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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, July 21, 2001

Center mast of Ehime Maru to be removed by explosives

 •  Graphic: Raising the Ehime Maru
 •  Advertiser special: Collision at Sea

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

The center mast of the Ehime Maru will be removed, no later than today, by detonating plastic explosives along its base, a Navy spokesman said.

About 1.5 pounds of C-4 explosives were to be placed on the mast by the remotely operated vehicle Phoenix III. The Phoenix III is operated from the civilian ship Ocean Hercules, said Jon Yoshishige, a spokesman for the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

The Navy plans to move the Ehime Maru from 2,000 feet of water to about 115 feet of water to make it safer for divers to recover bodies trapped in the ship.

The fishing vessel collided with the nuclear submarine USS Greeneville Feb. 9 when it surfaced about nine miles south of Diamond Head. Nine people from the Ehime Maru were never seen again.

Removing the mast is necessary so a lifting rig can be connected to Rockwater 2, a heavy-lift ship that will move the sunken Japanese training vessel to shallow water.

The explosives were positioned so as to direct the blast energy inward toward the mast. The charge was considered small, safe and the most controllable, Yoshishige said. The offshore oil industry regularly uses explosives like this.

The Phoenix III will connect a lifting wire to the mast so a crane or winch can lift it from the sea floor and onto the deck of the Ocean Hercules or the Rockwater 2, depending on work schedules.

You can reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012.