Friday, December 31, 2004

Year-in-review, #1: Oil still sits in wrecked freighter

Friday, December 31, 2004 - by Dan Fiorucci

Anchorage, Alaska - Of KTUU’s top 10 Alaska stories of 2004, only one is expected change in a significant way over the next few days. It's the story of the wrecked freighter in the Aleutian Islands. That wreck cost six crewmembers of the Selendang Ayu their lives when a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter sent to rescue them crashed after being hit by a huge wave.
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Now the freighter, which had almost 500,000 gallons of oil aboard when it ran aground 23 days ago, sits broken in two. Almost one month later, not a single drop of bunker C oil has been offloaded from the Selendang Ayu. But if weather permits, that could change as early as Tuesday.
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While the island of Unalaska waited weeks for the heavy-lift helicopter to be put in place, absolutely no other attempt to offload oil from the Selendang Ayu has occurred.
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In the meantime, the bow of the ship, which contains 176,000 gallons of heavy bunker C oil, has sunk. Even before it went under, its oil tanks were known to be venting to the sea.
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“We have tugs of adequate power and maneuverability to safely maneuver a barge next to the freighter,” said Tom Lakosh, a public interest advocate.
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Two years ago, Lakosh won an oil spill response case against the Department of Environmental Conservation in the Alaska Supreme Court. Today he says it was a mistake to rely solely on the heavy-lift helicopter to remove oil from the Selendang Ayu.
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Lakosh says the trans-rec barge should have been brought in immediately to start offloading the Selendang Ayu during good weather windows while the Unified Command waited for the heavy-lift helicopter to arrive.
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“I'm sure that the barge could safely maneuver and operate in seas of approximately 6 to 10 feet given the capability of the tugs we have,” Lakosh said.
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Lakosh says the towing drill, conducted in 10-foot seas, demonstrates that high-powered Alyeska tugs stationed in Prince William Sound could have safely maneuvered the trans-rec barge a few hundred feet from the Selendang Ayu. That means offloading could have begun by now.

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“We've had weather windows quite large enough to totally remove the oil to date,” Lakosh said. “Alls they would need would be a half a day to be able to remove the remaining oil.”

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The idea of bringing in ships immediately to start offloading the Selendang Ayu has tremendous appeal to the people of Unalaska.

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“If you've had some people saying that they can bring vessels alongside and pump out, if that's still a possibility during weather windows, I'd go for it,” Unalaska resident Susie Golodoff said.
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Many Unalaska residents have argued in favor of ship-lightering right from the start of the tragedy. But a representative of the shipper insists using heavy-lift helicopters alone is the best plan for lightering the wreck.

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“This proposal was the one that was accepted. It was not the least expensive, but it was one that the experts felt had the highest probability of success,” said Howard Hile of Gallagher Marine.
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The Unified Command said tonight that even though the trans-rec barge and tugs are designed to operate in heavy seas, it's not safe to operate them so close to shore. They believe the helicopter plan is the safest plan for lightering in the Aleutians in winter.
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I've printed some of that article in bold to get your attention. It's getting more and more obvious that there has got to be a better way of getting the oil off of that wreck. There has been very little acomplished since the disaster happened because of weather. If there are ways that aren't so effected by the weather, they should be highly considered. Or, can they both be attepted during the same time? This is dragging out too long. Lets get this thing cleaned up and behind us. Let us also learn from this.

Have a Safe & Happy New Year!
Dave

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Education Committee Meeting changed

Because of the lack of space at Bird TLC due to the IBRRC responding to the freighter disaster off the Unalaska coast, the Education Committee meeting location has been changed. It will be held on Monday 1/3/05 at The Alaska Bird Center 519 West 8th Avnue, Suite 201.
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If you need directions, call the Bird TLC Office @ 562-4852.
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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Black box recovered

Here is the latest Alaska news from The Associated Press
ANCHORAGE (AP) - The ``black box'' from a downed Coast Guard rescue helicopter was recovered yesterday off Unalaska Island.Six members of the Selendang Ayu died when the helicopter crashed into the Bering Sea shortly before the freighter grounded and broke in half December 8.The data recorder was found Tuesday afternoon by hired divers hired near the stern of the freighter's wreckage, according to Petty Officer Sara Francis.Francis says the box and its data would be made available to the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.
Also, Smit America salvage company spent most yesterday preparing to remove fuel from the Selendang Ayu. The 738-foot freighter had an estimated 424,000 gallons of intermediate fuel oil and 18,000 gallons of diesel on board when it grounded off Unalaska Island.Salvagers know that one of the ship's fuel tanks is empty. They believe two others may be also be empty, meaning more than three-quarters of the fuel already may be lost.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Fuel from shipwreck closes crab fishery

