On July 21, 1974, despite incredible political, military and intelligence risks, and after six years of secret preparations, the CIA attempted to raise the sunken Soviet ballistic missile submarine, K-129, from the depths of the North Pacific Ocean. Using the cover of an undersea mining operation conducted by the Howard Hughes corporation�s Glomar Explorer, the CIA accomplished one the Cold War�s greatest acts of espionage, with this unprecedented achievement of undersea technology.
Project Azorian--part of the CIA�s larger Project Jennifer --was the code name for the most audacious ocean engineering endeavor ever attempted by man. Following the accidental sinking of a Soviet missile submarine in 1968, U.S. intelligence agencies were able to determine the precise location of the wreckage, develop a means of raising the hull from a depth of 16,560 feet, and raise a section of the submarine to the surface. Previously, the deepest salvage of a submarine had been accomplished at a depth of 245 feet. And, all previous (and subsequent) submarine salvage efforts had required divers to work on the hulk; at the time divers could not operate beyond a depth of a few hundred 1,000 feet.
The story of Project Azorian and the clandestine deep-sea mission was set in the technological era of the seventies. The remarkable Project Azorian salvage effort was accomplished after the Soviet government apparently had been warned that the U.S. government would attempt to salvage the submarine--which contained nuclear-armed torpedoes and missiles as well as crypto equipment. And, the salvage effort was conducted with Soviet naval ships a few hundred yards from, the lift ship, the Hughes Glomar Explorer.
Today, Azorian stands alone in the breath of its conception and engineering achievement, yet remains obscured by ongoing efforts of the U.S Government to deflect investigation and to deny access to the official record. The managers and engineers, who assembled themselves into a one-time CIA corporate team, accomplished an impossible mission within an improbable time frame at the height of the Cold War. This CIA undertaking can only be compared to the 1969 moon landing in its level of achievement.
Every step of Project Azorian, from the Air Force detection of the sinking of the K-129, through the salvage effort, and the cover story--that it was a seafloor mining venture--reads like fiction. Indeed, the cover story, that eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes was in the ocean mining business, led to the establishment of college classes in ocean engineering and to several major corporations investing funds to exploit the ocean's resources.
The authors, Norman Polmar and Michael White, have had unprecedented access to American and Soviet documents, have interviewed key participants involved in Azorian, and have acquired not-previously-available documents and photos. The book is based, in part, on Michael White's documentary Azorian: The Raising of the K-129.