Tuesday, January 15, 2008


On February 4, 1999, the New Carissa was bound for the Port of Coos Bay to pick up a load of wood chips. The ship's crew was informed by the local bar pilots that weather conditions would prevent the ship (which was empty at the time) from entering Coos Bay harbor until the next morning. The captain ordered the ship to drop anchor 1.7 nautical miles (3.1 km) off the coast in order to ride out the storm. The crew used a single anchor to secure the ship, and according to a United States Coast Guard review of the incident, used a chain that was too short. The short chain and the weather conditions, including winds of 20–25 knots, caused the ship to drag its anchor. Poor navigational techniques and inadequate watchkeeping led to the crew's failure to notice that the ship was moving. Once movement was detected, the crew attempted to raise anchor and maneuver away from the shore, but the weather and sea conditions made this difficult. By the time the anchor was raised, the ship had been pushed too close to the shore to recover.
The ship ran aground on the beach 2.7 statute miles (4.5 km) north of the entrance to Coos Bay, and attempts to refloat it failed. Two of the five fuel tanks on the ship began to leak fuel onto the beach, eventually spilling approximately 70,000 U.S. gallons (262,500 liters) of thick "bunker C" fuel oil and diesel onto the beach and into the water.

Neither the captain nor any of the 22-man crew was injured in the incident. Initial rescue operations were hampered by inclement weather. Attempts to move the New Carissa under her own power failed, and tugboat assistance was not available immediately after the grounding. Only one tugboat was available locally, but it was unable to cross the Coos Bay bar because of safety concerns. It was also uncertain whether or not the locally available tugboat could have successfully rescued the New Carissa. The nearest salvage tugboat capable of towing a large ship off a beach, the Salvage Chief, was moored at its home port of Astoria, Oregon, 200 miles (320 km) to the north, a 24-hour journey away. The Salvage Chief had not sailed in over a year, and it took 18 hours to fuel, provision, and find a crew for the ship. Once mobilized, poor weather in the Astoria area prevented the tugboat from crossing the treacherous Columbia River bar for an additional two days. The Salvage Chief did not arrive in the area until February 8, four days after the grounding occurred.

On March 2, salvors managed to float the 440–foot (132 m) bow section and tow it out to sea for disposal. The vessel with the bow section under tow encountered another storm 40 miles (65 km) off the coast, and the tow line broke. The bow section floated for fourteen hours until it ran aground near Waldport, Oregon, approximately 80 miles (130 km) to the north of the original grounding site. One week later, on March 9, the bow was again refloated and successfully towed by the tugboat Sea Victory 248 miles (400 km) off the coast, where the Pacific is approximately 10,000 feet (3,000 m) deep. It was sunk at that location by two US Navy ships, the destroyer USS David R. Ray and the submarine USS Bremerton.