BRUNSWICK, Ga. – The saga of the Golden Ray began on Sept. 8, 2019.
Since then we have seen problem after crisis after catastrophe for the doomed cargo ship dead in the water in St. Simons Sound.
It was 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning in Brunswick when the cargo ship rolled onto its starboard side and the end of the line for the two-year-old 656-foot vessel designed to transport autos. There were more than 4,000 vehicles on the ship at the time.
The Golden Ray would never sail again and the port was closed to all commercial traffic.
Sept. 9, 2019
Of the 24 people aboard, Coast Guard and Glynn County Firefighters rescued twenty but four crew members were trapped inside.
After hours in darkness, the South Korean sailors came out through a hole drilled through the steel-plated hull in a miraculous moment.
.@USCG and rescue crews have extracted the final #GoldenRay crew member safely. All crew members are accounted for. Operations will now shift fully to environmental protection, removing the vessel and resuming commerce. #HappeningNow #BreakingNews #Breaking pic.twitter.com/YgEM6Eb2qO— USCGSoutheast (@USCGSoutheast) September 9, 2019
Sept. 12, 2019
The disaster led to worries about environmental contamination and constant water quality sampling.
Oct. 20, 2019
Six weeks later, Tropical Storm Nestor moved through the area putting a halt on salvage operations.
Then the Coast Guard saw smoke coming from the ship indicating a fire somewhere inside. They poured water on the ship once again to put out the fire.
Jan. 19, 2020
In January 2020, on a Sunday once again, more problems.
Welding was going on inside when a piece of metal fell and at least one more car on the ship caught fire.
Although 320,000 gallons of fuel had been removed about 50,000 more gallons remained.
The rudder and propeller had been removed as well.
Aug. 11, 2020
By mid-summer of last year, the plan to cut and lift the ship was scheduled for Oct 1.
Removal operations had to stop when Hurricane Isaias blew through.
The original goal was to have the ship out before the peak of hurricane season.
They meant 2020 but it may be 2021.
The pandemic also delayed things when 10 essential responders tested positive for COVID-19.
Sept. 8, 2020
By the one-year anniversary of the ship’s roll over the Golden Ray still laid in St. Simons Sound along the ledge of the shipping channel to the Port of Brunswick.
News4Jax was told cutting was supposed to start Oct. 1 and be done in eight weeks.
Oct. 7, 2020
Then on Oct. 7, 13 months after the disaster, an engineering problem caused another long delay.
One of the anchors for the crane that would slice the ship into eight pieces failed a strength test.
Nov. 6, 2020
Finally, cutting on the ship began in November, 423 days since the Golden Ray capsized.
Experts said it would be when, not if, some of the cars filled with batteries, antifreeze and gasoline ignited or leaked into the Sound.
They put up a one-mile environmental protection barrier to mitigate pollution.
Nov. 8, 2020
Cutting was temporarily delayed after a chain broke while crews were trying to dismantle the ship.
According to the St. Simons Sound Incident Unified Command, the VB-10000 heavy-lifting crane began cutting into the bow section of the ship, but just 25 hours into the operation, the cutting chain broke.
March 13, 2021
Four months later, both ends of the ship had been cut away and carried off by barges.
But the project still wasn’t finished though crews predicted in November the job could be done by New Year’s Day.
Each of the 8 pieces was supposed to take one day.
May 14, 2021
Then today, a Facebook live feed set up to capture the dismantling of the ship captured another fire with flames and thick black smoke pouring out in the early afternoon.
It’s ironic, in this 19-months-long process, commanders at the wreck site insisted on removing the ship in large chunks because it was supposed to be faster.
Last year the command fired the original salvage contractor for wanting to dismantle the ship in smaller pieces.