Expedition Looks For Crude In Sunken Oil Tanker

The oil tanker S.S. Montebello was sunk by a Japanese submarine during World War II off the coast of California. A recent expedition to the wreck found that oil believed to still be in the ship is not there. It's full of seawater. It's the Al Capone's vault of the sea, if you will.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, HOST:

And I'm Michele Norris. Last week, we told you about a potential ecological threat to the California coast: 3.1 million gallons of crude oil in a ship called the Montebello. It's a tanker that was torpedoed by a Japanese sub at the beginning of World War II. It sank off California.

As NPR's Ina Jaffe reported, an expedition set out to discover if the cargo of crude was still on board. And now, she has the results.

INA JAFFE, BYLINE: No oil. After multiple tests carried out by a remotely operated submersible, it seems there's mainly seawater in the tanks of the Montebello, says Andrew Hughan, a spokesman for California's Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

ANDREW HUGHAN: It turned out to be the best-case scenario for the people of Central California.

JAFFE: And the fish, seabirds, otters and other critters that live in and around the central coast's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Back in 1941, when the Japanese torpedo struck the Montebello, it apparently missed the oil tanks. The entire crew escaped in lifeboats, and they reported no explosion and no fire. But Hughan says the definitive test came last week when investigators drilled into the Montebello's hull and took samples.

HUGHAN: It turns out that there is very little oil on the Montebello, and it poses no environmental threat to the Pacific Ocean and the California coast.

JAFFE: What happened to the Montebello's cargo remains a mystery. One theory is that the oil washed out right after the attack as the ship sank 900 feet down to the ocean floor. In any case, the investigation of the Montebello will provide a blueprint for examining some of the hundreds of other wrecks around the U.S. coastline that might still contain oil. Ina Jaffe, NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.