A freighter captain's keen eye helped avert a run-in with a nuclear-powered American submarine in Juan de Fuca Strait, a body of water that splits Washington state and B.C. coasts, according to a U.S. periodical.
The incident, which saw the freighter and submarine come within 800 metres of each other, took place in early October but is only coming to light this week, says the Navy Times, which calls itself "an independent source for news and information for the navy community."
The Navy Times says that at around 8 a.m. PT on Oct. 12, the USS Kentucky ballistic-missile submarine had its periscope above water, but was otherwise hidden below the surface when it turned onto a new course that was blocked by a cargo ship.
The submarine's commanding officer, concerned about a trawler, ordered a change of course, but neither he nor the officer of the deck looked through the periscope to check if the course was clear.
The captain of the Totem Ocean ship Midnight Sun, which makes runs between Tacoma, Wash., and Anchorage, saw the periscope and began turning to avoid the collision.
After being informed via a radio call from the outside, the submarine's crew discovered their error and began manoeuvres to avoid hitting the ship.
The Navy Times, which filed a request for a report on the incident under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, wrote that Cmdr. Joseph Nosse, who was serving as commanding officer for the USS Kentucky, was fired on Oct. 19 for "inadequate leadership" stemming from a number of incidents.
The U.S. navy would not comment on the incident, and said it is policy not to discuss current submarine operations.