Posted on 10_26_2014
This conversation is a lot of fun!
First of all, you should have all 18 pages of the OpOrder, in three separate PDF files. If you don't, let me know and I'll try again.
Second, following is a link to the Wikipedia entry on Mount Beerenberg, the volcano at the northeast end of Jan Mayen; you will see that it has erupted several times since our visit in 1966: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beerenberg
Thirdly, a bit of context: the Loran-C station at Jan Mayen was operated by the Norwegian Air Force, and it was there almost entirely for the purpose of providing navigational aids for the US Navy ballistic missile submarines, and USAF strategic bombers, which patrolled in or near the Norwegian Sea at a time when the Cold War was at its height. The station--like others in the Loran chain--was supported by the US, and operated by the armed forces of Norway, a staunch NATO ally. As you can imagine, there wasn't much commercial shipping or aviation at that latitude, so the purpose of maintaining a precision navigation system in that part of the world was almost purely military.
And that was also the reason the Navy funded our mission; the scientists on board SPAR were civilians, of course, and people like Leonard Johnson were mostly interested in the geological knowledge to be gained about the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, but the Navy wanted to have accurate maps of the sea floor so that its submarines could sneak through the underwater canyons safely without being detected by the Soviets. Seems pretty likely that the Soviet trawler to the left that stalked the SPAR for a good deal of the time suspected as much. As an interesting side note, a good friend of mine, a classmate and colleague at the Naval War College, was a Navy nuclear submariner for most of his career; he retired in Newport just as I did, and we used to have coffee together most mornings. One day we were swapping sea stories, and discovered that he had been in an SSBN (probably as XO) patrolling in the same area as we were operating--and at the same time!
Now about our stop at Jan Mayen: it certainly was not a scheduled stop, and it may have been that we went there to medevac SA Ciuciolo because of his suspected appendicitis (by the way, do you remember the name of the corpsman on board? I don't but I remember that he was independent duty qualified, and was very good). I do recall that a Norwegian air force amphibian (probably a Catalina) landed while we were anchored there, and I suspect that was the reason; I think the station got a logistics flight about once a week or so. In any case, it was a great opportunity to let the crew get ashore and have a beer or two, and I expect the crew of the station were at least as glad to have some visitors. I will never forget the method they had for launching and recovering the lifeboat they used to shuttle us ashore and back; very impressive operation. And the island itself was one of the most extraordinary places I have ever visited--a windswept volcano in the middle of a lonely ocean. While writing an article for the Oxford Encylopedia of Maritime History, I discovered a book by a Scottish nobleman (later governor-general of Canada) about a sailing voyage he took in 1856 in his yacht from Scotland to Iceland, Jan Mayen, and Spitzbergen. The book is entitled Letters from High Latitudes: long out of print, but popular in its day. Anyway, I can understand why you treasure your little souvenir rock!
So, I expect that SPAR's stop at Jan Mayen was for an official (if emergency) reason, and I'd be pretty sure that LCDR Flynn would have had to get authorization to do it--I made similar unscheduled stops in foreign countries
when I was in command of EAGLE--but it would have been arranged by radio. More of an answer than you were expecting, probably,
but I hope you find it helpful--and interesting!
David's story, a dual role for the SPAR-40 trip North in "1966"
Thank you David, you have no idea what it means to me, you finding the
SPAR'S website, and participating by adding some great details such as your story above and the original
Operation order, 18 pages in PDF format.
I feel honored, thank you so much,
Tom Hough EN3. You were there!!
U.S. Coast Guard
Page No. 56
Page No. 56
* Click onto Spar below for 8 MM film,
only footage known of this trip