Comments about technological history, system fractures, and human resilience from James R. Chiles, the author of Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology (HarperBusiness 2001; paperback 2002) and The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks, the Story of the Helicopter (Random House, 2007, paperback 2008)

Monday, January 9, 2012

After the Storm: Rena's Breakup

As predicted by salvage experts, the weekend storm broke the containership Rena in two, leaving the bow section on the reef:
Two days on, the bottom had fallen out of one section, along with the containers, leaving this strange skeleton of hatchway openings and hull:
To recap: On October 5 Rena crashed full speed onto Astrolabe Reef 14 miles outside the harbor at Tauranga, NZ. Remarkably, it held together for months, even though half the 47,000-ton ship was free to rise and fall with the waves, putting enormous stress on the midships section between the floating part and the grounded part. A crack in the hull developed early, and widened:
The numbers at the point of breakup:
  • Containers lifted off by salvors and taken to shore: 389
  • Containers that fell off before the storm: about 100
  • Containers still on board at the time of the breakup: about 900
  • Oil pumped out by salvage crews: 1,000 tons
  • Oil still on board last weekend: about 400 tons, some of which is now headed out to sea:
There's no report out yet on why the ship went full speed onto rocks that are well known to mariners.

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