November 23, 2005

Manganese nodules

USNS Glomar Explorer (T-AG-193) is a large ship currently being used as a deep-sea drilling platform. The vessel originated in a secret plan by the United States Central Intelligence Agency to recover a sunken Soviet submarine, K-129, as part of Project Jennifer. Because K-129 had been lost in very deep water, a massive ship would be needed for the recovery operation. Such a vessel would be easily spotted by Soviet spies, so an elaborate cover story was developed. The CIA contacted eccentric businessman Howard Hughes, who agreed to go along with the story. Hughes told the media that he was building the ship in order to extract manganese nodules from the ocean floor. The cover story became surprisingly influential, spurring many others to examine the idea.

I remember watching a TV documentary, probably by National Geographic, around 1980 and becoming fascinated with the idea of recovering manganese nodules from the deep ocean. How were the nodules formed? They were just sitting there, full of valuable ore, waiting for someone to come along and pick them up! Imagine my surprise when I found out it was all disinformation.


At November 25, 2005 5:22 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

Wow! I saw the same documentary and totally fell for it. In fact, it made such an impression on me that when I saw the title of your post, I immediately thought I knew all there was to know about manganese nodules. I didn't know until just now that it was bullshit. I feel kind of honored to be a part of it all.


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