Saturday 9th February 19:00
Some progress was made yesterday with the pollution control operation on the Celestial Dawn, lying aground on the rocks at the mouth of Dingle Harbour since Saturday last. A roadway was dug through the fields to the lighthouse and a crane was brought in to lower equipment onto the vessel. After securing her with ropes (not steel cables as we previously reported), the Dutch-based salvage team were able to get divers on board and to start pumping oil out of the tanks and into containers on land. However we gather that at this stage only a couple of tonnes has been extracted and there may be another 30 tonnes or more of diesel on board, as well as 200 litres of the much more polluting heavy lubricating oil. There are numerous difficulties with this operation, such as the constant ingress of seawater into the fuel compartments which means that the salvors have to allow the mixture to settle out at frequent intervals, so that they can be pumping diesel and not just water. There is also the danger of creating a vacuum in the tanks and causing them to collapse inwards.
When we visited the site this afternoon, no pumping was taking place. The wind was gusting force 6 to 8 with a heavy swell coming in from the bay. Luckily the wreck is sheltered from the main force of the swell as long as this comes in from the west, but even so with the high tide there was a lot of movement of the vessel despite the securing ropes, which were slack at this time. We presume that conditions were not suitable for continuing the oil extraction operation today and expect them to resume if the weather moderates tomorrow. The absorbent retaining booms had been trashed by the storm overnight and there was a lot of debris visible around the vessel and washing up at Sláidín beach, as well as a strong smell of diesel all around – worse than it has been for several days. We understand that the larger retaining booms are being kept on standby in Dingle in case of a major spillage.
On our way out to the beach we saw the dolphin leaping away as fit as ever, although we didn’t see him again in the course of the next hour or so. He seems to be fine anyway and was at least keeping away from the most polluted area.
Keith remembered to bring his camera today so we hope to post photos of the wreck and salvage operations over the weekend!