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Saturday, 26 August, 2000, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Divers tell of Kursk sadness
Seaway Eagle
The divers were operating from the Seaway Eagle
The divers who descended to the Russian submarine Kursk at the bottom of the Barents Sea have been talking publicly for the first time about the operation.

The six men - four Britons and two Norwegians - have emerged from a decompression chamber after their mission in more than 300 feet of water.

The divers were working from Stolt Comex's Seaway Eagle vessel, which was sent from Aberdeen, Scotland, to the site of the disaster.

You are very, very focussed. You can't really let your emotions run riot

Alistair Clark, diver
The crew of the Seaway Eagle have now started an appeal fund to help the families of the men who died (see below for address).

They opened two hatches on the submarine but found it had been flooded and all 118 crew were dead.

One of the Britons, Alistair Clark, 43, from Brechin, told BBC News Online Scotland that the dive itself had been a "normal sort of operation".

"Obviously it was a different type of diving job. We were all aware of what we were going out to do.

Alistair Clark
Alistair Clark: "You've got to carry out the task in hand"
"The hope at the beginning was that we were going to get somebody out alive.

"It would have been nice to have been able to do so but it wasn't to be," said Mr Clark.

"As far as emotions are concerned, you've got to carry out the task in hand. You are very, very focussed.

"You can't really let your emotions run riot."

He said that once the first hatch had been opened, it became clear that the submarine was completely flooded and no-one had survived.

Mentally prepared

Another diver, Stewart Bain, was also asked if it had been a particularly difficult task.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "It was the same as most jobs. You mentally prepare yourself for the unexpected."

Mr Bain said it was immediately obvious when both hatches were opened that the submarine was full of water.

Diver over hatch
One of the divers inspects the open hatch
They did not go any further during their five-day mission, nor did they inspect the damage to the torpedo area, which was badly damaged in an explosion, sending the submarine crashing to the seabed.

"Our job was to determine whether there was somebody underneath that hatch or not and that was what we did.

"We got down there, we looked for signs of life and didn't find any," said Mr Bain.

The diver was asked if, in his opinion, the crew had died immediately or if reports of knocking from inside the hull shortly after the accident could have been true.

Feasibility study

He replied: "What went on before is only hearsay and what the papers say."

Stolt Offshore, a Norwegian oil and gas contractor to the oil and gas industry, is working on a feasibility study for Russia, looking into the possibility of raising the wreck.

Aberdeen-based company spokesman Julian Thomson told BBC News Online Scotland on Friday that work on the study was continuing "quite constructively".

The Kursk, before its ill-fated exercise
"We need a very high level of co-operation and understanding with the Russians if we are going to get this together properly," he said.

He repeated the view that the onset of the Arctic winter meant any operation to lift the submarine was unlikely to begin until the middle of next year.

Meanwhile, Russian prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into the causes of the tragedy.

Attention is again being drawn in Russia and Norway to the shortcomings of the rescue operation.

The Russian armed forces' deputy chief of staff, General Valery Manilov, blamed shortages of funding and poor equipment, while the Norwegian military complained of receiving poor information from the Russian side.

Full address for donations to the appeal fund set up by the Seaway Eagle crew:

Stolt Offshore MS Ltd,
Seaway Eagle Kursk Fund, c/o Fiona Harris
Bucksburn House,
Howes Road,
Scotland AB16 7QU

Alistair Clark, speaking from the Seaway Eagle
"As professionals, we have to be pretty focussed on what we do"
The Kursk submarine accident

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See also:

24 Aug 00 | Europe
24 Aug 00 | Europe
23 Aug 00 | Scotland
22 Aug 00 | Scotland
21 Aug 00 | UK
22 Aug 00 | Europe
17 Aug 00 | Scotland
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