The Hunt for October

Nothing to do with climate, but I thought you might find it interesting


The Hunt for October

Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser

Submarine warfare systems are in a class of their own. You may have seen the 1990 espionage thriller movie The Hunt for Red October. It portrays a late Cold War era encounter of various submarines. Suffice to say, a real suspense flick.

In WWI, German U-boats (submarines) were highly successful in sinking ships of foreign navies and merchant vessels. Initially the sudden loss of those vessels was unexplained but the then novel submarine warfare technology was quickly recognized and countered with other technology.

What has changed in 100 years?

Now, a century later, submarine technology is still a highly secretive “know-how-to” enterprise. Details of designs, material specs and limitations are highly guarded. In a surface vessel, a small oversight or material defect may hardly be noticed; however, in a submarine at depth it can mean the difference between survival and doom.

The most critical limitation is a sub’s depth of operation. Every 30 ft. (10 m) of depth adds a full atmosphere of pressure to the system.  For submarines to be “invisible” or difficult to be detected from surface instruments, they need to be beneath the thermocline.

The Thermocline

The thermocline is the layer at which water temperature and other water properties change over a relatively short distance of additional depth.  As the Wikipedia image shows, the temperature change in the thermocline is from a balmy 24 C to a frigid 4 C.

Submarines that are below that thermocline are essentially undetectable to surface vessels. The thermocline acts like a mirror of the overlying water. However, for a sub to be able to dive under the thermocline (in the warm oceans at a depth around 500 m, i.e. 50 times atmospheric pressure), that’s no small feat either.  Naturally, in the much colder polar water regions, the thermocline is much closer to the surface.

In contrast to WWI subs that needed to surface frequently to run diesel engines to recharge the batteries for silent underwater propulsion, nuclear-powered subs don’t have that requirement. Such modern subs can stay submerged for months at a time. That makes for a more sophisticated cat and mouse game these days.

Of course, not all subs are created equal. There are still many that use non-nuclear powered (typically diesel-powered) engines. What may surprise though is the number of subs that are listed by country at the website . The number one country (in terms of total number of subs) is – who would have guessed – North Korea. In close pursuit are the U.S., China, Russia, and coming in at the number 5 spot, yet another surprise, Iran.

Obviously, there are vast differences in size, range, armament, and diving capabilities between the various subs. However there is also another critical property that is important in that environment, namely the ability to move silently through the water. Older subs had a distinct pitch, caused by slightly uneven or unbalanced propeller flukes. In fact, during the Cold War period, many subs could be recognized just by their sound. Modern computer-designed and -machined propellers provide for a nearly quiet operation. That makes the subs’ detection and identification by sound patterns next to impossible.

Cat and Mouse Game

A very recent report by Sputnik News ( ) says “After a series of agonizingly unsuccessful submarine hunts in Sweden, searching for Russian subs seems to have become one of the Nordics’ favorite past-times. Even now, an intense hunt for an alleged Russian submarine is taking place along Norway’s coast.”

Clearly then, the century-old cat-and-mouse submarine-game is still in full swing. Another “October” may be close by.


Dr Klaus L E KaiserDr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser is a professional scientist with a Ph.D. in chemistry from the Technical University, Munich, Germany. He has worked as a research scientist and project chief at Environment Canada‘s Canada Centre for Inland Waters for over 30 years and is currently Director of Research at TerraBase Inc. He is author of nearly 300 publications in scientific journals, government and agency reports, books, computer programs, trade magazines, and newspaper articles.

Dr. Kaiser has been president of the International Association for Great Lakes Research, a peer reviewer of numerous scientific papers for several journals, Editor-in-Chief of the Water Quality Research Journal of Canada for nearly a decade, and an adjunct professor. He has contributed to a variety of scientific projects and reports and has made many presentations at national and international conferences.

Dr. Kaiser is author of CONVENIENT MYTHS, the green revolution – perceptions, politics, and facts

Dr. Kaiser can be reached at:


19 thoughts on “The Hunt for October”

  1. Thank-you Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser, interesting story.

    N. Korea and Iran with so many subs, maybe they feel that if they fill the oceans with lots of cheap noisy subs then one must reach it’s target. Who knows the madness that these regimes might think up?

  2. Not so fast!

    This story is all well and good for the last 60 to 70 odd years, but not for the next coming decade I strongly suspect. Read for a brief notice; Quantum Entanglement.

