Sunken Montebello Mission Begins - NBC Bay Area

Sunken Montebello Mission Begins

Under water probe takes first images of vessel that sank two weeks after the United States entered WWII.



    Sunken Montebello Mission Begins
    U.S. Coast Guard
    The U.S. Coast Guard released this video of the sunken ship off the Monterey coast.

    It's not treasure, but trouble that has officials sending video vessels to the ocean floor this week off the California coast. The issue is whether a ship that sunk in 1941 could cause a catastrophic oil spill.

    The ship, SS Montebello, was torpedoed and sunk by a Japanese submarine in 1941. It has sat 6.5 miles off the Cambria Coast ever since. It is very close to the southern edge of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

    It's been called a ticking environmental disaster because it was carrying up to 3 million gallons of crude oil when it went down. There have been other expeditions between the 1996 and 2010 and all have found the hull intact, but experts said the threat of it leaking at some point is real.

    "This sampling and observation operation will provide the answers needed to truly assess what threat, if any, the Montebello poses,” said Capt. Chris Graff from California Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, who will be serving as the State On-Scene Coordinator.

    The Coast Guard contracted Global Diving and Salvage Inc who sent a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) down to the ship this week to check it out.

    Initial results of the probe showed no reasons not to continue the project full steam ahead. The next step is to send more ROVs into the deep to map out just where all those cargo holds are on the ship.

    The ROV is being sent down this week because this two week window is the best opportunity when it comes to weather, according to Fish and Game.

    The Montebello was sunk on Dec. 23, 1941, just two weeks after the United States entered World War II.