Tests showing that thick brown fuel oil has fouled the sea floor where the freighter Selendang Ayu broke apart on Unalaska Island three weeks ago have prompted the state to close the area to commercial fishing.
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Most affected will be Tanner crab fishermen from nearby Unalaska who were to begin work Jan. 15.
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They had hoped to catch a quota of 175,000 pounds - a pittance compared with the big-boat king and snow crab fisheries of the Bering Sea, but an important source of winter income to the small local fleet, said Forrest Bowers, of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
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The closure came as little surprise to most fishermen, Bowers said. Since the ship ran aground and broke up Dec. 8, he said, “I think many of them had it in mind that this could happen, and was probably likely.”
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Over the weekend, crab pots stuffed with absorbent material were dunked in Makushin Bay to see whether any of the ship’s 424,000 gallons of heavy bunker oil had sunk to the bottom. Six of 21 pots came up oiled.
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“The state has a zero tolerance policy on contamination of seafood,” Bowers said. A single oil-smudged crab could devastate the state’s reputation as a source of pristine seafood and cost Alaska fishermen millions of dollars in sales.
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Also Monday, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation declared the spill area a “threatened water body.” The agency cited oil on the water and beaches, and noted that additional spills could occur as salvage experts attempt to remove oil still on the ship this week.
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The fishing closure is not expected to compromise the big Bering Sea snow crab fishery, which also begins Jan. 15. That fleet should harvest 20 million pounds this year. The boats fish far to the north, Bowers said, and will not even pass through the oil spill area on their way into Unalaska to deliver.
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The closure announced Monday will keep all fishing boats out of Makushin and Skan bays until further notice. The area is rich in bottomfish and cod, but is most popular with crabbers, Bowers said. It is one of just two areas that Unalaska boats can fish for bairdi Tanner crab, though it had been closed for a decade due to low stocks.

Not a Cheerful day

Long time Bird TLC Education Bird, Cheerful the chickadee past away Sunday. It's estimated age was 10 years old. Cheerful was unreleaseable due to a feather disorder. Cheerful was seen all over Alaska during numerous presentations.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Irresponsible people

I took journalism in high school several decades ago. If I remember one thing about my teacher (who's name I've forgotten), is that he pounded into us to check and make sure our sources are accurate. Ask Dan Rather, he'll agree to that.
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In today's Anchorage Daily News in the Outdoors Section there's an article by Craig Medred titled "
'Rescuers' torture birds, delude themselves'. If you don't believe me, there's the link for the complete article. It's too big for me to put the whole thing on this blog, but I did address a few parts. I could spend the whole day picking this thing apart.
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It starts off " Somewhere in America today, a child is going hungry while well-meaning people go to great lengths trying to save oiled Alaska birds destined to die shortly anyway." Why? Because rescuing these birds makes some people feel better about themselves. Because rescuing these birds makes them think they're doing something to benefit the environment."
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He starts off somewhat correct. I'm sure there are children in America hungry today. I believe everyone does their part to help correct that. I put my change in the red buckets this holiday season going in and out of the stores. I know that will help some.
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"These people are well meaning and do go to great lengths." These people are dedicated professionals. They're not a couple of back wood hicks with a bucket and a scrub brush. They are not just trying to save birds, they do. If you want proof Craig, I'll show you two that are still around that were caught up in a small, not well known disaster with a ship called Exxon Valdez. And there are plenty others still around from that mistake we didn't learn from.
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I feel better about myself for being a volunteer at Bird TLC. I know the people at the International Bird Rescue Research Center should feel better about themselves as well. We are making a difference with the environment that mankind is doing a fine job of screwing up.
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Sure, some birds are not surviving. They are dying from the toxic waste, or being put to sleep to end their suffering because too much damage had been done before IBRRC was able to get to them.
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Birds are being released back to the wild. No, not where they were picked up from so they can roll around in some more toxic garbage that still hasn't been cleaned up. They are being released where hopefully they can survive.
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Yes IBRRC did rush to the site from their offices in California. Wait Craig, did you forget they have an office in Anchorage? An Alaskan woman is in charge of that office and rescue center. Do you know her name or where the center (or torture center) is? These people deserve a pat on the back and not the BS in your article. They are spending their holidays helping out our state, our environment.
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People in your position have a responsibility to tell the truth. Even though your article is an editorial showing your opinion, your information is incorrect. That incorrect information can mislead others. If you need someone to beat on, go after the owners of the Selendang Ayu for all of their mistakes. Go after the people in charge of the spill clean up for their slow and ineffective effort so far. Go after the feds for not having salvage equipment any closer than Amsterdam. Go after the people that aren't making a difference, not the ones that are.
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As a last note, I feel much better after writing this. I put your article at the bottom of my birds cage.