    Now we are talking my field! Ok, so understand this, I’ll keep it simple, for the details are quite involved. Consider two systems each composed of some “particular combination arrangement of atoms”, but with the interesting property that these two atomic systems are connected together, quantum mechanically, through what is called a wave-function. These wave-functions exist with all matter (in fact, The Force as in Star Wars is much akin to what Sci-Fi fans get a kick out of.) Well, the interesting thing about these wave-functions are that, you can systemize these separate wave-functions so that they combine to become entangled, like two separate strings mixing together. But with the incredible ability for them to be pulled apart – that is, each atomic system with its wave function is still linked to the other atomic system’s wave function – in such a way, so that if something were to change with one atomic system, the other atomic system will know about it, IMMEDIATELY, no matter how far away it is, in fact, breaking Einsteins’ Relativity Principle of nothing traveling faster than the speed of light. This is why Quantum Mechanics and Relativity are paradoxes to each other.

    But, it gets better! Consider this, if the Chinese are working on underwater QE (Quantum Entanglement), it can only mean, that they are working on developing a system where say two remote quantum devices, (that is the atomic systems alluded to earlier) are entangled with each other. Now it is theoretically possible, so that the entanglement can be broken on under specific conditions, say another particular atomic system (an intruder 3rd party) which is so sensitive that it can disrupt the entangled two detectors. For example, US Nuclear Submarines have enriched reactors, and so due to the radioactive neutrons, some of them, no matter how small an amount, end up in the super structure of the submarine, and can turn some of the iron radioactive and cause it to fission to heavy magnesium, with a nucleus heavier and a wave-function that is uniquely different to ordinary magnesium which can exist naturally in the sea. This is why you should never stay long in a reactor room of a sub. Now, in theory, an entangled system can be designed to be affected by these very heavy atomic (iron and magnesium) nucleons. Thus breaking any entangled wave-function in the vicinity, specifically designed for these atoms, and thus detecting the submarine. Even if it is below the thermocline!! In fact, there is no reason why you can’t develop a nuclear submarine detector that detects subs at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, and that’s a fact! Even though, nuclear subs don’t go down that far, it does mean, it makes it very easy for these QE sensors to pick any sub. in the deep, why? Because, if designed right, you don’t have to be near, or have the sub. your searching for between your two QE sensors, it can still detect the sub off-axis of the two QE sensors. That is the wow!

    Yep, the future will be all about Quantum Engineering. If your a student and looking for future prospects, that’s where the action is going to be, designing Quantum Sensors…. alla Star-Trek.

    The Russians have already made aircraft careers pointless with their hypersonic Zircon missiles, and the Chinese are about to make submarines pointless too. I get the feeling that the early 20th century is repeating itself again, with Britain, thinking it was The Super Power, but only to find out that it’s hay-day was long gone, by the end of the First World War. Once again, history is repeating itself. I just hope the rest of the world doesn’t have to pay for US arrogance, like the world did with British arrogance.

    I’d love to go on, but I’ll only bore you. But think about this, radar will become a thing of the past. There will be networks of QE devices everywhere, highly sensitive to materials of stealth aircraft, and nuclear reactors. Nothing that is radioactive will be able to hide! In fact, the next break-through after QE Sensors, will QE guidance systems. Imagine, once you can detect with QE, you will then be able to track and destroy.

    With the Chinese working on this, and the Russians making break-throughs in hypersonic rocket engineering. The future is about a neutering America, which goes a long way to why the US, is fearing Russia and China. It explains a lot.

    Interesting days ahead.

  3. Our think tanks are 75 years ahead of what is available now. I have been told by some in the know, every day brings new developments to the arsenal. I kinda wonder, though, why someone, like S. Korea, Japan or us aren’t shooting down N. Korea’s missiles; unless it is true that they are being used to get popular opinion in favor of yet another war front. This has been suggested. Does anyone really believe Russia and China want a “rogue” state with nukes there? Really? “…and rumors of wars”. Slow bleed wars sells lots of toys!

    • I think you’re quite right. NK’s missileering has been a serious boost to many political interests. It even has China and Russia siding reluctantly – I presume – with US. The KN decision to chase after nuclear weapons almost certainly is not regarded with pleasure in either Peking or Moscow. If you compare military capacities, aside from homegrown nukes, NK has no advantages whatsoever over SK. The SKs have their own successful conventional weapons programs, a well fed, very well trained army, and many times the force under arms of NK. It is probable that sole reason that SK has not stomped all over NK is simply the Chinese and Russian borders shared with NK. Neither would really want a US ally right over a dry-land border unless the alternative was worse. Ironically it seems Kim Jong Un is working hard to create that very alternative.

