November 16, 2016

Colloquium Speaker: Alfred Scott McLaren


Captain Alfred Scott McLaren, USN (Ret.), Ph.D. is an author, lecturer, President of the American Polar Society, and President Emeritus of the famed Explorers Club. He was also Director of Sub Aviator Systems LLC and Senior Pilot of the Super Aviator deep-diving submersible from 2004 until 2015. He is a former Director of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M and a former research and teaching professor at the University of Colorado, the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, and Publisher of the weekly magazine Science News. As a career nuclear attack submarine officer, he made three Arctic expeditions: the first submerged transit of the Northwest Passage, a Baffin Bay expedition, and, as Commander of USS Queenfish (SSN-651), a North Pole expedition that completed the first survey of the entire Siberian Continental Shelf. Honors include The Explorers Club’s Lowell Thomas Medal for Ocean Exploration in 2000 and its highest honor, “The Explorers Club Medal” in 2012 for “His extraordinary contributions to Arctic exploration and deep sea research, including the first survey of the entire Siberian Continental Shelf.” He has also received “The Societe de Geographic Paris” Medal and La Medaille de La Ville De Paris for Polar exploration. Awards as a Cold War Submarine Commander include: the Distinguished Service Medal, two Legions of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, and four Navy Unit Commendations. A deep sea explorer and scientist, he completed dives to: RMS Titanic, Mid-Atlantic Ridge hydrothermal vents, and the first manned dives to the German battleship Bismarck. His first book, Unknown Waters, A First-Hand Account of the Historic Under-Ice Survey of the Siberian Continental Shelf by USS Queenfish (SSN-651) (University of Alabama Press, 2008), was judged a “Notable Naval Book of 2008” by the U.S. Naval Institute. His second book, Silent and Unseen, On Patrol in Three Cold War Attack Submarines (U.S. Naval Institute Press, 2015) was released in May 2015. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Naval War College. He holds graduate degrees from George Washington, Cambridge (Peterhouse), and Colorado Universities.




Colloquium Topic: Silent and Unseen: On Submarine Patrol During the Cold War

In this illustrated presentation, veteran submarine commander Captain Alfred S. McLaren will discuss his most recent book, Silent and Unseen: On Patrol in Three Cold War Attack Submarines and describe the most significant events that occurred in the Arctic and other regions during the Cold War years, from 1958 to 1965, while he served aboard USS Greenfish (SS-351), USS Seadragon (SSN-584), and USS Skipjack (SSN 585). He will also touch on the subject of his earlier book Unknown Waters: A First-Hand Account of the Historic first Under-Ice Survey of the Siberian Continental Shelf by USS Queenfish (SSN-651), and conclude with his plans for a third book about his time aboard the new nuclear attack submarine: USS Greenling (SSN-614), and his four years in command of USS Queenfish (SSN-651).

This talk will focus, in particular, on a brief description of each boat, the development of attack-boat tactics, Cold War missions, and under-ice exploration techniques and achievements, such as surfacing at the North Pole and the first survey of the Northwest Passage.

The talk will also describe how the commanding officers that a young submarine officer served under determine how well he is prepared to assume his own command years later. This was particularly true in during the high-risk years of the Cold War when attack submarines were continually at sea and each reconnaissance and intelligence collection mission was of potentially great, and sometimes extraordinary, value to the government of the United States of America. The success of all Cold War missions depended heavily on accurate intelligence, geographical positioning of the boat, and the experience and readiness of both the commanding officer and individual attack-boat team. The missions more often than not required closing on a potential enemy to collect the intelligence required, generally within weapons range. They required, unlike a war patrol, the U.S. attack boat to remain completely undetected, and then to withdraw as silently and unseen as when it approached.