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The following was taken from the bottom of the article;
Daily News Outdoor editor Craig Medred can be reached at cmedred@adn.com.

A break in the weather on Firday

Clean-up crews took advantage of a break in the weather to restart oil recovery on Unalaska Island, the site of the grounded freighter Selendang Ayu.
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The storm that blasted through the Aleutians left the wreckage in much worse shape and may have caused tens of thousands of gallons of bunker fuel to be released from damaged tanks.
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New pictures of the grounded freighter show the bow section is almost completely submerged. When the Selendang Ayu broke apart, officials estimated the bow section held 176,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel.
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Now, little hope remains of retrieving any of that.
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Salvage equipment from the other side of the globe passed through Anchorage last night. A Japan Airlines flight hauled the equipment from Amsterdam, Holland for Smit Maritime Contractors. The flight required special permission from the U.S. Department of Transportation. “Had we not been able to get the rights from the Department of Transportation, probably this equipment would have had to been trucked out of Amsterdam to another location, flown into another airport in the United States and then brought up to Anchorage and then taken out,” said Morton Plumb Jr. (right), the director of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. A Lynden Air Cargo flight hauled the equipment to Dutch Harbor today.
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“The smallest amount of oil can get a bird very cold because it affects their insulation,” said Jay Holcomb of the International Bird Rescue and Research Center.
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The International Bird Rescue and Research Center in Anchorage continues to treat oiled birds. It released four yesterday in Whittier. Caretakers perform blood tests on the birds to check their health, along with feeding them antibiotics. So far they’ve seen auklets, murres, gulls and ducks, but they expect to treat others.
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“The bad thing about this is it tends to often be toxic for the birds, so in their attempt to get the oil off of their feathers, they preen it and they do that with their mouths. And if they swallow any of it, they can become anemic,” Holcomb said (below).
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Crews began cleaning oil beaches today after the storm passed. Water skimming is scheduled to begin next week, and crews must also being the complicated task of removing oil from the ship's stern section by helicopter. That’s expected to begin by the first of the year. Crews are hopeful they can remove more than 120,000 gallons of fuel that they believe still remain in the rear section of the wreckage.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Only 1/2 left

