By Maggie Koerth-Baker at 8:50 am Wed, Feb 19, 2014
This is the Hughes Glomar Explorer, a ship that's as important to the history of engineering as it is to the history of insanely crazy Cold War CIA schemes.
In 1970s, the CIA used this ship to capture a sunken Russian nuclear submarine — i.e., lifting a 2000-ton object from a depth of three miles to the surface. It was the most expensive intelligence operation ever and it only kind of worked.
I heard this story recently on NPR and it's a pretty fascinating tale. As for characterizing it as "the most expensive intelligence operation ever and it only kind of worked." I would actually say "it was the most expensive intelligence operation we know about, and it actually kind of worked - maybe more than we know!"
One other interesting thing not mentioned in the article is that the ship is still in operation, privately owned, doing work as a drillship, which was basically its cover in the operation!
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