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Underwater blast proposed to free wrecked Bering Sea crabber

Jim PaulinDutch Harbor Fisherman

Pulling the shipwrecked crabber Arctic Hunter off the rocks shouldn’t be too much of a problem once the rocks are is blown away. That's the view of Unalaska marine salvage expert Dan Magone, who plans to use high explosives carefully to avoid killing any wildlife in the process.

Magone expects government agencies will approve his wreck removal plan, although “eyebrows have been raised about some of my methodology.” Taking out the rock involves drilling holes and filling them with high explosives. “It not an unusual step to take. I’ve done it before in real sensitive areas like the Pribilofs where you have seals and sea lions.”

Magone said that removing the boat may start next week. The vessel’s fishing career is over, he said. “It’s still shaped like a boat, but it’s just wreckage.”  Blasting the rock away is actually a very small part of the job, he said. The biggest task involves pulling the boat from the shore with heavy cables, and then sinking it. Once secured underwater, the vessel will be lifted up and moved elsewhere, he said.

The Arctic Hunter is a 102-foot long by 34-feet-wide fishing vessel. The vessel’s maximum fuel capacity is 42,000 gallons. The crew estimates approximately 12,000 gallons of diesel fuel, plus hydraulic and lubricating oil were onboard when the vessel grounded, according to DEC. Resolve-Magone Marine Services have secured most pollution sources on the vessel including doors, hatches to the engine and machinery spaces and fuel vents. As of Nov. 5, salvage teams have removed an estimated 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel from the vessel, and they estimate that approximately 6,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 400 gallons of hydraulic and lubricating oil have been released from the vessel, based on what they recovered and the amount of fuel and oil that was reported by the vessel crew. A slight sheen has been reported nearby.

The vessel was leaving Dutch Harbor when it grounded the morning of Nov. 1. near Morris Cove in Unalaska Bay. The cause of the grounding remains under investigation, although Coast Guard spokesman Shawn Eggert said the vessel’s captain fell asleep at the wheel.

All six crew members were safely evacuated from the stricken vessel, which had completed its Bristol Bay red king crab season, and was headed out to sea to retrieve pots when it ran aground.