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Oregon Marks Day Ship Finally Sank

March 13, 1999

WALDPORT, Ore. (AP) _ The bow portion of the New Carissa has finally sunk to the ocean floor. Now attention turns to the last chunk of the ship that has been mired in the sands off the Oregon coast for more than a month.

Gov. John Kitzhaber declared the day the freighter sank ``Two-thirds of the New Carissa at the Bottom of the Ocean Day.″

``The only thing more stubborn and uncooperative than Mother Nature was the New Carissa herself,″ Kitzhaber wrote in his declaration.

U.S. Coast Guard officials said that a Friday flyover of the site found that about 500 gallons of oil had spilled during the sinking the day before.

Navy demolitions experts first blew holes in the broken bow section of the New Carissa with explosives, then a destroyer riddled the wreck with 70 artillery rounds.

When the stubborn ship insisted on staying afloat, they had a nuclear submarine fire a torpedo. That provided the knockout blast. The ship now sits two miles down, where its remaining 130,000 gallons of fuel oil can do no more harm.

The slight oil slicks on the surface were too small to skim and would likely never reach shore, officials said.

``It’ll just swirl out there,″ said Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Dawayne Penberthy.

The 639-foot New Carissa first washed ashore at Coos Bay on Feb. 4 and began leaking oil four days later. Efforts to burn the 400,000 gallons of fuel oil on board succeeded in burning only half of it away. The ship split in two and spilled 70,000 gallons on southern Oregon’s beaches.

When salvage crews tried to tow it out to sea last week, it broke away from the tow line and again washed ashore.

The remaining third of the wreck is still stuck in the surf near Coos Bay. The Coast Guard, salvage officials and others plan to meet next Friday to consider their options.

Gov. Kitzhaber has said he wants a $25 million bond posted by the ship’s Japanese owners to assure that the problem will be dealt with.

The state is worried about liability if someone gets hurt at the stern wreck, which is on property controlled by the Division of State Lands.

``Nor is it enthusiastic about the image of that ship on its shores,″ said Langdon Marsh, the head of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

As of Friday, more than 774 dead birds have washed up on shore, 351 of them splotched with oil.

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