ANCHORAGE - The Coast Guard panel investigating the sinking of the Arctic Rose will try to get a look at the vessel next week with the aid of sonar and a remotely operated camera. But Coast Guard officials said Monday they have no plans to recover the vessel or anything on it.
"It's going to help this marine board immensely in determining what happened," said Capt. Ron Morris, chairman of the marine board of investigation. "It would be very difficult for us to determine the cause of this tragedy without more information on what actually happened that night."
The board is meeting in Anchorage this week to take testimony from those who may be able to help investigators learn why the Arctic Rose sank suddenly in the Bering Sea on April 2, killing all 15 men on board. It was one of the worst fishing disasters in nearly two decades.
The chairman of the board, Capt. Ron Morris, announced the panel had received permission from the Coast Guard to search for the Arctic Rose, which is thought to be resting at the bottom of the ocean in 450 feet of water, 775 miles southwest of Anchorage.
"We have a very good idea of where the vessel initially sank because of the emergency position locating radio beacon that was sent out, plus we have the position of the oil spill observed during the search and the debris field," Morris said.
Officials hope the pictures will give investigators a better idea of why the vessel sank without even enough time for the crew to send out a distress signal.
The panel will fly to Unalaska on Saturday and board a sonar-equipped vessel under contract to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It will take about two days for the vessel to reach the area where the Arctic Rose went down. The investigators will have three days to look for the 92-foot fishing vessel and to take photos before returning to Unalaska, Morris said.
If the Arctic Rose is found, the crew will lower a remotely operated vehicle equipped with lights and cameras. Investigators hope to learn if the fishing nets were deployed at the time the ship went down. They also hope to see if watertight doors were closed and to get a look at the condition of the hull and the wheelhouse.