Divers have begun work at possible Argo site

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Divers began work Tuesday on what’s believed to be the wreck of the Argo, a barge that sank in Lake Erie in 1937 while carrying a large cargo of oil.

High winds forced the divers to stay out of the lake Wednesday, and bad weather is expected Thursday, but it’s hoped the divers can resume work Friday, said Lt. Ryan Junod, a spokesman for the U.S. Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Unit in Toledo.

“Until the weather improves, continuing to dive on the vessel is not safe,” Junod said.

Keeping track of the weather at the site of the wreck won’t be a problem.

“We have a weather buoy out there to give us a live update,” Junod said. “That was provided by NOAA.”

That stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The wreck is about 12 miles northeast of Sandusky and about eight miles east of Kelleys Island, about two miles south of the border that separates the Canadian side of Lake Erie from the American side.

Junod said divers have not found a possible leak yet, but did a general assessment around the site, including taking measurements of the wreck, which lies on a lake bottom that’s about 50 feet beneath the surface.

The measurements show that the size of the wreck is consistent with the Argo, but it has still not been positively identified, Junod said. The Coast Guard wants to find the Argo’s name on the hull or find an identifying number.

Still, evidence continues to grow that it’s the Argo.

“We are leaning in that direction,” Junod said.

The Coast Guard boat at the scene was joined by T and T Salvage’s diving operation. And the Sandusky Fire Department also brought over its boat, manned by paramedics, as a safety measure, Junod said.

The Coast Guard strike team at the scene used “sniffing” equipment to try to detect fumes from a possible oil leak, but did not detect anything.

Water samples were taken at the scene for testing.

A Coast Guard helicopter flying over the area found a patch of silver-colored water, about 75 yards wide, 4.5 miles northwest of the sinking site. Officials at NOAA and Environment Canada determined that it could have come from the Argo.

After obtaining permission from Canada’s Coast Guard, a U.S. Coast Guard ship entered the area and ran a search to find the patch of colored water but did not find it, Junod said.

A NOAA aircraft based in Ann Arbor, Mich., has been flying over the scene taking photographs for analysis. Nothing from a possible leak has been detected so far.

Water samples and marine growth samples have been taken at the scene and sent off to NOAA for analysis.

Meanwhile, Ohio Sea Grant prepared and posted a Frequently Asked Questions document on the Argo on the agency’s website.

“Exactly what is leaking is unknown at this point, but the Argo was believed to have been carrying 4,762 barrels (over 200,000 gallons) – half benzol (a coal-tar product containing benzene and toluene) and half crude oil,” the FAQ says.

It notes that the Coast Guard has told boats to stay away from the site.

 

 

 

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