Glomar Explorer

USNS Glomar Explorer (T-AG-193).jpg
Name:GSF Explorer
Port of registry:Vanuatu, Port Vila

>$350 million (1974)

($1.36 billion in 2016 dollars.[1])
Laid down:1971
Launched:4 November 1972
Completed:31 July 1998
United States
Name:Hughes Glomar Explorer
Namesake:Howard Hughes
Builder:Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Co.
Launched:4 November 1972
In service:1 July 1973
Fate:Leased (not SAP)
General characteristics
Displacement:50,500 long tons (51,310 t) light
Length:619 ft (189 m)
Beam:116 ft (35 m)
Draft:38 ft (12 m)
  • Diesel-electric
  • 5 × Nordberg 16-cylinder diesel engines driving 4,160 V AC generators turning 6 × 2,200 hp (1.6 MW) DC shaft motors, twin shafts
Speed:10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)

GSF Explorer, formerly USNS Hughes Glomar Explorer (T-AG-193), was a deep-sea drillship platform initially built for the United States Central Intelligence Agency Special Activities Division secret operation Project Azorian to recover the sunken Soviet submarine K-129, lost in March 1968.[3][4]

The cultural effect of Glomar Explorer is indicated by its reference in a number of books: The Ghost from the Grand Banks, a 1990 science fiction novel by Arthur C. Clarke; Shock Wave by Clive Cussler; Charles Stross's novel, The Jennifer Morgue; and The Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy.


Hughes Glomar Explorer, as the ship was named at the time, was built between 1971 and 1972, by Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. for more than US$350 million ($1.36 billion in 2016 dollars.[1]) at the direction of Howard Hughes for use by his company, Global Marine Development Inc.[5] It first began operation on 20 June 1974. Hughes told the media that the ship's purpose was to extract manganese nodules from the ocean floor. This marine geology cover story became surprisingly influential, causing many others to examine the idea. But in sworn testimony in United States district court proceedings and in appearances before government agencies, Global Marine executives and others associated with Hughes Glomar Explorer project maintained unanimously that the ship could not be used for any economically viable ocean mineral operation.[citation needed]