NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The fast-attack submarine USS Hampton (SSN 767), along with the Royal Navy submarine HMS Tireless, surfaced through the ice at the North Pole April 19.
The two vessels surfaced through two naturally occurring leads or "gaps" in the ice about one-half mile from each other, following joint operational exercises beneath the polar ice cap.
"It's a pretty amazing ship, and I'm happy to be a part of it," said Cmdr. Robert P. Burke, Hampton's commanding officer. "A lot of preparations and planning are involved in operating a submarine under the ice. After just completing a six-month deployment in December, it took a lot of dedication and training by the entire crew to get us here."
Both the Tireless and Hampton crews met on the ice, including scientists traveling aboard both submarines to collect data and perform experiments. The two crews had hoped to play an impromptu game of soccer on the ice cap, but the game was called off due to "conditions on the pitch" that had several feet of snow on the ice.
The Ice Exercise that Hampton participated in along with Tireless, demonstrates the U.S. Submarine Force's ability to freely navigate in all international waters, including the Arctic. The navigational complexities of operating in the harshest maritime environment are overcome only by exercising our capabilities, submerged and surfaced, according to Burke.
From the "top of the world," Burke took the time to speak to the mayors of three of the four namesake cities that sponsor the submarine: Hampton, S.C.; Hampton, N.H.; and Hampton, Va.
The Honorable Charles A. Wornom, mayor of Hampton, Va., told Burke, "We salute you and your crew and your service to our nation. It makes us proud to have your ship named after the city of Hampton."
Before departing back under the ice, Burke called Larkspur Middle School in Virginia Beach, Va., to speak with a fifth grade science class taught by his wife, Peggy. He talked about the journey under the ice, and what he and his crew experienced at the North Pole.
"This was a great opportunity to share what we've learned about the ice cap and to give something back to our community," Burke said. He talked about everything from the weather to the challenges in bringing a submarine to the North Pole.