Monday, August 30, 2010

Any Old Oil - Scientists check Tanker Sunk in WWII off the California Coast

Sunken WWII tanker may be ecological threat

San Francisco -- A tanker ship torpedoed by a Japanese submarine during World War II near California's central coast may still represent a danger to the environment. The 440-foot Montebello has been lying under 900 feet of water, four miles from the coast of Cambria, since Dec. 23, 1941 -- 16 days after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Nearly 70 years later, scientists with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute are trying to determine if the 3.5 million gallons of crude oil in its hold are still there, and whether the sludge can threaten the coastline.

The SS Montebello was sunk on December 23 1941, fresh after the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Submarine I-21.

After sinking the Montebello, the I-21 then kicked off a Pacific war submarine tradition by machine-gunning the crew in their life boats.

Luckily, their aim sucked and none of the sailors were killed.

The I-21 after sinking multiple other ships, disappeared in November 1943 while on patrol and is thought to have been sunk by the aircraft of the US Escort Carrier Chenango off the Gilbert Islands.

The amount of oil in the tanker represents a couple days worth of the spill in the gulf, but it would be interesting to know if the scientists have found the oil and 'll get any reports of its condition and that of the tanker itself after all this time. Most likely the oil has broken down considerably and probably isn't worth trying to retrieve and with any luck won't present a real threat to the California coast.

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