Saturday, May 29, 2021


29 May 2021: Well, May is about done (how did that happen?) and we are celebrating (here in the USA) our Memorial Day weekend, remembering those who gave their lives in service to their country. Generally thought of as the official start of Summer, this year, as the pandemic restrictions ease, and people are eager to get to the beach and other venues generally associated with this weekend, they are being stymied by really terrible weather - cold, rain, and wind here on the central eastern seaboard. So, indoor sports would appear to be the order of the day! 

About a week ago, our "favorite" shipwreck, the Golden Ray (capsized and aground off the coast of St. Simon's Island in Georgia) made the news again, further stalling the efforts at removing the ecological disaster (not to mention the blight on the land/seascape!) An amalgamated report on the problems and current situation from Public Radio Georgia and the AP.



It's been nearly two years since crews began clearing a massive shipwreck from St. Simons Sound. Last week, the already dangerous cleanup operation got even more complex when what's left of the cargo ship caught fire.

 There's a fire hose on the VB-10,000 [ed: the giant crane doing the cutting]. There is a sprinkler system that they have installed inside the ship, along these cutting lines. Now, this wasn't the chain that caused the really big fire. They had paused the chain. And they had these guys, rope access technicians. They were essentially rappelling down the hall, climbing into the cut groove with six-foot welding torches. They were trying to cut a way around a support beam that they suspected was going to give the cutting chain itself trouble, and they've had enough of these breaks that have to be replaced because of wear, they thought it was worth it to pause the chain and move these folks in there with these welding torches. One of them sparked a car. Now, this thing is wide open on either end facing east to west. We had a real strong wind coming in off the ocean Friday. And when that first car got sparked — this is up at the front end of the ship, up at the east end of the ship — the wind just blew. Any car that was above the waterline basically caught fire, according to Unified Command.

The towering crane being used to saw the South Korean freighter Golden Ray into large chunks has been moved back into position straddling the wreck after the crane passed an inspection following the fire, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Himes said Wednesday.

The salvage team is waiting for engineers assessing fire damage to the shipwreck to declare that demolition can safely continue.

“It will be a few more days for sure," said Himes, a spokesman for the multiagency command overseeing the salvage. “We don’t have a clear timeline yet.”

The Golden Ray capsized with roughly 4,200 cars within its cargo decks on Sept. 8, 2019. Crews have been working since November to remove the ship in eight giant pieces, with the crane using a long anchor chain to tear through the vessel's hull like a blunt-edged saw.

Before the demolition began

 Demolition was roughly halfway done when a fire ignited aboard the shipwreck May 14 as workers used cutting torches on the hull. No one was injured, but thick smoke poured from the wreck for hours before boats pumping seawater through water cannons extinguished the flames.

Himes said engineers are still working to determine whether intense heat from the fire weakened the vessel's steel hull or the massive lifting lugs welded to its top. The lugs connect to the crane's rigging, serving as critical anchor points for picking up each section.

The salvage team still plans to remove what's left of the Golden Ray in four giant pieces, Himes said. Engineers will determine whether crews first have to make those sections lighter by removing cars and interior decks.

“We know we can cut and we know we can lift,” Himes said. “The question is how much weight can we lift.”

Meanwhile, debris recovery teams are still collecting melted plastic and charred debris from the fire. Car bumpers and other large parts have been fished from the water surrounding the shipwreck, Himes said, while thousands of smaller car pieces have been picked up along the beaches of nearby St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island.

Fletcher Sams of the Altamaha Riverkeeper conservation group said he's worried that a significant amount of debris from the fire could remain in the water long term after collecting in marsh grasses where it's hard to spot.

“All this plastic's not going to be biodegradable," Sams said. "The big question is, how are we going to clean up something that’s so hard to find?”

The Golden Ray was headed to sea when it rolled onto its side soon after leaving the Port of Brunswick, about 70 miles (112 kilometers) south of Savannah. Though four crew members had to be rescued from deep inside the ship, all 24 people on board survived.

A Coast Guard expert later concluded the Golden Ray tipped over because unstable loading had left its center of gravity too high.

Coast Guard officials say it's unclear how much longer it could take to finally remove what's left of the Golden Ray from St. Simon's Sound.


And the hurricane season is almost upon us.... As this story continues to evolve, we're try to keep you updated. No question it's a potential ecological disaster despite the best efforts of all involved, and certainly not helping the tourist resorts on St. Simon's or Jekyll Islands.

See you next week!

                                Fair winds, 

                                       Old Salt 

Friday, May 21, 2021


 21 May 2021: Way back in 2016 we published the first of three opinion pieces (also 2017, 2018) regarding the Navy's Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), a multi-mission lightly armed coastal vessel that we (from past in person experience on destroyers) deemed a disaster. Problems with design, function, the very concept of module capable mission shifts (i.e. being able to lift out a, for example, antisubmarine package and install a surface deterrent package), crewing, training, and a myriad of other issues, not the least of which centered on their propulsion plants, seemed to offset the potential of these ships. We called them "Little Crappy Ships" and it appeared they indeed were. Now, friends, guess what? The Navy has kind of come around and realized that the money spent keeping these disasters operating just isn't worth it and they are retiring to the "reserve" fleet two vessels well before their useful life is reached. From Forbes (on line):


The Littoral Combat Ship Can’t Fight—And The U.S. Navy Is Finally Coming To Terms With It

The U.S. Navy has confirmed it will decommission the first two Littoral Combat Ships, likely beginning what could be a unhappy reckoning with a program that has consumed billions of dollars without delivering much in the way of useful capability.

