The story of a salvage team racing

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 17, 2008

The story of a salvage team racing to save the Cougar Ace, a 55,000 ton cargo ship packed with Mazda cars valued at $103 million that nearly flipped when the ballast tanks on either side of the ship got out of balance. If the team succeeds, they get ~10% of the cargo's value and If not, they don't get paid...either way, someone might die.

Reed and Habib crawl along the tilted deck, periodically consulting a drawing of the ship's internal compartments. They rap their knuckles on a piece of steel - this is the top of the low-side ballast tank. Trepte pulls out a drill and bores down. Suddenly, water erupts. The tank is already full and pressurized - water must be flowing in through a broken vent on the underwater side of the ship. It sprays furiously. They have unwittingly caused the worst thing possible: The deepest cargo hold is flooding.

In an instant, Trepte covers the hole with the tip of a finger and presses hard. The sound of gushing water abruptly stops, and the shouts and curses of the moment before echo through the hold. Salt water drips off Mazdas, and the panic the men all felt transforms into a contagious laugh.

Trepte is keeping the ship afloat with one finger.

The story includes links to video and journal entries from the salvage team.

Update: According to the author of the piece, the story is being adapted into a movie by Dreamworks. If this involves Bruce Willis and an asteroid, count me in. (thx, garrison & christopher)