Savage winds and raging seas have nearly sunk the front half of the grounded freighter Selendang Ayu, dashing hopes that any oil still on board might be removed.
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Only the tip of the football field-long section was visible Thursday during a flight over the shipwreck. Two days earlier, before a major storm slammed the area with winds gusting to 75 mph and seas to 20 feet, the whole bow section was afloat. It was thought to contain as much as 176,000 gallons of thick brown bunker oil.
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But after viewing photos of the nearly sunken section, "I think we can make the assumption it lost its load," said Leslie Pearson of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
Salvage experts said it appeared that the forward tank still had oil, which they thought was helping keep the bow afloat. They had hoped to board the section, pump the remaining oil into portable tanks, then haul the tanks some 27 air miles back to Unalaska with heavy-lift helicopters.
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The rear portion of the 738-foot ship, which ran aground Dec. 8 on a remote shoal on Unalaska Island and then split in half, is no longer listing. But oil spill response commanders say that could be a sign the section is slowly crumbling.
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They still hope to remove any oil still in the ship's three aft tanks that originally held a total of 191,000 gallons of bunker and almost 20,000 gallons of lighter diesel oil. They are still waiting for equipment to arrive and weather to cooperate before they can begin.
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In the meantime, state officials hope to undertake tests this weekend to see whether oil has settled to the sea floor around the wreck and how it might affect a crab fishery scheduled to begin Jan. 15.
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But after hurricane-force winds raked the island earlier this week, the bow section appeared to slide off the shoal on which it was grounded, said Unalaska salvage expert Dan Magone, of Magone Marine Services.
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"Apparently it was right at the edge of a shoal and it sloughed off" during the storm, Magone said.
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A light sheen of oil was visible, and little new oil has been seen on nearby beaches, Pearson said. It's hard to say how or when the forward tank may have lost its load, she said. "It could've been releasing some oil from the get-go," she said. "Since we're not seeing much sheen on water, or even in new shoreline locations, it's probably been slowly releasing it over time. But nobody's been in the field (checking beaches) the last couple days, so it's hard to say. "Regardless when it spilled, Pearson said, "It's still there. It's got to be on the beach or somewhere."
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Even if the bow section slips completely beneath the surface, Pearson said the state will require the ship owners to remove the wreckage, or at least demonstrate why they can't. "They'll have to take a good, hard look at what approaches could be made to remove both sections," she said. "If we can put divers on a subsea pipeline in Cook Inlet to work on (oil) releases," the owners will be expected to consider some way to remove the underwater wreckage of the Selendang Ayu, she said.
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Oil removal from the aft section is expected to begin around Jan. 1. That still looks feasible, Pearson said. Tests this weekend should provide the first glimpse of how much oil has settled to the bottom of Skan Bay and nearby Makushin Bay. The state will drop crab pots with absorbent pads to see whether any of the heavy bunker oil has sunk.
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At the same time, crab pots will be baited as usual to see whether crab have ingested oil or been smeared by it.
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In other tests, a trawl net outfitted with absorbent pads will be towed through the water at different depths and a crab boat will put pads in its circulating water tanks to see if oil is suspended in the water.
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The Alaska Department of Fish and Game hopes to decide as soon as Monday whether to conduct the bairdi tanner crab fishery set to begin Jan. 15.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Remember before the spill ...


Remember back on December 7th, I posted x-rays of an eagle with a broken leg and what looked like scaffolding around his leg. Well here's an external picture taken today. Cindy and I went out to the flight center to check him out. He does have a slight case of bumble foot on his right foot which Cindy has been treating and it's making slow progress.
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On Tuesday he gets x-rayed again to see how it's healing. Keep your fingers crossed.

No good news

Just announced on the 6PM news was that the bow section of the freighter Selendang Ayu is under water and floundering. Experts were saying that it is very doubtful that the forward fuels cells will be able to stay in tact. Weather is still not cooperating.
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At the end of last week 294 birds were counted on a one mile stretch of beach and at least 196 of them were oiled. Considering this small section of beach in relation to the broad area impacted by the spill, concern is growing about how this is going to impact wildlife in the area.
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There are 125 Dutch Harbor volunteers trained to handle the birds once they are recovered.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Weather impedes clean-up process

Clean up of oil leaking from a grounded freighter was brought to a standstill today because of dangerous weather conditions.
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The U.S. Coast Guard says winds gusting up to 70 mph created high seas around Unalaska. That's where the freighter Selendang Ayu grounded and split in half nearly two weeks ago.
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According to the Coast Guard, clean-up crews were unable to reach beaches stained by oil, and efforts to string boom across creeks also came to a halt. The high winds and rough seas are expected to last at least through the middle of this week.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

Ugly pictures

I've posted pictures of the Selendang Ayu wreckage on the photo album (link in right column). These pictures are taken from the websites of the US Coast Guard, Anchorage Daliy News & KTUU Channel 2 in Anchorage.
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Sorry for all of the ads on the photo album. It's a free service from Bravenet. They have to pay the bill some how. We can't afford it.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Soybeans & heating oil, YUCK!

