Salvors pause at homestretch of Golden Ray's engine section cut to replace worn chain

Larry Hobbs, The Brunswick News, Ga.
·2 min read

Apr. 21—Folks might have to wait another day or two for the much-anticipated separation of the engine section from the shipwrecked Golden Ray in the St. Simons Sound.

Although the 255-foot-tall VB 10,000 crane vessel and its crew have victory within sight atop the half-submerged shipwreck's exposed starboard side, the dense reinforced steel inside the engine section is still taking its toll on the tough cutting chain, said U.S. Coast Guardsman Michael Himes, spokesman for Unified Command.

By Monday night, the two ends of the chain appeared about 20 yards apart on the skyward facing starboard side hull, a straight gash through the exterior steel in the wakes of both chains.

As with all cuts on the Golden Ray, the chain started from the seabed beneath the sunken port side of the shipwreck. The twin-hulled VB 10,000 straddles the section, its system of pulleys, blocks and winches grinding the chain upward through steel exterior and interior decks by sheer force of tension.

With completion of the cut so close, salvors elected around dawn Tuesday to temporarily cease cutting on the engine section, known as Section 7. The day-long pause is a safety and precautionary measure during which salvors are installing new lengths of chain to replace chain lengths that have become worn from the wear and tear of grinding up through the shipwreck, Himes said.

For the salvors, this operation is not a race, Himes said. As with this decision to pause, safety is always the overriding factor.

"We're not in the business of having a chain break ever," Himes said. "When they see wear on a chain, they will stop and replace the chain. It doesn't matter if it's at the beginning of a cut, the middle of a cut or near the very end of a cut. It is all about safety."

The 656-foot-long Golden Ray capsized between St. Simons and Jekyll islands on Sept. 8, 2019, while heading out to sea with a cargo of 4,200 vehicles.

All totaled, salvors have been cutting on Section 7 for nearly 50 days.