• U.S.

NORWAY: The Saga of Sogne Fjord

2 minute read

From the deep, cold, green-black waters of Norway’s longest fjord, the questions kept coming. What was it that several people had seen mysteriously breaking the surface between the dark, forbidding mountains that line Sogne Fjord? Was it a whale? Was it a wreck? Was it a Soviet submarine dropping radio beacons for possible use in some future war? As Norwegian frigates and planes, aided by British navy helicopters, crisscrossed the 112-mile-long fjord last week in an earnest game of cat and underwater mouse, an Albanian radio report offered the most amazing explanation: not one but two Soviet, nuclear-armed subs had been in the fjord, and one had been the scene of a mutiny.

According to the English-language report, which was picked up by a radio monitoring laboratory in Britain, the mutiny had been staged by “officers and some other crew members” who succeeded in taking command of their vessel for a time. But then the uprising was crushed, and the second sub entered Sogne Fjord to give help. The defeated mutineers, said Albania’s Radio Tirana in a 16-minute broadcast that cited Moscow sources, were transferred to the second sub, and both vessels left the fjord, heading for the Baltic. The broadcast suggested that the uprising posed special danger to European security because of the nuclear arms aboard.

Norwegian authorities reacted cautiously to the report. Albania, after all, is no friend of Russia’s. But preliminary analysis of the broadcast’s claims indicated some circumstantial support. For one thing, there had been earlier Norwegian reports of six red rockets being launched from the fjord; defense spokesmen said that such pyrotechnics are a normal method of communication between submarines wishing to avoid radio contact. For another, Norwegian officials disclosed that patrols had made strong sonar contacts with at least one submarine trying to leave the fjord on the night that Radio Tirana asserts both subs did depart.

Moscow shed no light on the puzzle. Before the Albanian explanation but after Norwegian vessels had dropped depth charges in response to positive sonar soundings, Tass called the air-sea hunt “just an expression of the usual war hysteria in the West.” Perhaps significantly, though, at no time did the Kremlin specifically deny that a Soviet sub—or subs—might have been inside Norwegian waters. At week’s end, the mystery remained at least as deep as Sogne Fjord’s 600 fathoms.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com