Manned sub finds sunken ship intact Pictures taken of wreckage but no sign of 2 missing passengers
The deep-water submersible from Nuytco Reseach in North Vancouver is readied on a barge in Wright Sound for the dive yesterday to the sunken ferry Queen of the North.
Jack Keating, The Province Published: Monday, March 27, 2006
A manned submersible yesterday found the Queen of the North wreckage and took the first pictures of the sunken ship.
The ferry, which sunk early last Wednesday after hitting Gil Island in Wright Sound, was found in about 427 metres of water. All but two of the 101 people on board are accounted for.
"The vessel is intact," Deborah Marshall, spokeswoman for B.C. Ferries, said last night.
"We found it in 1,400 feet of water. She's resting in silt on her keel. The silt covers the hull up to the rubbing strake and above in some areas."
The sub, owned by North Vancouver's Nuytco Research Ltd., took pictures of the sunken ferry for about three hours yesterday.
"There was no sign of the two missing persons," said Marshall.
The submersible will return to the site this morning "weather permitting," said Marshall.
The videotapes from the submersible will be handed over to the Transportation Safety Board of Canada (TSB), which is the lead agency in the investigation.
The TSB seized the vessel and all its contents for the purpose of the investigation.
The TSB is controlling access to the area immediately surrounding the location where the ferry sunk "to preserve and protect the environment."
The analysis of the wreck is expected to take several days.
"The assessment will include a general site survey to determine if there are any intact fuel tanks that could be pumped out or plugged," said Marshall.
The videotape was being processed last night and based on a review, "a dive plan for [today] will be formulated."
There are two submersibles at the site but only one was used yesterday.
Representatives from the TSB, Transport Canada, RCMP and B.C. Ferries are on the mother ship at the site.
The RCMP are keeping all traffic at least one-half kilometre away.
"We won't be releasing any information until a thorough analysis has been done," John Cottreau, spokesman for the TSB, said on Global News last night.
"[The video footage] is going to be taken to our laboratory in Ottawa where the investigator in charge and our marine team will undertake a thorough analysis.
"If we find out something that we think the public should know immediately, we won't waste any time in making that information available."
On Saturday, the TSB announced that mechanical failure has been ruled out as the cause of the crash,
The 37-year-old vessel was carrying 225,000 litres of diesel fuel on its run from Prince Rupert to Port Hardy when it sunk in the narrow waters of the Inside Passage off B.C.'s north coast.
A sheen of diesel fuel floats in the area.
"We have seen no impacts on fish, no impacts on wildlife," said incident commander Andy Ackerman.
"We are really monitoring such things as the clam beds and oyster racks that Hartley Bay First Nations have out.
"But we haven't seen a negative impact. It's going well and we're very optimistic that the impacts are going to be low."
Ackerman said he does not know how much diesel fuel has been spilled.
B.C. Ferries said it is continuing with a "comprehensive environmental plan" in conjunction with Environment Canada, Ministry of the Environment, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard and First Nations in the area.
And a follow up story from one of the sub pilots posted on www.psubs.org ....
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ I would have given an account of the dives but the Transport Safety Board slapped a 'communication ban' on the whole thing, and posted signs on the worksite that any one who yapped to the press would be charged. Sounds like these guys have taken a leaf from the airport security book!
Anyhow, I can't tell you anymore than has been released by the TSB; The 350'+ vessel 'Queen of the North' is sitting upright and intact in 1400 feet of water. She 'skied' in, with the result that the bottom mud/silt (actually, glacial flour-type sediment) is up to her car-deck . . .about 30-35 feet above her keel. She must have produced an enormous dust-cloud that followed her down slope and drifted over top of her - she's covered with a light layer of fines.
Viz is good- about 30-40 feet, but lots of back-scatter in the HMI lights, because of dense crystal critter life in the water column (tentaphores,siphonophores,et.,etc.). Video recording has gone well in last couple of days and it looks as though the crew will be packing it in tomorrow. The little DeepWorker2000's performed perfectly, as they most often do - and so did the crew.
Using a precision wireless tracking system coupled with a Racal-designed position plotting system ('winfrog'), we were able to 'chain over' or interpolate the subs position to the surface-mounted DGPS and get a precise GPS coordinate for every significant part of the wreck. This is all plotted on an electronic chart in the tracking shack, and will allow us to return directly to any specific location.
A lot of this stuff was honed on cable tracking. We do many cable inspections every year and any damage or suspensions have to be position recorded with sub-metre accuracy, so we can find 'em again. When we first go on the job we transpose their 'as-laid' chart onto our electronic chart and mark all their 'known' cable positions as red lines. We then dump the sub in and fire up the Nuytco-designed cable-tracker, correlate it with the acoustic transmitter and start following the cables - buried or laying visible on the bottem- this automatically produces a green line on the electronic chart/grid.
Kind of fun to watch the engineers eyes bug out when they see how far away the red lines are from the green lines! This sure is an interestin' way to make a living!
Hits close to home, as she sank in my area. The sinking gets front page coverage every day so far since she went down. I guess they've ruled out mechanical failure of any kind, which leaves human error as the culprit, I would assume.