stations that picked up the noise of the USS Scorpion’s crash to the bottom. The recordings from these stations were suddenly seized and taken to Naval Headquarters. Someone knows happened to this secret tapes but no one is talking. The Navy released easy-to-fake printouts of this noise several months later. Many gullible souls were fooled, but not the skeptics.

When US Navy finally located the wreck site, they sent down a camera sled and took 10,000 pictures, releasing maybe 20 of them. The rest were classified as top secret and sent to the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Washinton. The photos arrived in mid-November 1968 and ONR spent the next two weeks studying every detail, looking for the cause of the sinking.

Then, on 15 December 1968, in a secret transaction withheld from the press and the public, ONR signed a $2.6 million research contract with Scripps Institution in San Diego. They called the study OVERPRESSURES DUE TO EARTHQUAKES PROJECT (link) and name Geophysicists Bradner and Professor Isaacs as lead investigators. Even though it was not officially classified, it was not publicly announced or widely distributed until 2015 when a digital copy was accidentally put online by the National Technical Information Service (NTIS copy) to which this author subscribes.

The US Navy admitted in 1966 that seaquakes sink vessels, but in December 1968, they began to pretend to know nothing about undersea seismic upheavals. They ask Bradner and Isaacs to tell them how overpressures from an undersea earthquake might sink the USS Scorpion. They also wanted Bradner and Isaacs to develop a SEAQUAKE HAZARDS CHART so they could keep the five other Skipjack-class submarines out of harm’s way until they could be retired them without embarrassing the admirals. This they ordered even though the 1966 report by the US Navy’s Maritime Safety Division including a far more detailed SEAQUAKE HAZARDS CHART. In other words, the US Navy’s Maritime Safety Division already knew the location of all the seismic hotspots. There was also a request for floating pressure gauges (sonobuoys) that could measure the intensity of seaquake pressure impulses, even though the 1966 report mentioned floating seismic recorders were already in use. In other words, the admirals were pretending to be unaware of any seaquake danger just in case Congress started an investigation.

The Truth Finally Leaks Out!

USS Scorpion starboard diving plane missing
the tail section of the USS Scorpion missing starboard dive plane, propeller, and drive shaft

Powerful seismic sea shocks snapped the stress-weakened internal supports holding the starboard dive plane. Once loosened, the swift current washed the wing-like plane into the propeller, breaking off two blades, and snapping the shaft where it connected to the main drive. The USS Scorpion lost trust instantly. The 99 sailors on board were helpless because the emergency blow system that filled the main ballast tanks with air and caused the sub to surface was inoperable (link). The Scorpion rolled over several times and spiraled to the bottom a few miles south of the Azores.”

The US Navy knew the sub was in serious danger while traversing seaquake active waters. This meant that sending her back and forth to the seismically active Mediterranean via the seismic hotspot a few miles south of the Azores was the same as sending her on a suicide mission. The shocking truth forced the top admirals to either lie to the families of the dead sailors and to the public or be disgraced and court-martialed.

Another big reason to lie was because the US Navy had five other seaquake vulnerable Skipjacks in service that had to be decommissioned. Under no circumstances could the admirals accept the embarrassment of having to retire an entire class of nuclear attack submarines due to dangerous design flaws, especially at the height of the Cold War and at a time when they were already under heavy criticism for the 1963 mysterious loss of the nuclear submarine USS Thresher.

The Russian, French, and Israeli navies also knew a seaquake sank the USS Scorpion because they had also lost submarines in seismic hotspots only a few months earlier. They all agreed to keep quiet about the danger. Otherwise, they would all have the same problem — finding enough crewmembers to maintain a submarine force knowing that at any second their lives could end.

To make matters even worse, the wreckage of the USS Scorpion was likely leaking radiation into Azores fishing grounds and probably still is today. The Navy had to lie about the real location of the wreckage. They also had to lie when they said the reactor did not crack open when the submarine crashed into the rocky sea bottom. Taking one look at the mangled reactor compartment makes it impossible to believe the US Navy, especially since they lied about everything else.

The US Navy, masters at press manipulation and propaganda, pumped out confusing news reports left and right and stalled around until the admirals finally came up with an ass-saving plan. In case the truth ever came out, they would pretend that they did not know that seaquake shock waves could snap off a wide diving plane that was ready to fall off on its own. They didn’t want to sound completely stupid about seaquakes so, as a backup cover story, they decided to kick off a new $2.6 million research program to supposedly discover how seaquakes could sink nuclear submarines. But they would also continue to publicly deny the seaquake connection. If they could keep it out of the press, then there would be no reason to reveal the $2.6 million spent on seaquake research. In other words, if the truth leaked out, they’d say they didn’t know the real danger and had recently initiated a study to learn the truth. It was a weak excuse, but it was all they could think up. If the seaquake connection never leaked, they’d bury the unclassified seaquake research in the basement of the Pentagon and no one would ever know what really happened.

The admirals had no idea in 1968 that the National Technical Information Service (NTIS) would form in the 1990s and start digitizing all the unclassified documents rotting away in the basement of the Pentagon. Taxpayers had paid for this non-classified research and were entitled to see it and maybe make use of it.

