How it was
August 12, 2000. At 23.30, Kursk failed to respond to radioed queries and, as required by regulations, was declared “wrecked.” Alerted by the command, naval search-and-rescue forces sailed into the area, where the vessel was presumed to lie, and started the search. Two U.S. submarines and a Norwegian seismic-research institute registered two powerful explosions in the Barents Sea. The Russian military registered a third explosion, at 23.45, in the area where the Kursk’s whereabouts might have been.
At 4.36 on August 13, 2000, the sonar equipment aboard the cruiser Pyotr Velikiy (Peter the Great) spotted a ship lying on the seabed. At 7.00 hours, Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev reported to the President that the sub had been found and an attempt would be made to save the crew. At 10.00 hours, the Northern Fleet’s rescue ships arrived to the place of tragedy. At 18.00 hours, a minisub made a first dip but hit the Kursk’s hull and had to go to the surface. A second attempt was made 30 minutes later, with the craft failing to find the sub right away. According to military sources, there were stirrings of life inside the Kursk, specifically SOS-water signals, all along till August 14.
At 11.03 hours on August 14, 2000, news agencies and television channels reported, with reference to the press service of the Northern Fleet, about “trouble aboard the nuclear-powered multi-purpose submarine Kursk.” According to the military, the crew were alive and could be communicated with “via code signals by the tapping method.”
At 20.00 Moscow time on August 15, 2000, a salvaging effort involving 15 combatant ships and vessels of the Northern Fleet was launched in the Barents Sea with the aim of aiding SSBN Kursk.
In the evening of August 16, 2000, the naval command got the go-ahead from the President of Russia for seeking foreign aid in order to salvage the Kursk. Diving bells failed to dock with the sub. The naval sources referred to a strong bottom current and the sub’s list that prevented essays to seal with the hull.
On August 17, 2000, all attempts to have a minisub seal with the hatch came to nothing again. A Norwegian ship carrying British LR5 minisub and a rescue crew left Trondheim and headed for the disaster area. A ship with Norwegian divers would arrive somewhat later.
August 18, 2000. There is still no trustworthy information about the state the sub and the crew are in.
In the evening of August 19, 2000, the Norwegian ship with British LR5 minisub arrived to the disaster area.
August 20, 2000 saw the start of the international stage of the rescue operation, one involving Norwegian and British divers and equipment. By 17.00 hours, Norwegian divers managed to unscrew the valve of an escape hatch. The Norwegians said that contrary to statements by Navy spokesmen, the mirror of the hatch coaming (a polished surface assuring hermetic joining) was not deformed.
At 13.35 hours on August 21, 2000, Norwegian divers opened the inner hatch of the ninth compartment and found that it was filled with water. At 17.02 hours, it was officially announced that the crew were dead.
On August 22, 2000, the President of Russia issued a decree declaring August 23 the day of mourning and left by plane for Severomorsk in the afternoon.