- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2002

SAN DIEGO (AP) A Navy research submarine damaged by fire off the Pacific Coast was stabilized and floating yesterday as its crew members returned to shore by ship.
The USS Dolphin reported fire and flooding about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday in heavy seas about 100 miles southwest of San Diego. Its commander decided to abandon ship about 2 a.m. yesterday because the fire was hard to control.
The Coast Guard and the USS McGaw, an oceanographic research vessel, rescued all 43 persons on board.
The USS Thatch frigate and a submarine support vessel were at the scene yesterday. The Navy will evaluate the extent of damage before deciding when and where to move the vessel.
The Navy did not describe the extent of damage to the 34-year-old Dolphin, but its communications systems were knocked out and the sub could not return to port under its own power. The fire occurred as the Dolphin surfaced, and the cause was being investigated.
"They got some incursion of water and possibly that caused the fire," Navy Capt. Bruce Smith said at the sub base in San Diego.
The Dolphin's crew members returned to shore about 2 p.m. and were greeted by their families. Reporters were kept away from the area.
The rescue occurred on the 38th anniversary of the sinking of the USS Scorpion, one of the worst submarine disasters in U.S. Navy history. All 99 hands on board were killed when the sub sank in the Pacific.
The Dolphin, commissioned in 1968, is essentially the Navy's main underwater research laboratory and its only diesel-electric submarine.
It surfaces to get fresh air to run its diesel engines and charge the batteries that power its electric engines under water.
The Dolphin reached a record depth of more than 3,000 feet in 1968 and was awarded a meritorious-unit commendation, the second-highest award for individual ships.
In 2000, the Dolphin sent e-mail messages from a depth of 400 feet, sending digital data through the water by sound energy.
The submarine is involved in testing new weapons and technologies that are classified. It left San Diego on Monday to perform research on advanced Mark 54 torpedoes that could be dropped from the air and target enemy submarines.
If the Dolphin cannot be returned to service, the Navy would lose a unique research tool, and no replacements are waiting in the wings, Capt. Smith said.

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