Cobbling together a cache of recently declassified spy documents of a long forgotten deep-sea adventure, William Cole at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reveals the tale of a secret Cold War-era C.I.A. mission to retrieve a film canister containing satellite photography of Soviet missile site. The canister had been accidentally thrown into the ocean in 1971 by "a spy spacecraft known as Hexagon," after which it sunk to the ocean floor about 350 miles north of Hawaii. So the U.S. military — which worried the Soviet Union might find the canister — sent a "deep-diving submersible" (known as Trieste II) to recover it:
"The Trieste surfaced and immediately reported that the payload had disintegrated in a cloud of silt with a few pieces falling through the tines of the hook," said a memorandum for the record. "Everyone went from an emotional high to an emotional low in about one microsecond. Divers were put into the water and managed to retrieve some of the film."
As a commenter on the original story points out, some aspects of the mission closely resemble plot points of Ice Station Zebra, a 1968 film that Roger Ebert called "so flat and conventional that its three moments of interest are an embarrassment." Which is to say that, unfortunately, not all super-secret missions make for good movies.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.