Yet while Flynn has the reader accompany the 23 men to their final refuge, he does not delve into how long they survived. Initial reports were that pounding could be heard coming from the submarine for several days. Some attributed it to the survivors banging out distress signals on the hull, others to other devices on the sub. However, once Flynn puts us with the 23 sailors in that last compartment, he moves the focus to the rescue efforts and the institutional aspect of the tragedy.
Flynn lays out a variety of reasons for the lengthy delay in rescue efforts. Part is attributable to financial problems in the Russian military. Part is attributable to simple disbelief. Part is attributable to remnants of Cold War mentality. The last is even reflected in the American response. Flynn explores how the U.S. learned about the event long before even Russian President Vladimir Putin did and why U.S. government officials did not contact Putin or other Russian authorities. He also traces not only the rescue efforts, but the subsequent recovery of the bodies in that last compartment, the ultimate raising of most of the submarine more than a year later, the recovery of additional bodies from it, and the reactions of and impact upon the families and the Russian nation.
Examining the hesitancy, misjudgments and bureaucracy that contributed to the delay in rescue and recovery efforts could easily become plodding. Yet Flynn’s crisp writing keeps the reader interested. More important, Cry from the Deep always keeps in mind that this truly is a tragic story about real people.