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Irene's Challenge

Pacific Ocean, 50 miles north of the Hawaiian Islands | 1977-Jan-17

Initial Notification: On January 17, 1977, the 640-foot tank vessel Irene's Challenge broke into two pieces approximately 200 miles south of Midway Island and 50 miles north of Lisianski Island, Hawaii. The deck plates of the vessel failed due to the stress incurred by several days of rough seas. Twenty-eight of the thirty-one crewmen were picked up by the Pacific Arrow. The three remaining crew members were not found. The Regional Response Team (RRT) and Science Advisory Group (SAG) agreed that the best option in dealing with the damaged vessel was to attempt to tow the two sections away from the Hawaiian islands, and sink them. The U.S. Coast Guard cutters Mallow and Jarvis were diverted to the scene for towing operations. The sections were approximately 70 miles apart when the two cutters arrived at the stern section. Since crew members were unable to board or tow the stern section due to rough seas, the Mallow continued on toward the bow section. The stern section of the tanker presumably sank at approximately 26 55 N and 172 30 W. By January 21, the bow section had only 25 feet of freeboard. Visual observations estimated the sinking bow section was settling at a rate of 20 inches per hour. The bow section sank of its own accord. The two cutters remained on-scene until January 22 to observe oil conditions. USCG district 14. Keyword: Sub-surface oil, sinking, Regional Response Team..

Incident Details
Products of concern:Light crude oil
Latitude (approximate): 26° 53.00′ North
Longitude (approximate): 173° 52.02′ West