Prof Peter Wadhams on submarine HMS Tireless
March 2007

Professor Peter Haynes, Head of Department, writes:
Professor Peter Wadhams' research involves travelling under the Arctic ice in submarines to measure ice thickness. In March 2007 he was under the ice on the submarine HMS Tireless when an explosion killed two members of the crew. Peter is now back in DAMTP and suggested that I circulate the message below. We in DAMTP are of course, very pleased to see Peter safely back in Cambridge after what must have been a very sad and unpleasant experience.

Peter wrote on 27 March 2007:
"This confirms that I was on the submarine HMS Tireless which suffered the explosion on 21 March 2007 while under the pack ice in the Beaufort Sea. Tragically, two seamen died. I am OK, as is my colleague Nick Hughes who was with me on board. We were measuring sea ice topography with a multibeam sonar and examining the present rate of thinning of Arctic sea ice under global warming. I am back for a few days and will then be returning to the Beaufort Sea to do some work at an ice camp with an unmanned underwater vehicle as part of the International Polar Year programme. It's nice to see the sky again and the spring in Cambridge."

According to the Royal Navy, the accident did not affect the submarine's nuclear reactor, the vessel sustaining only superficial damage - and it surfaced safely within an hour. Statement from the Commanding Officer of HMS Tireless and photographs from ICEX-2007 (Ice Exercise 2007) from the Royal Navy website.
The Trafalgar-class submarine HMS Tireless left the ICEX 2007 exercise in the Arctic early to return to Devonport after the explosion.

ICEX 2007 is a joint US/UK submarine exercise which also involved the US Navy Los Angeles-class submarine USS Alexandria (SSN-757).

Media reports

Report of the explosion on the BBC News website, 21 March 2007.

Report in New Scientist 30 March 2007.

Subsequent news reports on Arctic ice thinning

Peter was interviewed in Cambridge on Channel 4 News, and other newsmedia organisations took up the story.

NBC News, 10 April 2007

KTUU, Anchorage, Alaska, 10 April 2007