Divers Find Suspicious Uncharted Rock Near QE2 Grounding Site
BOSTON (AP) _ Divers found an uncharted rock near where the Queen Elizabeth 2 hit bottom that was scraped clean of vegetation and marked with red paint like that on the luxury liner’s hull, officials said Friday.
Damage to the 937-foot cruise ship was much worse than expected, Cunard Lines officials said after dry dock inspections forced the company to cancel all trips through late September. They had hoped to resume next week.
The ship suffered a series of gashes, cracks and dents extending along 400 feet of the hull, said Leon Katcharian, a National Transportation Safety Board investigator.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has been surveying the accident area off the southern coast of Massachusetts, has found ″a number of uncharted rocks out there,″ said Lt. Cmdr. John Wilder.
One rock, 34 1/2 feet deep, attracted the most attention.
″Vegetation is not on the rock the way it is on surrounding rocks, and it has this substance that appears to be red paint,″ Wilder said.
The QE2′s hull, which is painted red, goes 32 feet below the water line.
″We hope to get an analysis this weekend to get a (paint) match,″ Wilder said by telephone from NOAA headquarters in Rockville, Md.
No one was injured when the luxury liner ran aground last Friday night after leaving Martha’s Vineyard for New York City. All 1,815 passengers were evacuated.
In Boston, the local pilot helping guide the liner at the time told investigators he wasn’t worried when the captain overruled him and altered their course slightly. Charts showed sufficient water depth.
John Hadley, a Newport, R.I.-based pilot with almost 20 years experience, also said it was possible for the hull to dip below 32 feet because of certain ocean effects.
The QE2 was using British admiralty charts. But Andrew Willis, spokesman for the British Ministry of Defense, said these charts use information from NOAA, which last surveyed the site of the accident in 1939.
Wilder said the uncharted rocks were between the 1939 markings, which are spaced far apart.