Forensic seismology and the sinking of the Kursk



On August 10, 2000, Russia's Northern Fleet began its largest naval exercise in more than a decade. Among the vessels taking part was the heavily-armed Kursk, an Oscar class submarine that was the most modern cruise-missile sub in the fleet.

Beginning on August 14, a series of reports in the press indicated that the Kursk had been severely damaged during the exercise and that the crew were likely dead. By August 17, news agencies were reporting that seismic networks in the Baltic area had detected two seismic events which appeared to correspond to the Kursk disaster in time and space (Figure 1). Specifically the seismic events were consistent with reports from the British Broadcasting Corporation on the location of ongoing rescue efforts. The fact that this section of the Barents Sea is essentially aseismic added credence to the assertion that the seismic events were directly related to the sinking of the Kursk.