The Titanic and the USS Scorpion (SSN-589) are closely linked even though they had vastly different purposes. The Titanic was a premier cruise liner, the Scorpion a nuclear submarine. They both unexpectedly disappeared at sea. But allegedly only one of them was supposed to later be found, or even looked for.
A Military Crisis
On May 27, 1968, the USS Scorpion was scheduled to return to the destroyer-submarine pier complex homeport in Southern Norfolk, Virginia. That day they would have marked the end of a three-month deployment to the Mediterranean, focused on the reconnaissance of Soviet navy units. The weather that day was a little rainy, but the Atlantic Submarine Force headquarters and the crew’s family members awaited the Skipjack-class submarine well past their 1 p.m. arrival time. When the Atlantic Submarine Force headquarters received no word or sign of the 99 man attack submarine crew, it was declared a military crisis and the news reached the White House and Pentagon.
The search for the missing United States navy submarine lasted for nine days. After a week, the ship was reported overdue. Over sixty submarines, ships, and aircraft charged into the Atlantic Ocean that day to find the crewmen and their Commander Francis Slattery. It was all hands on deck, even the vice Admiral of the Atlantic Submarine Force left Connecticut to join the search below in the USS Pargo. The search is considered the largest U.S. Naval operation since the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Titanic Cover-up
No real information was presented regarding the loss of Scorpion until the next year. In January scientists, mathematical consultants and oceanographers determined that the ship had in fact sunk. The hull of Scorpion was 10,000 feet below water about 400 miles southwest of Azores. The U.S. Navy had the Trieste, a bathyscaphe submerge and collect pictures of the sub on the ocean floor. It returned with pictures of the ship in three pieces. To this day, the cause of the loss of the 99 submariners has not been declassified. The crewmen’s families were told that the American submarine did not encounter and cold war aggression, that it was more likely some form of a mechanical issue. Some assume a torpedo exploded, others claim poor maintenance. As the navy is very secretive, some think these are just cover-ups.
Then in 1982, Robert Ballard requested the funds to create a robotic submersible technology from the U.S. Navy. They, however, were only interested in using it to further probe and photogram the USS Scorpion and the USS Thresher, a sunken Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle. In short, the Navy’s response was that if he found any time after completing their mission he could “do what he wanted.” But, it wasn’t a priority, by any means. Ballard and his team searched for debris trails to find the ocean liner and with just twelve days left, they did. Without him, the Titanic may never have been found.