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Salvage Teams Prepare to Place Kursk in Dry Dock - 2001-10-20

Russian and Dutch specialists are preparing to place the wreck of the Kursk submarine into dry dock in a port in northern Russia. The docking operation comes 14 months after the giant sub sank to the bottom of the Barents Sea following two mysterious explosions, killing all 118 men on board.

Salvage teams are slowly and painstakingly raising the giant barge which has the Kursk clamped underneath it. They have been working for more than a week with enormous underwater pontoons to raise the two crafts into position. They had planned to begin moving the Kursk into dry dock Saturday but decided the sub was not yet high enough to be moved into a waiting half-submerged floating dock.

The salvage team now plans to begin the docking operation on Sunday.

Two weeks ago, the barge raised the Kursk up from where it sank in the Barents Sea and then towed the sub to shore. Once in dry dock experts will recover remains of the crew and more than 20 supersonic missiles, as well as the sub's two nuclear reactors.

Some bodies of crew members were recovered a year ago, when divers managed to enter the sunken submarine on the ocean floor. The front section is still on the sea bottom after divers sawed it off before raising the rest of the sub for safety reason. That section contained the torpedo bays, and experts warned that some weapons could explode during the difficult raising. However some fragments of the front area were recovered, and the team hopes to retrieve the rest next summer.

Officials say the bow section may contain the answers to what caused the two explosions that sank the 18-thousand-ton Kursk. Most experts say a torpedo most likely misfired and set off a larger blast.