The Research Project

The first part of the overpressures project was to develop a system for measuring seaquake pressure waves. This first phase started with the following paragraph:

“The Overpressures Due to Earthquakes project work is directed toward the understanding of the various effects, at the sea surface, at the ocean floor, and between, of nearby undersea earthquakes. The present goal is the study of pressure variations in the water column which result from seismic events. At the beginning of the program, various experimental approaches were considered. One such consideration was the development of inexpensive long time instruments that could be scattered over known seismic areas and left for extended lengths of time (i.e. several years). The idea of attempting to measure the overpressures using such instruments was subsequently abandoned, mainly because of the gross uncertainties involved with trying to make such measurements in the near field of adequate seismic activity. It was decided, instead, to attempt measurements during the aftershock sequence of large earthquakes located beneath the sea. There is almost invariably a sequence of aftershocks following a large earthquake. By definition, the size of the aftershocks are all smaller than the main event (the greatest aftershock is usually about 1.2 in magnitude less than the main event) and continue for from a few days to a number of weeks after the main shock. They are usually located in the general region of the main shock and most probably along the edges of the displacement area of the main shock.”  (see Page 50 of this document)

Bottom line, the US Navy does not want you to know that a major seaquake can sink a modern nuclear attack submarine loaded with nuclear weapons. In fact, they want you to believe that seaquakes are harmless to submarines, surface ships, and to pods of diving whales.

And, neither does the oil industry want you to know that a seaquake could crack the legs on an oil rig or snap one of a thousand large oil pipes that carry crude oil from several hundred miles offshore to refineries on land. Just such a pipeline burst not ago and spread oil all over Southern California beaches (link).

One seafloor upheaval in the wrong place could coat a hundred miles of pristine beach with black crude and cost a billion dollars to clean up. A strong seaquake under a loaded oil tanker or liquefied natural gas tanker could be even worst. In fact, seismic shock waves sinking oil tankers is nothing new. Here’s a report (link) about how a seaquake turned an oil tanker into scrap metal.

It happened again on 6 March 1988 when a major earthquake with seven aftershocks occurred in the Gulf of Alaska about 200 nautical miles from the oil depot at Valdez. Four Exxon oil tankers were nearing Valdez when the following events erupted one after the next near their position:

PDE 1988 03 06 223538.14 56.95 -143.03 10 7.8 MwHRV
PDE 1988 03 06 230556.84 56.75 -142.99 10 4.7 MLPMR
PDE 1988 03 06 231105.10 56.91 -143.04 10 4.4 MLPMR
PDE 1988 03 06 231438.46 57.50 -142.80 10 6.3 MLPMR
PDE 1988 03 06 232359.90 57.67 -142.94 10 4.4 MBGS
PDE 1988 03 06 233332.53 57.40 -142.89 10 4.2 MLPMR
PDE 1988 03 06 233747.69 57.74 -142.97 10 4.1 MLPMR
PDE 1988 03 06 233949.59 57.10 -142.90 10 4.5 MLPMR

The 500,000-barrel crude oil tanker Sansinena II, under the command of Captain Brent Christiansen, was streaming from Portland, Oregon, to Valdez, Alaska, to pick up a load of crude. Captain Christian in now the chief port pilot for the Port of Los Angeles. Below is his account of what happened:

“Suddenly, without warning, an extremely severe vibration started to shake the entire ship. My first thought was that we’d lost one or several propeller blades. I immediately pulled the throttle back to about 40 rpm, but there was no change in the intensity of the shaking. I did not know what was happening so I ran out on the bridge wing to look around. I could see the stack shaking so hard I thought it might collapse. I returned to the bridge and a few moments later the shaking subsided.”

“About this time I heard a call over the very high frequency (VHF) emergency Channel 16. It was the Exxon Boston calling the Exxon North Slope and reporting that she had encountered heavy vibration, had lost power and was experiencing some flooding. The Exxon North Slope also was without power and called a third Exxon ship, the Exxon New Orleans, which turned around and headed back to stand by the Exxon Boston. Meanwhile, our radio operator heard about the earthquake from a station at Ketchikan. We proceeded to check the deck and the engine room and found no signs of damage, so I gradually resumed speed. I called the Exxon North Slope, gave our position, and offered to assist if needed. They responded that they were restoring power and did not need any help at this time. The Exxon Boston reported that the flooding was under control and the Exxon New Orleans was now standing by. While this was happening, we felt the first of several aftershocks, leaving no doubt that it was an earthquake we’d felt. We resumed course to Valdez, where eventually all vessels arrived without further incident.” (Craig B. Smith (2006) Extreme Waves, Joseph Henry Press, 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001, ISBN 0-309-13367-X e-pub ISBN (link)

Naturally, the oil industry and the US Navy don’t want you worrying about such things. They don’t even want you to worry about why whales mass strand. And cruise ship industry also wants you in the dark. How many people will take a cruise if they think a seaquake could sink their ship? Even the owners of cargo vessels have ordered their captains to stop reporting seaquakes because they could be sued if they sell the boat a few years later without disclosing a prior run-in with a seismic upheaval. Just like a building cracked by an earthquake, the resale and loan values of a ship hit by a seaquake plummets, especially if there’s a public report on file.

And just in case you still think I’m off my rocker, read this report (link) released by top NASA physicists at Goddard Space Flight Center. They studied two 7.5 mag. seaquakes and determined the shock front from both events approached 100,000 pounds per square inch (6000 kilobars). A shock wave of that magnitude is enough to sink any nuclear submarine even with strong supports on her diving planes. On the other hand, a 1971 study financed by the US Navy (link) estimated shocks of an average seaquake at about 250 pounds per square inch. There’s a big difference between 100,000 psi and 250 psi. Read both research papers and decide whether you believe the physicist paid by the Navy or the ones working for NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Read more on seaquake intensity.

The truth lies in between the two reports. The average magnitude 5.5 seaquakes likely consist of a series of low-frequency compressional waves at ~600 psi, lasting for ~30 seconds.

Capt. David Williams

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