Ominous news from the Unalaska tonight. For the first time since a Malaysian freighter broke in half off the coast, there are signs it is deteriorating.
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Friday, in increasingly rough seas, brown foam was sighted around the ship. It's a sign that more oil is leaking from it, though no one knows how much.
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And now soybeans are floating through the water, accumulating on the bottom and piling up knee-deep on beaches near the shipwrecked freighter Selendang Ayu, which broke apart last week on Unalaska Island and began spilling its 66,000-ton load of soybeans.
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Biologists and cleanup experts are far more concerned about the thick, brown bunker oil that has fouled the area's crystal waters and black-rock beaches. But an Illinois soybean expert said things could get ugly when summer hits the Aleutians.
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"Enjoy it while you can" this winter, said Emerson Nafziger, a crop science professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Once it does get warm, it's going to smell to high heaven."
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Still, 66,000 tons is a big pile of soybeans, and spill responders aren't quite sure what effect the beans will have on a remote Aleutian island and its birds, marine mammals and shoreside creatures.
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"This is a new one for us, that's for sure," said Anne Morkill of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge, which includes the portion of Unalaska Island where the ship went aground.
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Soybeans, the quarter-inch-long yellow legumes brimming with oil and protein, are the most valuable export crop for the United States, and China is the country's biggest customer.
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The Selendang Ayu had packed its seven cargo holds full before it sailed from Tacoma on Nov. 28 for Xiamen, China. A full load for the Malaysian-flagged vessel would settle during transit to some 2.4 million cubic feet, according to the ship's managers, IMC Group.
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That's enough soybeans to lay a strip four inches deep and four feet wide from Anchorage to Fairbanks or to fill a caravan of 8,900 dump trucks. And when soybeans get wet and swell, the volume can double or triple.
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Still, the Illinois professor said, "Of all the things that could fall into the water, soybeans are one of the more innocuous."
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Never having thought about a soybean spill before, Nafziger couldn't offer suggestions on what the beans may do. In fresh water, they sink, he said. "I'm not sure about saltwater."
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In Skan Bay, where the freighter lies in two pieces, soybeans poured out of the broken hold and apparently sank. As water leaked into the remaining holds, white foam, apparently a by-product of the swelling beans, trailed away from the ship and its holds. When spill responders finally got to the shore nearest the wreck, they found soybeans piled 3 feet deep along a 100-yard stretch of beach.
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Actually, they found soybean mush, said Dan Magone, the Dutch Harbor salvage expert whose crews waded through it. "It was knee deep," he said, but no longer beanlike. "It's already expanded and puffed out," like oatmeal.
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Magone, who has been anxious to start cleaning up the wreckage and whatever oil it contains, said he isn't concerned about the soybean scum line around Skan Bay. "It'll degrade in a hurry," he said.
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Others suggest that, as organic material, the soybeans won't harm the environment. Biologists are hoping that's true but want to analyze some of the material before they call it harmless, said Morkill, deputy manager of the refuge.
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"I think there are just a lot of questions about whether this is a good or a bad thing," she said. Among their questions is whether soybeans may absorb or attract oil and transport it farther than the oil would normally travel. Soybean experts have said that's unlikely because the beans release a substance that makes it almost impossible for oil to stick.
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The same experts have told spill responders that even if soybeans survive the oil, the saltwater and the winter, they're not likely to sprout. And if they did, they wouldn't survive the summer.
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Perhaps a better question is whether other plants may sprout in the wake of the spill. Soybean experts told the spill responders that 2 percent of a soybean ship's cargo is wheat, weeds and other seeds, a total of more than 1,300 tons.
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Biologists also wonder how animals will react if they eat the beans or the resulting mush. So far, glaucous-winged gulls seem more interested in it than other birds, Morkill said. Many seabirds are carnivores, subsisting largely on small fish.
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But the bird population in the spill area will soon grow, as other species return for the summer, including threatened Steller's eiders and emperor geese. "It's something we'll just have to keep our eye out for," she said.
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Soybeans are known as a superb feed for livestock and fish, but that's after processing. The raw beans are just the opposite, according to Nafziger, containing what he called an "antinutritional factor." The protein is hard to digest, he said. If shorebirds ate the beans, "I don't think it would prove toxic, but it may not really advance their cause much."
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There is some concern that the beans could end up in a thick layer on the ocean floor, said NOAA's Whitney. No one knows what effect the beans may have on crab or bottom fish or how long it would take for the material to decompose, or whether currents would wash the area clear.
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Fuel has spilled onto shore and into marshland officials said. A shoreline cleanup that began Thursday near Skan Bay had to be halted on Friday because of inclement weather, Hile said.
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Before the cleanup was stopped, 35 large bags of oily waste had been collected, officials said. A small amount compared what will be needed if all 424,000 gallons spill.
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Eleven birds covered with oil have been found alive so far, and another six were dead, conservation officials said. One dead sea otter has been found.
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The rising seas and winter storms are affecting the vessel, the soybeans and the fuel still inside. Further disintegration of the ship is possible if the sea continues to pound it, Hile said. "Storms clearly represent the greatest threat to the integrity of the vessel," Hile said.
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Snow storms are forecast for the area in the next two days, with wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour expected and seas up to 14 feet, according to National Weather Service spokesman Dave Vonderheide.
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By Sunday, the wind is expected to shift and come from the east, and the island's peaks could shelter the area, Vonderheide said.
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Meanwhile Friday, U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens said he hopes the federal government will push to require ships traveling through the Aleutians to have survival suits for all crew members. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that the Selendang Ayu had only three survival suits on board, the minimum required, and Coast Guard rescuers said they saw no evidence of any.

