It turns out that many, if not most of the Soviet/Russian submarine incursions that occurred 1980s and 1990s were probably herring farts.
Anyone who knows me knows that I HAD to write about this, it juxtaposes my interest in thing military and things fart.
This story is me.
It’s perfectly feasible that in the 1980s a major diplomatic incident between nuclear superpowers could have been triggered by fish farts. In fact, Russia and Sweden nearly came to blows over this very thing. They just didn’t know it at the time.
Before we move on to farts, first, some background. In 1981, a Soviet submarine ran aground on the south coast of Sweden, just 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from a Swedish naval base. The Soviets claimed that they were forced into Swedish territory by severe distress, and later navigation errors, while Sweden saw it as proof that the then Soviet Union was infiltrating Swedish waters. It didn’t help that when Swedish officials secretly measured for radioactive materials using gamma-ray spectroscopy, they detected what they were 90 percent sure was uranium-23[sic, probably U-238] (used for cladding in nuclear weapons) inside the sub, indicating that it may be nuclear armed.
The submarine was returned to international waters, but the Swedish government remained alert, convinced that Russian subs could still be operating near their territory. Which is when they started to pick up elusive underwater signals and sounds. In 1982, several of Sweden’s subs, boats, and helicopters pursued one of these unidentified sources for a whole month, only to come up empty-handed.
But it was farts.
In 1996, Magnus Wahlberg, a professor at the University of Southern Denmark, became involved in the investigation of the strange signals.
He and a colleague began the task of figuring out what could be making bubbles on a scale that would make Sweden think it was dealing with a nuclear submarine.
“It turns out herring have a swim bladder… and this swim bladder is connected to the anal duct of the fish,” Wahlberg said. “It’s a very unique connection, only found in herring. So a herring can squeeze its swim bladder, and that way it can blurt out a small number of bubbles through the anal opening.”
In layman’s terms, they let one rip. Herrings swim in gigantic schools that can reach several square kilometers and up to 20 meters (65 feet) deep. When something near them frightens them – say, a hungry school of mackerel or a submarine on the lookout for Russian spies – they can generate a lot of gas.
The good news was that Sweden wasn’t under threat from Russia, the bad news was it had spent 10 years deploying its military in pursuit of fish farts. Since it figured out what was and wasn’t fish farts, there have been zero reports of hostile intruders in Swedish waters.
This story was literally made just for me.