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Quackers (from -- onomatopoetic word based on a Russian rendition of frog's sound) are mysterious sounds, similar to a frog noise, widely reported by the crews of Soviet Navy submarines from various parts of the North Atlanticmarker and Arctic Oceansmarker during the peak of the Cold War, as well as their assumed sources. They are an example of Unidentified Submerged Objects.


During the Cold War, when Soviet ballistic missile submarines went to patrol northern seas, their crews started reporting the mysterious frog-like sounds, which soon were dubbed "quackers", from the Russian rendition of a frog noise. These sounds appeared when submarines passed certain zones in the sea, and behaved as if they were emitted by some moving underwater object, which, however, failed to register on the active sonar. When the sub left their "patrol zone", the objects disappeared after emitting one final "quack".

These objects exhibited behavior not unlike some living being or manned vessel, showing obvious interest in the passing submarine, circling around it, trying to actively avoid sonar pulses, and so on. The speed of some of these objects (estimated from Doppler shift of their sound frequency) was in the range of 200 km/h, much higher than any then-known man-made vessel. Contact was attempted on several occasions, but, apart from some obvious reactions to these attempts such as changing the pitch of the sounds or movement of the apparent sound source), nothing came of it.

The peak of quacker observations occurred at the end of the 1970s, when the areas where the sounds appeared started to multiply and spread over from the Barents Seamarker to other areas including the North Seamarker and the North Atlanticmarker in general. The Soviet Academy of Sciencesmarker was invited to create a joint commission with the representatives of the Navy, as this phenomenon was identified as a potential national security risk. This commission worked for about a decade, but despite extensive investigations results remained inconclusive, and it was eventually disbanded. In the 1980s the phenomenon slowly faded, and now quackers may have disappeared completely.

Proposed explanations

There never was much consensus about the nature and origin of these sounds, and the only hard fact about them is that they existed. Official reports of the commission remains classified until the present day, even if it was known that it never reached a conclusion. Several hypotheses were proposed, but none reached full acceptance, as they all failed to account for at least some of the phenomenon properties. The three main theories about the origin of this phenomenon propose some secret new technology developed by the USmarker or NATOmarker, an unknown marine animal or alien activity.

Secret technology

This was the most popular theory explaining this phenomenon. During the height of the Cold War these mysterious happenings greatly affected the morale of submarine crews, and as such were seen as direct threats, even if they exhibited no hostile intent. Initially it was believed that these sounds are sonar pulses from American fixed sonar barrages, analogous to passive SOSUS network. However, it soon became apparent that their sources are mobile and active, so they were then believed to be small tracking subs, deployed to keep an eye over Soviet boats' movements.

Some experts are said to hold this opinion to this day, although apparent speed, mobility and noise level of these "subs" (that are moving absolutely silently and could be only identified by their "quacks") are still unmatched for any known man-made vessel. They also failed to be observed by active sonars, despite numerous efforts, also casting doubts on their human origin. Also, while such technology appears at least theoretically possible for the current engineering and manufacturing techniques, the cost of it seems to be prohibitively high even for the most affluent nations like US.

Sea serpent

Marine animals is another proposed source of these sounds, and now are viewed as the most probable hypothesis. At first, it was ascribed to the orca's mating calls, which sound rather similar, but orcas usually mate on the surface or close to it, while quackers were always observed at depths of no less than 200m. Other cetaceans were also proposed as a candidate, both living and extinct, like the ancient somewhat snake-like whale Basilosaurus. Basilosaurs are of special interest to cryptozoologists, who propose that they are somehow still alive, and sea serpents of marine lore are true sightings of these animals. Their purported habitat also roughly matched areas of quackers observations.

Another animal that could be responsible for it would be some type of giant squid of the Architeuthidae family. That would explain the quackers' active behavior, as squids are known to possess a high level of intelligence and could possibly mistake subs for their eternal rivals, sperm whales. They are also deep-sea creatures, and are reported to have mobility matching some of the quackers. Being cephalopods, they also lack rigid internal skeleton, and that might contribute to their invisibility to sonars. However, squids do possess an internal shell remnant known as a gladius or pen.

These theories, however, fail to account the dynamic of the phenomenon, which slowly started in the mid-60s, grew in frequency and area through 70s, when quackers' "patrol zones" begun to appear as far as around Greenlandmarker, while in the beginning they were observed only in the Barents Seamarker, the slow fade-out in the 80s and its disappearance by the end of century. Matching this in living animals requires enormous behavioral changes to happen species-wide and almost immediately, no less than two times, which is unheard of in modern biology.

Space aliens

Extraterrestrial activities were also proposed as an explanation, but this claim was already quite dubious in the 1960s, so it received the least attention of all three major theories. No evidence, except some conjectures, were collected towards this end. The said conjectures are patrol-like pattern of quacker behavior, as if they tried to protect their underwater base, their active interest in the submarines, and mobility unmatched by human vessels. Dynamics of their observation would also match the life-cycle of a large Cold War monitoring project, that was eventually closed as tensions dropped and nuclear exchange became less and less probable.


No conclusion was ever reached about this phenomenon, and even those results that were obtained remain secret for the time being. But, as the effect has all but disappeared now, the point might be essentially moot. One positive outcome of the hunt for quackers might be the April 1970 rescue of the Soviet submarine K-8 by the oceanographic vessel R/V Khariton Laptev that was conducting research on the project close to the accident location. These sounds might forever remain a mystery of nature.

See also


  1. We've never seen them, SecretPlanet.Ru , in Russian
  2. Capt. Vladimir Shigin, Ocean ghosts, 22 December 2007, in Russian
  3. Capt. Vladimir Shigin, Ghosts from the ocean floor, Taynaya Vlast' #9, 2006, in Russian
  4. Andrey Moiseev, Quacking in Ocean, Komsomolskaya Pravda 21 June 2006, Interview with Capt. Vadim Kulinchenko (ret), former Navy General Staff officer, in Russian

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