Friday, December 17, 2004

More birds being treated by the IBRRC

There are more birds affected by the fuel spill in Unalaska that have been found. They’re now in Anchorage being treated at the International Bird Rescue Research Center.
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On Friday, a horned grebe, pelagic cormorant and two common murres are being tube fed. The solution is pedialite, a fluid used with infants and designed to replace electrolytes.
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Wildlife officials say the birds can easily become dehydrated if they’ve ingested oil, which can cause ulcers. However, they say they’re taking steps when they first capture the birds to lessen the danger to the animal.
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“We're giving them now medication when they get them in the field and that will help heal the ulcers, or at least coat the ulcer so they don't hemorrhage out and they don’t lose fluids that way,” said Mark Russell of the IBRRC.
Once the birds stabilize, they’ll be washed and placed back in the wild in about two weeks.
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As for the two birds brought in earlier, the common murre did not make it. However, the long-tailed duck is now washed and in good shape. The center was expecting another four or five birds Friday, and there are reports from Unalaska that 11 birds are being treated in the field and more have been spotted that are in need of assistance.
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Officials say the fuel spill has killed at least one sea otter and four birds.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Bird Out er ah Bug Out er ah Get Out

Well the word came down today from the IBRRC. Get all injured birds to another location. That's not bad. Good thing business is slow.
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Barbara Callahan is the IBRRC head person in Alaska. She's very good at her job, travels the world doing it. She's very organized but also very fair. Did I leave out she's also nice.
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So far they've only recovered a few oiled birds from the Unalaska area. They are being sent to Anchorage now for cleaning and recovery. We have to make do until the situation is settled. Fair trade off for what we get in return.
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Everything right now is hurry up and wait. Until mother nature starts to cooperate, that's all most can due.
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Cindy Palmatier is getting good training for her job. Thrown right into the fire. She can't say she's bored.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A dozen oiled birds found so far

Fewer than a dozen oiled birds and animals have been spotted during the flyovers, but more will be found as observers start walking the beaches, said Barbara Callahan of the International Bird Rescue Research Center.
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"You would not see those birds" from the air, she said. "They're cold, they're not buoyant, they can't fly. So they go hide."
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After a spill in the Pribilof Islands several years ago, oiled birds walked 200 yards to hide in the grass, Callahan said. On Unalaska Island, they'll likely be in caves and cracks in the rocks.
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The first wildlife observers were to start walking beaches around Skan Bay on Monday, if they could land safely. A second ship was headed to the area to become a work station for the wildlife crews.
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A local salvage expert had the only boats at the spill site until Monday. They placed oil-stopping boom material across the mouths of several salmon streams but could not skim free-floating oil from the water, according to Gary Folley, the state's on-scene coordinator from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.
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None of the oiled beaches has been cleaned, and the prospects for additional work are poor. A storm was expected to hit the spill area Monday night, bringing 40-knot winds and 18-foot seas.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Freighter oozing more oil

