Chunk of Damaged Oil Tanker Sent to Ocean’s Floor
Three hundred miles offshore, the wrecked bow of the New Carissa finally sank Thursday after a Navy destroyer fired 70 shells into the oil-laden hulk and a submarine drilled it with a torpedo.
First, remote-controlled explosive charges blew holes in the hull of the wreck, which has plagued the Oregon coast for more than a month, fouling miles of beaches.
When that failed to sink the ship, the destroyer David R. Ray opened up a barrage of 70 shots from its 5-inch guns, and then the nuclear sub Bremerton fired a torpedo that exploded just below the hulk.
Finally, two hours after demolition experts began their efforts, the stubborn wreck slipped under the water, back end first, and began its descent two miles to the sea floor.
“It had nine lives, and it was not willing to cooperate with us,” said Navy Cmdr. Cliff Perkins, the destroyer’s commanding officer. “This thing seems to have a life of its own.”
Salvage experts said sinking the ship 300 miles out in the Pacific was the only way to finish off a wayward wreck that has fouled two Oregon beaches and was still believed to hold 130,000 gallons of fuel oil.
At depths of 12,000 feet, where temperatures never rise above 34 degrees, experts say the sticky bunker fuel will be trapped in a semisolid state.
The saga of the New Carissa began Feb. 4, when the 639-foot freighter with 400,000 gallons of fuel oil on board ran aground off Coos Bay.
About half of the oil was burned off by explosives experts.
Hours after a Feb. 10 fire, the ship split in two, spilling 70,000 gallons.
Efforts to tow the bow out to sea failed when it broke away and washed ashore 80 miles north of this tiny town along the central Oregon Coast.
On the beach, more than 604 dead birds have been found on nearby shorelines since the grounding, 273 of them with splotches of oil.
Globs of oil, about the size of pencil erasers, continue to wash ashore.
Meantime, the 220-foot stern section still sits, half-buried, in the beach at Coos Bay.
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