"Abandoned by its crew, the cargo vessel made a lonely odyssey across the Atlantic, a ghost ship seemingly destined never to make port.
The 77-metre MV Alta drifted for over a year, skirting the Americas, Africa and Europe, rusting and derelict yet resolutely afloat.
Its voyage came to an end during Storm Dennis on Sunday when it ran aground near Ballycotton, a fishing village in County Cork, Ireland, overlooking the Celtic Sea. The Alta wedged itself on to rocks, apparently intact.
On Monday experts from the local council, the Irish coastguard and Ireland’s commissioner of wrecks were discussing what to do with a visitor that was drawing lots of attention.
“Cork county council is asking members of the public to stay away from the wreck location as it is situated on a dangerous and inaccessible stretch of coastline and is in an unstable condition,” the council said in a statement.
Environmental scientists who visited the area on Monday did not see visible pollution, the council said. It has asked a marine contractor to board the Alta – the next opportunity will be on Tuesday at around 7am, during low tide – for a closer inspection. “Any risk in relation to oil, other hazardous substances and pollution from the vessel will be evaluated.”
Built in 1976, the Alta was flagged in Tanzania, changed owner in 2017 and was sailing from Greece to Haiti in September 2018 when it become disabled about 1,380 miles (2,220km) south-east of Bermuda.
Unable to make repairs, the 10-strong crew was rescued by the US coastguard cutter Confidence, which brought the crew members to Puerto Rico. According to gCaptain, a maritime industry news site, the US coastguard contacted the ship’s owner to arrange a commercial tug to tow it to shore.
It was reportedly towed to Guyana only to be hijacked, with its subsequent fate unclear until August 2019 when a Royal Navy ice patrol ship, HMS Protector, encountered it in the mid-Atlantic, apparently unmanned.
In ocean lore, the story of the ghost ship the Flying Dutchman is a myth dating from the 1700s. The Mary Celeste, in contrast, was real: it was found abandoned, heading for the strait of Gibraltar in 1872, the crew’s fate a mystery.
More recently, in 2006 the tanker Jian Seng was found off the coast of Queensland, Australia, without a crew, the identity of its owner and its origins unclear.
In 2016 a wooden houseboat washed ashore on Ireland’s Atlantic coast. Made with driftwood and polystyrene and fitted with solar panels, it turned out to have been built by Rick Small, a Canadian environmentalist who had given the boat away and had no idea how it ended up crossing the ocean unmanned."
It appears as though this may present a bit of a challenge to the Irish Coasties and Cork officialdom to get her off the beach and dealt with. We wish them good luck with the project!
Until next time,