Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 9:50 a.m., Thursday, September 6, 2001

Navy remains confident it can raise Ehime Maru

Interactive presentation: A step-by-step look at how the U.S. Navy plans to move the Ehime Maru to shallow water and recover remains
 •  Advertiser special: Collision at Sea

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

Salvage engineers were back in port today trying to rethink their plan to raise the wreck of the Ehime Maru from 2,000 feet of water.

The team of Navy and civilian engineers has been unable to rig the ship for lifting, despite trying two very different plans.

Navy officials say they still believe they will be able to move the Ehime Maru to shallow water so divers can search it for nine missing people. Five crewmen and four teenage boys died after the ship was rammed Feb. 9 by the submarine USS Greeneville during a surfacing drill nine miles south of Diamond Head. Despite four serious setbacks in two weeks, Navy officials at Pearl Harbor are standing by their pledge to raise the Ehime Maru.

A lifting strap similar to the ones that snapped trying to lift the Ehime Maru sits on a pier. The red vessel at rear is the Rockwater 2.

Richard Ambo • The Honolulu Advertiser

The latest setback occurred at 9 p.m. Tuesday when a metal lifting strap split while it was raising the Ehime Maru by its stern, according to a Navy statement released yesterday.

The procedure was being done to reposition a critical rigging cable beneath the 830-ton wreck, which lies on the ocean floor in 2,000 feet of water. A similar strap broke Friday night.

Raising the ship by its stern was part of a backup plan. A team of salvage experts aboard the civilian ship Rockwater 2 have been trying to find a way to place two other lifting straps under the ship, but their attempts have all failed.

The idea was to use the rigging cables to pull lifting straps under the pilot house and the engine room of the Ehime Maru.

Engineers initially hoped to drill pathways under the Ehime Maru but abandoned that effort two weeks ago. Last Wednesday night, they lifted the ship by its stern for the first time and placed rigging cables under the vessel. The Navy later discovered, however, that one of the two cables was out of place, forcing them to lift the ship Friday night.

On Friday, the ship fell 24 feet when the strap broke. The Navy was using a strap reinforced with braided steel cable Tuesday night, preventing the ship from falling when the strap split.

Rockwater 2 returned to Honolulu Harbor yesterday.

"Navy and contract engineers will review candidate methods of placing the lifting plates under Ehime Maru and load the necessary equipment on Rockwater 2 while in port," the Navy statement said.

It was not clear yesterday if the Navy has a third backup plan. When it started the $40 million operation, it only discussed two methods: drilling beneath the ship and lifting it by the stern.