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Exploring the Arctic Depths: A Voyage Inside a Navy Submarine

Journeying Beneath the Ice: A Times Photojournalist Chronicles Pentagon's Arctic Warfare Training Aboard a Nuclear-powered Attack Submarine

U.S. Navy sailors aboard nuclear-powered submarines have long trained in the Arctic, honing their skills to counter potential threats from Russian counterparts amid increasing military activities in the region.

In March, amidst the frozen expanse of the Beaufort Sea, a 360-foot attack submarine, armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles and torpedoes, emerged from beneath the ice during Operation Ice Camp.

For many of the 152 sailors aboard the U.S.S. Hampton, it marked their inaugural patrol.

In the submarine’s command center, Master Chief Petty Officer Jacob Green, affectionately known as “Cob,” guides junior officers and crew through their duties.

Navigating Arctic waters poses unique challenges. Shallow depths require precise maneuvering between the ice above and the ocean floor below. Massive ice keels present further hazards, as Commander Mike Brown and his crew experienced while traversing the Bering Strait.

Condensation from freezing ocean waters against the hull risks electrical fires, underscoring the vital importance of maintaining the submarine’s nuclear power plant.

Space is a premium onboard, with shared bunks and meticulous meal planning. In the rare event of emergencies, surgeries can be performed on the wardroom table.

Amidst the confined quarters, camaraderie thrives, with crew members bonding over card games and shared experiences.

Yet, isolation weighs heavily. Submerged for extended periods, sailors miss important milestones, disconnected from the outside world save for limited communication.

Commander Brown leads an all-male crew, a remnant of past policies now evolving to include women in senior roles.

The Hampton’s mission at Ice Camp underscores both geopolitical strategy and the crew’s training in navigating the Arctic’s harsh environment.

Submarines like the Hampton conduct classified missions worldwide, gathering intelligence and ensuring national security.

As the mission in the Beaufort Sea concludes, the sub resurfaces at the North Pole, its journey under the icy depths continuing in silent determination.

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