Salvage experts finally reached the grounded and broken up freighter Selendang Ayu during a long-awaited break in weather Sunday and found the ship is in worse shape than they had hoped for.
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Both halves of the wreck have settled; their bottoms appear to be collapsing. A second large fuel tank was breached and thought to be leaking viscous bunker oil, adding to a spreading spill. A load of soybeans is drifting away.
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At least one of the ship's main fuel tanks split open, releasing more than 140,000 gallons of heavy oil known as "bunker C." Goopy and brown, it has coated beaches in Skan Bay. Still on board could be as much as 300,000 gallons more.
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Since the grounding, winds have rarely dropped below 25 mph and have gusted to 60 mph or more. Exposed to the Bering Sea, the ship has been pounded by waves as high as 35 feet.
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But in Sunday's relative calm, a Coast Guard helicopter lowered three salvage experts onto the aft section of the broken hull. The two halves were parallel as recently as Saturday. By Sunday, the broken end of the bow section had swung toward the stern half.
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The inspectors were lowered by a basket to the ship's bridge. They reported the vessel rolled slightly as waves slammed it, and photographs show it has settled several feet, even as it rests on the rocky bottom. The hull is likely collapsing under its own weight and the rocking motion.
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The engine room was flooded, suggesting it was breached. Air surged in and out of a major fuel tank vent, suggesting that water had infiltrated it. One of the two remaining tanks appeared intact, but the other could not be checked.
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The inspectors found soybeans drifting out of at least one cargo hold. A second was wet, while a third looked dry.
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They couldn't get on the bow half, but it also looks lower in the water.
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New estimates suggest less oil was on board than was previously thought. Officials now believe the ship carried 424,000 gallons of bunker oil and 18,000 gallons of diesel.
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The inspections will help determine how to proceed with the wreckage and oil removal.
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Overflights spotted more oil in Skan and Makushin bays. An Unalaska-based vessel with cleanup equipment purchased after the last major grounding also took advantage of the weather. The Redeemer set out more protective booms around salmon streams and estuaries and was expected to skim some free-floating oil in Makushin Bay.
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A second ship with skimming capability and carrying spill workers and biologists was expected to reach the site today.

Go to www.adn.com for pictures.
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Go to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service - Alaska - External Affairs for updates.
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Go to the State of Alaska's Prevention and Emergency Response Program website.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Salvage crew reaches stricken ship

The weather cleared up some today and the Coast Guard was able to get a salvage crew to the Selendang Ayu. There are some conflicting reports on the amount of heating oil spilled. They range from 40,000 gallons to 140,000 gallons. Some of the oil may have already balled up and sunk. The distances of the oil sheen also varies.
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The spill is near a wildlife refuge, home to sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, tanner crabs and halibut. Environmental officials are concerned that resident bald eagles may scavenge on any oiled birds that could wash ashore.
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More to come as I get it.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Broken cargo ship creates major oil spill

Friday, December 11, 2004 - Now in two pieces, the Malaysian freighter Selendang Ayu is threatening massive environmental damage on the north shore of Unalaska Island. Marine mammals, waterfowl and salmon hatcheries around Skan Bay are at risk from the oil. It could be the largest ecological disaster since the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
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This disaster could test out Bird TLC's evacuation plan. Bird TLC is a tenant of the International Bird Rescue and Research Center. Our agreement with them is that if there is ever an emergency requiring bird rescue from oil spills in Alaska, we would be required to evacuate the premises within 24 hours. Our volunteers would also assist them in whatever way possible. Right now we don't know the extent of the damage caused by the Selendang Ayu disaster. We also haven't been requested by IBRRC to evacuate. Here's hoping that the test is not required and if it is, it won't be for long.
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Fortunately rehab business at Bird TLC has been slow. There are only a small amount of injured birds at the center plus the few resident birds. Temporary placement at volunteers homes and our flight center is presently being discussed. We'll keep you updated as things occur.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Scaffolding?


No, it's not scaffolding. It's the X-Ray after the operation on the eagle from Seward. It was kind of an intense operation. Inside the leg bone Dr. Palmatier inserted a plastic peg to fit both pieces together. What you see here is everything to hold the bones in place until they heal. We'll X-Ray again in four weeks to make sure it's healing as it's suppose to.
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This is a most handsome bird. His appetite has been real good during it's stay at Bird TLC.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Bohemian visitors??


The Bohemian Waxwing is an irregular winter visitor from the far North. It comes primarily to states and provinces along the United States/Canada border, a bit farther southward in the West.
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We've been getting alot of these at Bird TLC. These 2 are window hits. Both have minor wing injuries. They flunked their first flight test to see if they are ready for release. We'll test them again in about a week.