Russian lake mission put off after accident

News agency RIA said a storm sent one of the two submarines used in the mission crashing into a floating platform used as the mission's control centre.

Russian lake mission put off after accident
Russian scientists suspended a mission to explore the world's biggest lake on Wednesday after one of their submarines collided with a floating platform, media reported.

The accident took place after a day of confusion surrounding the Lake Baikal mission, with organisers withdrawing their initial claim of having set a world record for depth in freshwater diving.

News agency RIA said a storm sent one of the two submarines used in the mission crashing into a floating platform used as the mission's control centre.

"The Mir-2 collided with the Metropolia platform ... during its descent into the water today at 12:00," RIA quoted Vladimir Strugatsky, one of the mission's organisers, as saying.

Strugatsky said the submarine's engine was damaged and the mission would be suspended for at least one day. Mission organisers could not be immediately reached for comment.

Tuesday's dive, the focus of national media attention and regular live reports on state television, was originally hailed by Russian officials as a world record for depth in freshwater diving.

The scientists said they discovered a point in Baikal deeper than the one visited by another Russian expedition several years earlier and thought to be the bottom of the lake.

But after the crews' return and champagne toasts on live television, dive organisers said there was no new record.

Organisers said exploration would continue this week, but did not clarify when submersions would continue.

Lake Baikal is the world's deepest and oldest lake. Home to 20 percent of the world's unfrozen freshwater and some of the rarest species of fish and other aquatic life. It remains one of the least explored frontiers on earth.

The expedition is led by Artur Chilingarov, a scientist and Kremlin-backed member of parliament who was part of an earlier mission to the seabed beneath the North Pole that sparked Western criticism.

Russia used the mission to the North Pole to stake a symbolic claim to the energy riches of the region, believed to hold vast resources of oil and natural gas. Canada at the time accused Russia of behaving like a 15th-century explorer.

Reuters
Last Mod: 30 Temmuz 2008, 14:41
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