Speculation is mounting as to why the Asgard II, Ireland's only sailing training Brigantine, sank in French waters this morning and why a salvage pump could not have been used to prevent her loss. She was travelling in the shallow waters of the French Bay of Biscay with 5 crew and 20 trainee sailors who paid between 500€ for youngsters to 600€ to take part in the trip. This fare covered their passage, vitals & in line with statutory requirements full training for ship abandonment which proved useful when skipper Colm Newport ordered her evacuation.
She had been due for maintenance in France on September 21 after taking part in this week's commemorative boat show for the 1798 French landing in Mayo.
The vessel master Colm Newport sent his channel 16 may day - m'aidez in the small hours of the 11th of September after the alarm had been raised on board that the bilge was filling to rapidly for the crew to adequately cope. In a telephone interview with RTE he explained how Asgard II had become a floating hulk by the time all were safely off board. She sank completely within hours in an upright position and is now posing a navegational hazard.
Commandant Fergal Purcell, spokesman for the Irish Defence Forces, told media that French rescuers took everyone in lifeboats to the island of Belle-Ile-en-Mer, about 15 kilometres off the coast of Brittany. The Breton island of of Gerveur more commonly known by its French name Belle-Île-en-Mer, is where Claude Monet painted rocks & Alexandre Dumas set a portion of "The Man in the Iron Mask" & also killed off the character "Porthos" from "The Three Musketeers". It has proper sewage treatment facilities unlike most Irish towns who chose to put urban development money into the vanity projects of marina building rather than thinking about where the town poo goes when you flush it. A former captain of the Asgard, Frank Traynor has suggested that the Asgard II's flushing mechanism or sea cock (one of dozens of valves which permit sea water to enter ships to cool engines or flush toilets) might have been faulty.
But not all commentators are happy with the tough shit explanation. A collision with an under water object is still a possibility & the area in which she sank is the final resting place of the highest concentration of sunk WW2 u-boats as well as many merchant vessels who used to regularly founder in the Bay which is the second stormiest sea region of the Atlantic. The frequency of these occurences fueled nautical legends of many types ranging from the more fanciful Basque tales of sea serpents (the etymology of the bay of Biscay is Basque related) & monster sized waves. In 2005 Results from ESA's ERS satellites helped establish the widespread existence of what had previously been dismissed as nautical legends of such monster freak waves reaching as high as 30 metres which occur on the 100 fathom curve where the continental shelf drops under the Bay of Biscay but the whistle has still to be blown on the existence of sea serpents.
Whatever turns out to be the real reason for the sinking of the Asgard II - be it ironic dodgy toileting or msyterious Unidentified Floating Objects - the premier Irish pipe laying, marine sewage maintanence and boat salvaging company Tuskar Marine must feel disappointed that she sank just a few fathoms deeper their operational range. But the reader of indymedia Ireland need not wait for the wreck to be brought up - you can go on a virtual tour here http://www.asgard2.ie/