Maritime Heritage header graphic
Rediscover the shipwreck Pacbaroness header

Northeast of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary boundary lie the shipwreck remains of the bulk-carrier Pacbaroness that foundered after a collision with the car-carrier MV Atlantic Wing on September 21, 1987. The Pacbaroness sank in over 1,400 feet (426 meters) of water with a cargo of 21,000 metric tons of finely powdered copper concentrate. The vessel was also carrying 339,360 gallons of fuel oil and 10,015 gallons of lubricating oil. Initial investigations indicated that approximately 20,000 gallons of oil spilled from the wreckage, and that some copper concentrate escaped into the water from breached cargo holds.

Pacbaroness submerged
1988 submerged view of the stern section of the bulk carrier shipwreck PacBaroness. (Photo: Don Barthelmess, International Underwater Contractors, Inc.)

During Sanctuary Quest: West Coast Expedition 2002, a multidisciplinary team of scientists conducted reconnaissance dives to the shipwreck Pacbaroness utilizing the United States Navy's ROV MaxRover tethered to the Navy's research vessel M/V Independence. Mission coordinators from the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary were Research Coordinator Sarah Fangman and Cultural Resources Coordinator Robert Schwemmer working with a science team that included researchers from NOAA's HAZMAT division, National Marine Sanctuary Program Office, National Ocean Service Special Projects Office and University of California Santa Barbara - Marine Science Institute. The expedition was made possible through a cooperative partnership with the Naval Facilities Engineering Service Center at Port Hueneme, California.

Pacbaroness submerged
1988 submerged view of the stern section letters of the bulk carrier shipwreck PacBaroness. (Photo: Don Barthelmess, International Underwater Contractors, Inc.)

The goals of the expedition were to determine the present condition of the shipwreck and to collect sediment samples of the surrounding area for analysis. Although the shipwreck lies outside the sanctuary boundary and is not considered an historic resource, there is a concern that the toxic cargo and fuel oils could pose a threat to sanctuary marine resources. Videotape footage and still photographs from the July 9-11, 2002 expedition provided direct evidence that the Pacbaroness is in three fractured sections with the stern completely detached at the collision impact zone of the No. 5 cargo hold. A buildup of sediment has reached the starboard main deck level of the shipwreck, possibly encapsulating some of the spilled cargo. Sediment samples collected around the Pacbaroness and a nearby control site are being evaluated for potential impacts on macroinfauna and analyzed for copper and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Additional Resources and Links

Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Shipwreck Database

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