Coast Guard Sinks Ghost Ship

Ryou-Un Maru was a peaceful 164-foot fishing boat in Japan on April 10, 2011. She was old, obsolete, and was tied up waiting to go for the scrapyard and be cut up.

Or so was the plan.

Then on April 11th, the Fukushima earthquake hit and the resulting tsunami swept the ship out to sea. For the past 51 weeks the ship, without a crew, without any power, without any lights, drifted silent and dead across the emptiness of the Northern Pacific Ocean. It continued its trip for more than 4,000 miles, covering an average of 12-miles per day, some days more, some days less. The old girl needed some time alone to herself.

Ryou-Un Maru (USCG photo)
Lonely ghost ship of the Pacific

At the end of March 2012, the USCG and its Canadian counterpart began tracking the ghost ship more than 200 miles offshore of the coast of Alaska. To monitor its position a Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircrew from Air Station Kodiak located the ship and dropped a self locating data marker buoy alongside it. Over the past week it drifted about 25-nm per day until finally on April 5 it was some 170nm offshore of Sitka in the Gulf of Alaska. A 62-foot Canadian trawler tried to salvage her but didn’t have the brawn to tote the ship back to shore, finders keepers indeed.


The unmanned Japanese fishing vessel Ryou-un Maru dirfts northwest approximately 164 miles southwest of Baranof Island April 4, 2012. (USCG photo)

Early Coast Guard cutters in the time before the 1920s were often classified as ‘derelict destroyers’. For this mission, which consisted of sinking ghost ships and partially submerged wrecks, they were given small 6pdr cannon and lots of ammunition.

USCGC Anacapa, by flickr user gilfoto

Meet today’s modern derelict destroyer, the 110-foot Island class patrol boat USCGC Anacapa  homeported in Petersburg, Alaska. Assigned to Sector Juneau the Anacapa sank the wayward Ryou-Un Maru today with naval gunfire in deep water. Her weapon of choice, the Mk38 25mm cannon on her forward deck like a hood ornament (its under the blue cover)

Always Ready!


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