The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service enlisted the help of Seattle-based Global Diving & Salvage to remove three shipwrecks that were causing ongoing harm to a beautiful coral reef system in the North Pacific. On Jan. 29, after a year of planning and hard work by commercial divers and other marine salvage professionals, the work was finally completed and the wreckage towed away.
The wreckage was the result of three ships sinking in the past 15 years in the Pacific Remote Islands National Wildlife Refuge, causing extensive damage to the previously pristine Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll, according to National Geographic. This large reef system is located approximately halfway between the Hawaiian Islands and American Samoa in a stretch of ocean designated an unincorporated territory of the U.S.
How Much Did the Shipwreck Removal Cost?
Global Diving & Salvage collaborated with Curtin Maritime, a California-based marine salvage and towing company, as well as multiple federal agencies and The Nature Conservancy in the shipwreck removal effort.
Length and Scope of the Project
Planning and design of the specialized equipment needed for the project began in early 2013, with the two marine salvage companies mobilizing in September 2014 for the lengthy trip from the mainland to Honolulu and then onward to the reef system. Once work commenced, it took 79 days from November 2013 to January 2014 to finish the job, the USFWS reported.
Commercial divers used a 40×20-foot floating barge as a work platform. As an example of the type of work that was done, five divers spent a whopping 880 hours slicing up one of the ships with tools that included exothermic torches, burning rods, underwater chainsaws and jackhammers, the USFWS noted. Divers were also tasked with removing fuel from the three vessels.
Why Were the Shipwrecks So Harmful?
Aside from causing physical damage to the reef at the time of each shipwreck, the constant presence of the three shipwrecks caused a condition called “black reef” in the reef system where iron from the ships is absorbed by the surrounding ocean water.
This added iron attracts invasive species that are harmful to the reef. By removing the shipwrecks, this harmful iron source was removed for good and the reef now has a better chance of achieving the balance it needs to survive and thrive.
Consider a Career in Commercial Diving
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(Photos via USFWS in order of appearance by Amanda Pollock, Susan White, and Jim Maragos)
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