Oct. 16—The towering VB 10,000 crane vessel began a slow lift Saturday morning of the last chunk of ship wreckage in the St. Simons Sound, raising this final section of the vessel Golden Ray to inspect for damage on its sunken port side, according to Unified Command.
This is the first glimpse salvage masters and engineers will get of the damage that was incurred when the 656-foot-long Golden Ray capsized more than two years ago. The damage assessment will give salvors an idea of how best to proceed from here with removing the final vestige of the half-submerged shipwreck from view on the water line between St. Simons and Jekyll islands.
The findings will be used to refit a steel-girded cradle on the deck of the dry dock barge that will eventually haul Section 4 to Mayor's Point Terminal on the East River in Brunswick. Section 4 is 80 feet long and weighs an estimated 4,090 metric tons.
Once the underside has been inspected, the VB 10,000 will lower Section to a partially submerged position while work begins to construct a cradle that is suitable for safely holding it on the deck.
"The goal is to lift the section high enough for the engineering team to survey the bottom and recommend any modifications to the dry-dock cradle as required to land the section safely," said U.S. Coast Guardsman Michael Himes, spokesman for Unified Command.
Securing the section by thick polymer straps to its system of winches, wire rigging and pulleys, the 255-foot-tall VB 10,000 began lifting Section 4 at 9:45 a.m. The slow and deliberate rise of the section into the arching rafters of the twin-hulled VB 10,000 was still in progress at noon Saturday.
This final shipwreck removal operation follows the pattern of its predecessor, Section 5. The 74-foot-long, 3,300-metric-ton Section 5 was removed from the sound last month, but not before salvors entirely refitted the receiving cradle on a dry-dock barge to accommodate heavy damage. The VB 10,000 powered a cutting chain through the last cut in the salvage operation on Sept. 4, creating Section 5 and Section 4. A week later, the crane vessel raised Section 5, which revealed that much of its port side hull plate was missing. After the deck cradle had been reinforced accordingly, a dry dock barge hauled Section 5 to the East River two weeks later.
Section 5 and Section 4 comprised the Golden Ray's midship, which incurred the brunt of damage when the vessel overturned into the sand bar on Sept. 8, 2019, while heading out to sea with a cargo of 4,161 vehicles.
Salvors expect to find similar damage on Section 4.
With a refitted cradle, a dry dock barge will soon slide between the twin hulls of the VB 10,000 and below Section 4. The section will be placed on the deck just it has it sat embedded into the sandbar — standing on its port side and stretching to more than 130 feet up.
T&T Salvage commenced in November the a plan to cut the shipwreck into eight humongous sections for removal from the St. Simons Sound.
Soon, a dry dock barge under tow by tugboats will haul away the last section.
The six previous sections of the shipwreck did not suffer damage that required the refitting of existing barge deck cradles, as has been the case with these last two pieces of the Golden Ray.