Northern Fleet submarine K-131 had been on mission in the Lofoten area outside Norway when the fire broke out. Map: Google / Barents Observer

Museum note reveals that nuke-sub struck by deadly fire was on mission outside Lofoten

June 12, 1984: It is Cold War and the Soviet nuclear submarine K-131 is under the surface just outside Northern Norway when the fire alarm sounded. Hours later, 13 of the crew members are dead.
June 19, 2018

The fire and casualties are known from literature back to the years just after the breakup of the Soviet Union. But this week, a short sentence in a memo published by the museum in the closed naval town of Vidyayevo on the Kola Peninsula reveals scary information for neighboring Norway:

The Echo-II class submarine was on mission near the Lofoten Islands just before what turned out to be one of the deadliest fires in the history of nuclear-powered submarine carrying nuclear weapons.

The information is now made public, maybe unauthorized, by the museum’s encyclopedia of monuments at the portal of Vidyayevo’s Cultural Centre.

«June 12, 1984. When returning to the base after fulfillment of a responsible mission in the area of the Lofoten Islands, a fire broke out on board submarine K-131,» the text reads.

No information is given about the exact location of the submarine when the fire broke out, but the majority of the voyage from Lofoten and back to port on the Kola Peninsula goes outside the coast of Northern Norway.

The fire started when the clothes of one of the crew members caught fire while he was working with some electrical equipment in the eight compartment in the rear of the submarine. The fire spread to the seventh compartment and a total of 13 crew members died.


In 1984, Vidyayevo was homeport to K-131 and many of the crew-members families were living here. This week, children in Vidyayevo honored the victims of the deadly fire at an excursion on display at the museum. The visit was reported by regional newspaper Murmanski Vestnik.

K-131 was an Echo-II class submarine powered by two nuclear reactors carrying up to eight cruise-missiles. In 1984, are least a few of those cruise-missiles were assumable armed with nuclear warheads.

The deadly fire in 1984 was not the last time K-131 suffered an accident. Five years later on June 25, 1989, while sailing outside the island of Senja in Northern Norway, a serious leak happened in a cooling pipe to one of the reactors. The submarine surfaced and photos of the evaporating cooling water coming out from the reactor compartment become front-page news in Norway. The submarine was then sailing under the new vessel number K-192. 

Vidyayevo was also the home port to Oscar-II class submarine «Kursk» which sank in the Barents Sea during an exercise in August 2000, killing all 118 on board.

Lofoten archipelago. Photo: Thomas Nilsen