Rough weather is taking a toll on the grounded fishing vessel Arctic Hunter, which has been stuck on the rocks outside Unalaska since last Friday.
The 93-foot crab boat has survived a series of storms this week without breaking apart. But salvagers haven’t been able to work on the vessel since last weekend.
Dan Magone of Resolve-Magone Marine Services is in charge of recovery efforts.
“We’ve got seas building out there that are expected to stay [as] big onshore swells until sometime next week, so we’re not too sure when we’re gonna get back out there,” Magone said.
Meanwhile, Magone says debris like toolboxes and a survival suit from the Arctic Hunter is starting to wash up on the beach. He says he expects the vessel’s condition to keep deteriorating in the bad weather before salvagers can return.
“It basically just beats them apart,” Magone said. “The bottom gets split open, sometimes the propeller shafts get pulled out through the back and the engines and gears fall out of the bottom, and, you know, it gets pretty ugly.”
Before the weather turned, Magone says his crews pumped out about 9,000 gallons of fuel-water mix from the Arctic Hunter. More than half of that was fuel. Magone says there could still be fuel in some tanks below the water line, but there’s nothing they can do about that until weather calms down.
While they wait, Magone says they’re getting ready for the final push:
“Right now what we’re doing is gear up [sic] for the wreck removal phase of the project, and so we’re busy getting our small barge set up so that we can use it to support the diving and the other work that we need to do in the shallow waters there,” he said.
At this stage, all the Coast Guard can do to help is monitor the seas for an oil sheen.
Coast Guard public affairs officer Shawn Eggert says once the vessel’s off the rocks, the Coast Guard will start digging in to what caused the accident.
“The investigation can take anywhere from a month to a year,” Eggert said. “You know, in this case I don’t expect that it’ll take that long, but I haven’t gotten any kind of an estimate on how long they expect it’ll take.”
So far, the Coast Guard has said the skipper of the vessel might have been asleep at the wheel. And Unalaska’s police department says the skipper failed a breathalyzer test a few hours after the grounding.
Eggert couldn’t say if or when charges might be filed.