Work continues on oil removal from 1952 shipwreck

Posted: Monday, May 03, 2010

 JUNEAU — Dive crews have removed more than 10,000 gallons of oil from a 1952 shipwreck near Juneau, and the work is continuing.

Work began nearly a week ago to pump the bunker oil, a heavy fuel used mainly in ships, from the Princess Kathleen shipwreck.

In addition to bunker oil, divers have recovered nearly 1,000 gallons of oil that was free-floating within the wreck.

The 369-foot Princess Kathleen ran aground on Point Lena in 1952, and has periodically released small amounts of unrecoverable oil in the years since. The ship rests on a slope at depths between 52 and 134 feet, and is a popular recreational diving site.

The Coast Guard said divers have been assessing the wreck since February when oil sheens were noticed off the Juneau coastline. They have identified between 14,000 and 34,000 gallons of heavy bunker oil in 10 of the ship’s tanks. Four tanks remained to be surveyed.

Removing the bunker oil, which is very thick, from the vessel’s tanks requires a special technique called “hot tapping.” Divers insert hot water heat exchangers into the fuel tanks to facilitate pumping.

The 24-hour-a-day oil removal operation started Monday.

Pollution teams are in place in case there is a spill during the cleanup effort.

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