In May of 1968, a United States submarine, dubbed the Scorpion, was sent on a mission to secretly spy on the Russian Navy. However, just one week later, the United States Navy realized something horrible – the submarine had gone completely missing.
The Scorpion was a Skipjack-class attack submarine, and was one of the first of its kind. It’s final assembly was completed in August of 1958, with its first mission taking place in July of 1960. Skipjack submarines were much smaller than many of the subs we know today, measuring at just 252 feet long, and 31 feet wide. The contained a crew of 99, twelve of whom were officers. These types of submarines were nuclear powered, giving them a top speed of around 35 miles per hour, or 56 kmh – which was quite impressive at the time.
The Scorpion was just over 10 years old at the time of its loss, which is still considered to be quite new. However, complaints came pouring in by the crew that the ship was already starting to show it’s age. The crew reported “chronic issues with the hydraulic systems”, claimed that its emergency blow system didn’t function properly, among many other issues. In fact, just two months before it went missing, Commander Francis Atwood claimed that the ship was in a quote “very poor state of preservation”, and many of the crew members had lost all faith in the ships ability to continue to be commissioned.
The ship was sent out on its final mission on May 20th, 1968. It’s goal was to observe Russian activity within the vicinity of the Canary Islands. On May 21st, the crew aboard the ship radioed in to update their status, and give an estimated date of return of May 27th, stating all activities were proceeding as planned. This was the final communication ever received by the Scorpion.
By May 28th, it was widely assumed that the ship had been destroyed; a theory that later proved to be correct, as its remnants were found later on – concluding that the ship had somehow exploded. However, no one knows exactly what happened to cause this.
One theory suggests that one of the Scorpions torpedoes may have accidentally exploded while in the chamber. This theory is backed by the fact that the ship was, at one point, registered as traveling in the opposite direction than it should have been. A technique often implemented in order to activate the torpedoes friendly-fire failsafe mechanism.
Another theory suggests that the ship may have encountered a fatal leak, causing sea water to poor in onto the ships battery, resulting in an explosion – as the ship was known to have had a faulty part that could have resulted in this taking place.
Finally, it is also possible that the Scorpion could have encountered a hydrogen explosion while charging one of its batteries. At the time that the explosion took place; the submarine could have been in the midst of closing its hatches, resulting in hydrogen gas buildup in the battery compartment, causing the ship to explode.
However, these are all just theories, and it’s very likely that we will never know what happened to the USS Scorpion.