Salvage Divers

Jobs in the Danger Zone

Arnold Witte and his marine salvage team dare to try and remove the New Carissa, an Oregon shipwreck run ashore in Coos Bay.

Coos Bay: a huge winter storm has run the New Carissa ashore. The massive cargo ship sits in the Pacific Ocean just off the coast of the United States. The Navy loads explosives into the ship to burn off its fuel supply before it pollutes the coast. The vessel splits in half, and the bow is towed out to sea and sunk with a torpedo. But the 56-metre stern remains stuck in the West Coast sand. Parallax Film Productions follows an ambitious marine salvage team as they attempt to refloat this Oregon shipwreck.

It’s one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. And for Salvage Masters Fred Devine and Arnold Witte – it’s also a high-stakes “no cure, no pay” gamble. They plan to patch a 27-meter gash in the stern section to make it watertight. After pumping out the seawater, they will re-float the stern and pull it to sea – disposing of it in 1000 metres of water. But this is deadly work. The ship is submerged in 15 metres of water and the stern is mired 11 metres deep in the sand – too deep to tackle from shore and too shallow to bring a heavy lift barge in.

This Discovery documentary follows divers as they work in next to zero visibility, wedging themselves into nooks and crannies with air hoses and try to remove more than 6 metres of sand that has washed into the New Carissa’s engine room. Over the course of two months the divers and engineers finally get a relatively tight patch in place. Head diver, Jesse Hutton: “It’s a nightmare of twisted metal, sharp corners and uneven plates, but with the pumps running we can get enough water out to re-float the stern.” Can they overcome these diving salvage odds?