Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Burial At Sea

Today, the world waves goodbye to the U.S.S. Oriskany (Sept. 25, 1950-May 17, 2006). The decommissioned Navy aircraft carrier is scheduled to be buried at sea 23 miles off the coast of Pensacola Beach at about 8:30 a.m. CDT. At a depth of over 200 feet, it is hoped the Oriskany will become an attractive nuisance, luring unsuspecting fishes to their demise, providing a new wreck for scuba divers to explore, and giving the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce another tourist magnet.

Carol J. Williams of the Los Angeles Times has details about how the sinking will be carefully controlled:
To minimize the risk of storms or tidal action affecting its position, it will be aligned north to south, bow out and stern to the distant shoreline.

Early on sinking day, the Navy and its civilian scrappers, Resolve Marine Group of Port Everglades, Fla., will detonate preset charges to punch the last crucial holes in the hull to allow the carrier to take on seawater at a strategic pace and pattern so that it sinks "even keel, even trim." The slow-motion belly flop is expected to last at least five hours.
It's been a long, strange trip for the distinguished Essex Class aircraft carrier. None was stranger than the on-again, off-again scuttling, interrupted several times by bankruptcies, unexpected environmental remediation delays, and the heightened storm years of 2004-2005. Altogether, as the PNJ's Larry Wheeler reported earlier this week, the total cost of sinking the ship has doubled from initial estimates, and now is expected to top $21 million.

Much of the Oriskany's long history with the Seventh Fleet, as well as its oft-delayed scuttling, can be read on the official site of the Oriskany Museum, maintained by the "Battle of Oriskany Historical Society" in the village of Oriskany, N.Y.
In September 1976, Oriskany headed to Bremerton, Washington, to be decommissioned. She was stricken from the Naval Vessel Registrar in 1989. In 1994 she was sold for scrapping, and in May 1996 was towed to Mare Island Navy Yard, Vallejo, California. After a prolonged effort, the contractor defaulted and Oriskany was repossessed by the Navy in 1997.

Oriskany was later transferred to the Beaumont Reserve Fleet, Beaumont Texas from Mare Island. It was determined that the journey would take the ship around Cape Horn, being towed by Crowley Marine Service. In August 1999, the Oriskany arrived in Beaumont, Texas where it was harbored in Port Neches River.
Destin's Emerald also has a concise summary, with links to more:
The 888-foot carrier has a rich 62-year history that began in the last years of World War II.

In 1943, Congress authorized the construction of the ship, named after the tide-turning Battle of Oriskany in the Revolutionary War. The ship was launched on Oct. 13, 1945.

On Sept. 25, 1950, the Oriskany was officially commissioned and sent to take part in the Korean Conflict. From 1952 to 1953, the Oriskany served with the U.S. Seventh Fleet as part of the United Nations Task Force. During this time, fighters took off from the Oriskany and took part in what is believed to be the first multi-jet aerial dog fight in history.

Movies such as, “The Bridges of Toko Ri,” were filmed upon the ‘Mighty O’ and President John F. Kennedy was a guest aboard her to watch an operation readineness demonstration.
Photographs of the carrier in her prime, as well as in her rusted dotage, can be viewed here courtesy of the U.S. Navy. The Navy's environmental assessment and remediation plans are here, in pdf format.

The sinking of the Oriskany will be filmed by Prallax Films, Inc. of British Columbia, Canada. When the whole thing is over, the Navy claims the Oriskany will be the largest "intentionally sunken" artificial fishing reef in the world.

12:20 pm
The PNJ is reporting, "Oriskany has sunk. The last tip of the Oriskany's hurricane bow disappeared into the Gulf at approximately 11 a.m."
"As the carrier went down, its bow stuck up, straining the heavy metal anchor lines. The port side bow line appeared broken early in the process. Clouds of debris could be seen billowing from the hangar deck, and water churned and bubbled heavily at the submersion point. Towlines strained at the bow. "


Bryan said...

Oriskany, New York is my Mother's home town and that's where I graduated from high school after my Dad retired from the military.

I own a "brick" at the museum.

I was going to video the sinking, but I couldn't justify the use of the fuel it would have taken to get out there.

Alexee said...

My father sailed the Oriskany in 1950-1952 he was an electrician onboard. Some of his fondest memories, now at 81 years old, are of that ship and his bunkmates.

In the family album there are old black and white photos of he and some of his crewmates horsing around.

The photo here reminds me of something my mother said when she was but a 18 year old bride awaiting my father's return from a tour of duty onboard ship. She said she stood at the San Diego docks and saw the ship, and then it just kept coming and coming and coming, and she thought it never would finish getting all of it's bulk to the dock. She said she'd never seen anything so big in all her young life.

I came upon the video being played on one of the channels tonight, and did a search for the boat...came up with a number of items.

Thanks for posting....I'm almost glad to see the old girl go out for such a noble cause.