Officials assessing status of oil aboard sunken Princess Kathleen
Published: 03/18/2010 17:10:00
Updated: 03/18/2010 17:24:18
The Princess Kathleen was built in 1924 in Glasgow Scotland. On a stormy September night in 1952, she ran aground on Point Lena. Everyone escaped safely, before the ship sank into the murky waters; where she still rests to this day at a depth of about 120 feet.
Over the years; various oil sheens have been reported in the area, often attributed to the wreck. Recently, as the number of reports has risen, the Alaska Department Environmental Conservation and the US Coast Guard have formed a Unified Command to assess the situation.
First a small Remotely Operated Vehicle, basically a miniature submarine with a video camera, was used to survey the hull. Along with an overall view, the ROV gave some initial indications of the source of the oil leaks.
This week, divers have starting surveying the hull in person.
Scot Tiernan is the Southeast Alaska State On Scene Coordinator with DEC, he explained the benefits of using human divers in addition to robots. "Because the remotely piloted vehicle can only look, the divers can go down and they can actually do things. They can take measurements of the tanks, they can go inside the vessel and see where things are, they can determine thickness of plates, they can find out what the deterioration is because they are up close looking at it."
Tiernan explained the goals of the mission: "What we're hoping to do, besides getting thickness measurements on the plates. We're hoping to be able to get a determination on how much oil might be left in the vessel so we know how big the problem is."
Captain Melissa Bert, Southeast Alaska Federal On Scene Coordinator with the US Coast Guard, told us how only recently has it become possible to gather accurate information on the condition of the wreck: "The diving equipment and what the divers can do, the technology is just amazing now. So we feel like now's the time that we can actually get a better look, really make a very good assessment of what the situation is; how the tanks are holding, where the oil is, the amount of oil. All of those things that maybe in the past would have been too hard to do."
Once the surveying is complete, the Unified Command will use the information on the volume, accessibility and risk from the oil to determine what action they will take.
More information and images from the project are available at the Unified Command website for the incident:
By: Mikko Wilson - firstname.lastname@example.org