Sunday, July 3, 2005

Research ship grounded

The Coast Guard is heading
to the spot in a marine reserve
in case of an oil spill

The Coast Guard is monitoring a research ship, carrying an estimated 30,000 gallons of diesel fuel, that went aground early yesterday in a marine reserve in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

Monk seals and other protected species inhabit the reserve where the grounding occurred.

The 145-foot ship Casitas, with 23 people aboard, was severely damaged and taking on water, the Coast Guard said. No one was injured in the grounding. Seventeen people were taken off the vessel, while six of seven crew members remained aboard to pump out water and try to refloat the ship.


A C-130 Hercules aircraft took off from the Coast Guard Air Station at Barbers Point at 4 a.m. yesterday and dropped four dewatering pumps to the ship.

Besides the diesel fuel, the Casitas has about 3,000 gallons of gasoline and 200 gallons of lubricating oil aboard, according to a news release.

No leakage had occurred as of yesterday afternoon.

The Coast Guard cutter Walnut is headed to the area with a Spilled Oil Recovery System to help with clean-up if any fuel oil pollution occurs. It is expected to arrive in five days.

The Casitas, under charter to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, was en route to Maro Reef and French Frigate Shoals with NOAA and University of Hawaii Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) scientists on an annual marine debris cleanup when it ran aground on Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

Ironically, during its marine debris voyage last year the Casitas discovered the remains of what were believed to be the whaling ships Pearl and Hermes, which struck a reef in 1822. The atoll is named after the sunken ships.

Six work boats from the Casitas were used to take people about to North Island, where they planned to camp.

They will be transferred later to Pearl and Hermes Atoll where three NOAA and JIMAR officials are monitoring the Hawaiian monk seal population.

NOAA's research vessel Oscar Elton Sette has diverted from another scientific mission in the area and is expected to reach the Casitas tonight.

Two C-130 Coast Guard aircraft from Barbers Point planned to take turns watching the ship, staging out of Midway.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
www.noaa.gov/ JIMAR

E-mail to City Desk


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