    • Right, and what do you do with the old sht. when you get new Tech. on the scene? Well, you could sell it to a tin horn dictator who you know will make trouble, and then spend more of the peoples money blowing them up in his lap or at sea. Slow bleed wars sells lots of old toys too. NO to your question. I always thought we should be doing business w/Russia instead of so many enemies.

  4. Steve Bannon said “There is no military option for North Korea”.
    To true.
    The U.S. has maintained an armistice instead of a peace treaty with N.K. in the belief they could occupy N.K. at anytime and confront China and Russia directly.
    A fools dream.
    Same with Iran.
    Whilst they should have been preparing for the coming ice age and even worse the coming rain.
    The rain will kill us faster than the ice, even those in the tropics where I am.
    Four days of rain in Phuket, my friends garden is flooded.
    Never happened before in over twenty years.

  5. Dorian,
    Thanks for the interesting (and at least understandable to a layperson such as myself) explanation for all that.

    Interesting days… not always a good thing though.

    I am American, and as such I am not inclined to see the US as totally arrogant (at least I personally know many people here who are not in the least), although I can see why some people think that.

    But we are no more arrogant than many, many other nations, and I do think it’s our government’s responsibility to protect our own citizens, our own country, and our own history and culture (albeit with flexibility to make changes when needed). If everyone was the same, the whole would be a lot more boring place!

  6. 🙂 interesting stuff
    meanwhile..back here n now
    i noticed NK subs went “missing ” last time they were having a kerfuffle..and no one seemed to have found them. and missiles can and are launched from them .
    carriers might look impressive but theyre a dandy target and if they get hit they lose planes as well.
    meanwhile it seems its easier just to use a bulk carrier type vessel to put the state of the art usa ships out of service x 2 already..

  7. Interesting comments so far. Whether the subs are noisy or not depends on the area they intend to operate in. If you are intending to defend your marine borders, it doesn’t matter if your subs are super quiet or not. The torpedo, or tube launched cruise missile, does the work. If you have the capacity to eliminate the aircraft carrier group, you have moved the carrier group outside its operating range. I would expect that to be the logic of a large sub fleet to a nation that basically is in no position to attack those that threaten it.

    As for entanglement, I must admit that it entangled my mind and I saw nothing in it to use as a life raft. Science based on mathematics instead of the physical world has been interesting, has been the source of a lot of things that are interesting and useful, but the farther out from the physical reality science has roamed, the slower the fallout.

    Light itself has disproved relativity, but those that wish to believe, “band-aid” by making more assumptions that can’t be proved or disproved. The theory doesn’t just say that nothing exceeds the speed of light, it also says that any mass approaching light speed approaches an infinite mass. Yet light has a measurable mass, is bent by gravity, acts like mass in that respect and is not infinite. The band-aid is the supposition that light has a zero rest mass, but how can zero approach anything if it is nothing to start with, even at light speed? As for Quantum physics, well, for everything that doesn’t work “as expected” there is an equal opportunity band-aid ready shortly.

  8. Thank-you Dr. Klaus L.E. Kaiser and Dorian for this insight.
    The big fear of all this, is that no one is giving thought to what happens when a boo-boo happens (as in Chernobyl) and the feared nuclear cloud…that renders the food supply un-edable the water undrinkable and the population to sick to work or man an army. North Korea couldn’t have gotten this far on their own. Iran has to have been involved. And both are being run by loons.
    Nature on its own, is getting ready to send a message of about who is in control with storms, lack of sun spots, more frequent 6.0 and larger magnitude earthquakes, volcanism, and shorter growing seasons. Now add in people who want to send hydrogen-nuclear devices off. If the 2010 8.8 Chilean earthquake could retard the earths rotation a few seconds or the 2015 7.8 Himalayan earthquake could change by a degree the earths axes….think what the most destructive devices man has invented will do…They could in reality change more than just a political/military dilemma… They could really make old mother nature stand up and say enough of human occupation.

  9. A nuclear sub can never enter silent running mode because the plant requires cooling with a pump at all times. It is a mobile missile platform not a stealth vessel. Only a diesel electric can run silent (in electric mode). This is how it was in the past though new systems may have been introduced since, but if they have, it’s top secret. Maybe someone here knows?

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