After drifting the North Pacific for over a year, the Ryou-Un Maru met its end yesterday off the coast of Southeast Alaska.
The Ryou-Un Maru began its lonely voyage on March 11th of last year when it was yanked from its moorings in Hokkaido and swept out to sea by the powerful tsunami that struck the coast of Japan. The rusted-out, old shrimper was waiting to be scrapped for her metal, but the sea chose to take her back instead.
It has been adrift, crew-less since that day, making its way across the north Pacific alone, trekking aimlessly to her dramatic end until gaining the attention of the Canadian Coast Guard in mid-March. It was spotted as it approached the Pacific coast between Alaska and Canada.
From that time on, it has been under constant surveillance by the United States Coast Guard as it made its way up the coast into Alaskan waters, drifting roughly parallel to land close to 180 miles off-shore. Buoys were dropped and overfights began as the Coast Guard determined a plan of action for the un-lit, un-manned ex-shrimper that had become a hazard to navigation.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency studied the problem and decided this week that it would be safer to sink the ship and let the fuel evaporate in the open water.
On Thursday, the United States Coast Guard set out to do just that. The Coast Guard Cutter Anacapa was ordered on the scene with orders to fire on it with high explosive cannon fire.
But, before it could carry out its orders the Cutter stood down as a Canadian vessel, the 62-foot Bernice Sea claimed salvage rights to the Ghost ship. The crew of the Bernice C attempted to take the vessel under tow but were unable to. Soon, frustrated in her attempt, the Canadian vessel left the area without her prize.
When an all clear was given the Anacapa opened fire with 25 mm guns, followed a few hours later with its bigger 50 mm cannon.
Still afloat, but now ablaze, the ghost ship was pock-marked with shell holes. The cutter moved in and began dousing the ship with its high pressure water cannon in a bid to hurry her to her fate.
The rusted hulk first began to list, then four hours after the onslaught began, slipped beneath the waves to settle to the bottom thousands of feet below.