Quite the start to the 2018 dive season!
Larry and I were awakened in the wee hours of a recent clear night by the sound of a long, loud foghorn, followed by the frantic grinding of an engine in reverse. We looked out into the night but could see nothing amiss.
In the morning the cause was clear when we walked over to the public dock. The Chem Norma was sitting there at a slight list. We believed that it had run into the berm of the southern wall of Lock 23 which sits about 13-15 feet below the surface. You can see the yellow buoy beyond the rear of the ship, designating the eastern end of the lock below.
We learned that the double-hulled tanker (all tankers travelling the St. Lawrence Seaway are double-hulled for safety) had lost its steering and drove into the channel wall, but that it had suffered no damage. Efforts would soon be underway to set it free.
This proved tough. Over 4 days, up to three tugboats worked to pull the ship off without success. Ultimately shifting the cargo to one side and getting the International Joint Commission – St. Lawrence River Board to temporarily raise the river by a foot (by reducing flow through the downriver dam) freed the boat.
Yesterday a few of our senior divers drifted through the area on the southern side of the southern lock wall. Although there was no obvious wall or berm “wound”, there was gravel and larger rocks strewn everywhere, old lock bollards were surrounded by rocky debris, and the divers found what was probably one of the ship’s sacrificial anodes (hahaha, as if I know anything about sacrificial anodes… but my divers had heard of them and a quick Google search taught me a lot!).
Here’s what they found. If you come across it, kindly leave it there!
We’ll be out again soon to evaluate this area further.
In the meantime, now that all the sludge and mess from the working tugboats has cleared, river conditions are pretty typical for this time of year – moderate current, 10-foot visibility, 13C/57F water temp.