Image: Submarine off the coast of New Jersey
Andrew Ferguson  /  NBCPhiladelphia.com
Russian sub or dredging equipment? This portion of a larger photo started a minor Internet sensation. See full image below.
By Mike Stuckey Senior news editor
msnbc.com
updated 9/2/2009 4:08:59 PM ET 2009-09-02T20:08:59

The Russians are NOT coming. At least not to the Jersey Shore.

That’s the word from the Coast Guard about a photograph that some Internet users believe shows a nuclear-armed Russian submarine surfacing a few hundred yards off Corson’s Inlet near Strathmere, N.J., in the heart of the state’s beach resort area.

“They’re doing a lot of dredging in Corson’s Inlet and that’s part of the dredging operation,” said Petty Officer Jesse Ellison of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Ocean City, N.J., station after he viewed the photo online.

The photo has been creating a bit of a buzz on the Web since it was posted on a Philadelphia NBC station’s site last week by amateur photographer Andrew Ferguson. “I was down the Ocean City shore in New Jersey, Corson’s Inlet, on Sunday photographing the wave and surfers,” Ferguson wrote. “When I got back home to view the pics on my computer, I noticed something odd in the background so I enlarged the photo, and there it was: a ‘submarine’ had surfaced.”

A fellow user of the NBC Web site confidently stated that the image was of a “Soviet Typhoon Class Nuclear Submarine.”

Although other users pooh-poohed that notion and mentioned the dredging work that was under way, a reporter with the Web site followed up with a 500-word piece about the "shocking photo" that lent credence to the sub theory by noting recent reports in the New York Times that two Russian submarines had recently been patrolling near the East Coast.

The article was quickly spread around the Internet by Twitter and Digg users.

But Ellison, the Coast Guard officer, said the water in that area is far too shallow for a 575-foot-long Soviet Typhoon, which requires a depth of nearly 40 feet just to stay afloat. From his own observations of the dredging, he recognized Ferguson’s image as some kind of barge or other floating platform. “Those yellow barrels in front of it are what they use to anchor,” he said.

Andrew Ferguson  /  NBCPhiladelphia.com
The full frame of Ferguson's surfer photo.
Indeed, a check with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers revealed that, at the time Ferguson shot his photo, Corson's Inlet was being dredged as part of a $6 million job to replenish the sands of nearby Strathmere Beach.

Furthermore, photographs of actual Russian Typhoons and U.S. attack subs don’t bear a great resemblance to the object in Ferguson’s photo.

And if the Russians had been coming, would a sub carrying nuclear warheads pop up less than a mile off the U.S. coast?

“I don’t even know how to comment on it,” Ellison said. “That’s definitely something for the Navy.”

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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