Keyport civilians help out with Arctic Rose search

Brian Bunge said he enjoys his job most when his work with side-scan sonar technology can help solve the mystery of why a vessel sunk.In that sense, his recent trip to sea to locate the Arctic Rose, a sunken fishing boat, left him unsettled.When you can resolve some issues it's more interesting, but this left more unanswered questions - it wasn't satisfying in that regard, said Bunge, a electronics technician at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center at Keyport.Bunge was one of three civilian technicians from Keyport who ventured into the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska on a U.S. Coast Guard mission recently. Their task was to locate the downed Arctic Rose and determine whether the crew was fishing when the boat sank without warning on April 3.What they found while onboard the civilian research vessel Ocean Explorer was unusual.It was a bit of a surprise that the boat was totally intact, although it's not the first time we've found that, said Mike Farnam, an electronics technician at Keyport.Images from the Klein 5000 Side Scan Sonar showed the boat rests right-side-up on the bottom of the Bering Sea. It was clear the Arctic Rose crew was not fishing when it sank, said Bunge, who lives in Port Orchard.The Ocean Explorer had returned from conducting a study of commercial trawling gear on the ocean floor for the National Marine Fisheries Service they were asked by the U.S. Coast Guard to head out to sea again on July 15, Bunge said. The sunken boat's sister ship, the Alaskan Rose, and the U.S. Coast Guard had established rough location where the ship descended, and the explorer crew was to search a two nautical-mile area where an oil slick and debris were discovered, and where an emergency location beacon signal had been sent.These (signals) are set up so if a vessel sinks they will release and float to the surface, as do the life rafts, Farnam said.A toe fish - a small remote-operated vehicle which uses an acoustic tracking system - was deployed to search for the wreckage. Within an hour and 37 minutes, it was discovered. Two bodies also were located, but only one was recovered. The 19-member crew of the Ocean Explorer returned five days after they deployed, but the mystery of why the vessel sank has not been resolved. Recent news reports have suggested that an open door on the stern might have caused the demise of the boat and its 15-member crew in the worst U.S. commercial fishing disaster in 50 years.If they took a big wave over the stern, it would wash into the (lower level of the) boat and sink it, said Farnam, a Silverdale resident. But he stressed his crew did not see the open door, and he could not confirm it.

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