Another view of Arctic Rose sought

Coast Guard to send second camera after first malfunctions

Posted: Sunday, July 22, 2001

ANCHORAGE -- The Coast Guard board investigating the sinking of the Arctic Rose will try again to view the sunken vessel with the aid of a remotely operated video camera sometime next month.

"We've already got the green light from headquarters. All we've got to do is put it together," Capt. Ron Morris, chairman of the board, said at a news conference late Saturday.

The Arctic Rose sank suddenly in the Bering Sea April 2, killing all 15 men on board in one of the worst fishing disaster off Alaska in nearly two decades.

Investigators managed to locate the 92-foot fishing vessel early Wednesday morning in 428 feet of water, about 775 miles southwest of Anchorage.

But their search for clues to why it sank came to an abrupt end when the cable controlling the camera became hopelessly tangled in lines and snapped. Morris said technicians managed to record about 15 minutes of video of the sunken ship.

It was hoped the pictures would give investigators a better idea of what caused the vessel to sink, without even enough time for the crew to send out a distress signal.

Morris said that they had hoped to get a better look at the weather-tight doors, hatches, trawl deck, rudder and stern.

"It's unfortunate, but we did get a lot of good information. We found the vessel amazingly quickly. It should be an easy thing to go back to find it and start doing the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) work," Morris said. "There's still many things that we'd like to see on that vessel."

Families of the men killed on the Arctic Rose will be given an opportunity to view the videotape on Monday in Seattle.

The investigators traveled to the site of the sunken vessel on the Ocean Explorer, a fishing vessel that was under contract with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to do sonar work in the Bering Sea.

When the remote video camera was lost, the sonar equipment was used to take additional images of the Arctic Rose. Morris said that, from those sonar images, it appears the vessel's fishing nets were not deployed at the time.

The ship is sitting upright in the water, raising questions about whether or not it capsized, Morris said. The board plans further investigation of the dynamics of how vessels sink under various conditions.

Much of the testimony the panel has taken at hearings in Seattle and Anchorage has focused on the stability of the boat, which was outfitted with fish processing equipment.

Morris said the videotape revealed that some of the antennas on the Arctic Rose were bent, but the hull did not appear to be heavily damaged.

The brief glimpse of the vessel answered some questions and raised others, said Cmdr. John Bingaman, a member of the Marine Board of Investigation.

"I'm looking forward to going back out and seeing what we can see," Bingaman said.

The Coast Guard will try to find another vessel and crew and will probably take more than one remotely operated video camera as a backup, Morris said.

"It's just a matter of trying to do this while we've got a decent weather window this summer," Morris said. "The Bering Sea can get pretty wicked as far as weather."

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