A year after announcing its desire to get rid of the oldest four LCSs in order to avoid the high cost of upgrading the vessels, the Navy has firmed up its plans for the first two of the troubled, near-shore ships.

 The news website of the U.S. Naval Institute was the first to report on the decommissioning plans. USS Independence, the lead vessel in the trimaran subclass, will decommission in July. USS Freedom, the lead monohull LCS, will follow her cousin into retirement in September.

Freedom is 13 years old. Independence is 11. Freedom has managed to deploy for low-stakes missions around Latin America. Independence, by contrast, has never completed a front-line cruise. 

LCS Freedom early on
Both vessels were built to last 25 years, but the Navy estimated it would cost $2.5 billion to bring them, plus the next two oldest LCSs—one of each variant—up to the standard of the other 31 LCSs that are in service or under construction.

The service decided the ships weren’t worth the money. That should come as no surprise. Yes, the Navy is working hard to grow its front-line fleet from around 300 ships today to as many as 355 a decade from now.

But it’s also trying to reorganize its ships for intensive, long-range combat with an increasingly powerful Chinese fleet. The LCS has no clear role in this kind of fighting. “To give the Navy credit, they’ve shifted focus,” said Eric Wertheim, author of Combat Fleets of the World. “You have to cut your losses on what doesn’t seem to be working well.”

LCS Independence

The LCS as Navy officials imagined it in the late 1990s was going to be a fast, inexpensive combatant for shallow-water fighting. It would be modular, meaning it would be compatible with plug-and-play sets of weapons and sensors, each optimized for a different mission. Minehunting. Anti-submarine warfare. Defense against small boats.

But the concept was flawed. High speed required a complex propulsion system that, two decades on, breaks so often on the monohull variant that the type struggles to complete a deployment. The swappable modules proved so finicky that the Navy gave up on ever installing more than one different module in any given LCS.

Perhaps worst of all, to keep down the roughly $500-million-per-ship cost of the hulls, the Navy chose to arm them only with light weaponry—guns and short-range self-defense missiles. While the fleet has added to some LCSs pairs of quad launchers for 100-mile-range anti-ship missiles, it hasn’t added Mark 41 vertical cells for long-range surface-to-air missiles.

As the rest of the fleet doubles down on its heaviest weaponry, the LCSs’ light armament dooms them. Too big and expensive for scouting and incompatible with the SM-6, the near-shore warships have nothing to add to the new sensor-missile network.

The Navy might yet find a role for the 31 LCSs it could keep. They could conduct peacetime patrols, train alongside smaller allied navies and maybe partially replace the gun-armed boats the fleet is eliminating from its Persian Gulf patrol force.

But don’t count on it. Every time the Chinese navy adds a new destroyer or cruiser to its own heavily-armed fleet, the urgency grows for the United States to match China ship for ship, missile for missile. Every dollar the Navy doesn’t spend on LCSs is a dollar it can spend on a warship with, you know, weapons.


So, is post an "I told you so" article? No, certainly not. And unless the Navy Department, Bureau of Ships, read my posts (which I kinda doubt!) there would be nothing gained by having posted the earlier articles. But, in my mind, you bet: I told you they were no good! 

See you next week!

                                       Fair Winds! 

                                         Old Salt

Sunday, May 16, 2021


16 May 2021: OK we admit this is a bit weird, but then you never know. No info on where this is (except under a lot of ocean) and the fact or fiction aspect is kind of up for grabs.


 A deep-sea diver has sparked an underwater mystery after discovering a giant skeleton that no one can identify.

Footage taken in 2017 from a remote-operated vehicle (ROV) some 830 metres below sea level shows a large set of bones, including a seemingly intact spinal column measure a massive 30 metres in length.

The mysterious skeleton has come to light after the diver operating the underwater robot sent the footage to paranormal researcher Deborah Hatswell, clearly feeling that there could be a spooky explanation behind the bones.

Hatswell says she too has come up empty on the skeleton’s possible origins, and posted the footage to YouTube in the hopes that someone might have some answers.

She told the Daily Star: ‘The dimensions of the skeleton on the video does not fit with the usual size for any sea life in the area. I checked out living sea mammals and came up short of 30 metres. I had a look at the usual suspects – whales, oarfish and sea snakes.’

Deborah points out that Oarfish – the longest living bony fish – are only thought to grow up to 8 metres in length, while she claims that the features on the skeleton’s vertebrae don’t match up to what you’d expect to find in the remains of a whale.

The diver who first spotted the mystery remains thinks that based on his previous discoveries, it could have far more ancient origins. ‘The bone could be very ancient,’ they told Deborah in a message, adding ‘I have seen many clay amphora sticking out of the mud and they have been there potentially for 1,000s of years’

It’s a popular theory on YouTube too, with viewers speculating that it could be anything from an ancient undiscovered ‘sea dragon,’ to the fossils of a Tylosaurus. Others have more mundane explanations, suggested it could just be the remains of a decomposed whale or a large hammerhead shark.

or possibly one of these fellows

So, dear readers, the choice is yours; is it fake, something we already know about, or an as yet undiscovered prehistoric dinosaur. I am inclined to think it's something new as yet to be identified.

See you next week.              

                                  Fair Winds, 

                                           Old Salt