New Carissa, North Spit

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New Carissa, North Spit

by | Mar 24, 2020

The New Carissa was a freighter 639 feet (195 m) in length that grounded on North Spit in 1999, causing an oil spill about 5 miles (8 km) northwest of Coos Bay and 4 miles (6.5 km) west of the community of North Bend, Oregon. The U.S. Navy set explosives on the ship to burn off the remaining fuel, but the explosion and fire caused the New Carissa to split in half. Eventually, the bow section was successfully towed out to sea and sunk. The stern section remained on the beach until 2008 when it was dismantled and removed.

New Carissa was a Panamanian-flagged dry bulk freighter optimized for transporting wood chips. The ship was owned by Green Atlas Shipping, a subsidiary of Nippon Yusen Kaisha. On 4 February 1999, New Carissa was bound for the Port of Coos Bay to pick up a load of wood chips. The ship’s crew was informed by the local bar pilots that weather conditions would prevent the ship from entering Coos Bay harbor until the next morning. The captain ordered the crew to drop anchor 1.7 nautical miles (3.1 km) off the coast in order to ride out the storm. The crew used a single anchor to secure the ship. According to a U.S. Coast Guard review of the incident, winds of 20–25 knots (37–46 kph),caused the ship to drag anchor. The crew failed to notice that the ship was moving and once movement was detected, the crew attempted to raise anchor and maneuver away from the shore. By the time the anchor was raised, they had been pushed too close and the ship ran aground on the beach 2.7 miles (4.5 km) north of the entrance to Coos Bay.

Rescuers were concerned about the 400,000 gallons (1,818,436 l) of fuel oil on board. Over 70,000 gallons (318,226 l) leaked onto local beaches and estuaries causing the death of over 3,000 shorebirds and threatening many marine-based businesses. Attempts made to pump off the fuel were not successful, so the decision was made to burn the New Carissa to get rid of what remained but the subsequent fire caused the hull to break in two. By late February a decision was made to tow the bow section out to sea and sink it. As the freighter was being towed on March 2, a storm broke the towline and the bow section drifted back to shore and landed at Waldport. On March 9 authorities were able to re-attach the towline and drag the bow 280 miles (452 km) out to sea. Two days later, 380 pounds (172 kg) of plastic explosives were detonated on board but the bow refused to sink. The U.S. Navy then shot 70 rounds of shells at the bow, which still refused to sink, so finally a torpedo directly hit the bow and sent it to the bottom. The State of Oregon eventually won a court battle to have the stern of the ship removed from the beach in 2008. Read more here and here. Explore more of North Spit here:

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