ABSTRACT

Access to the deep oceans is purely restricted by cost. There is the technology to reach the profoundest depths, but what has been missing to date is the economic working practice to open up this hidden "continent" for commerce and science, alike. In salvaging copper from the sunken cargo/container ship, "Francois Vieljeux", cost-effective recovery methods have been extended to a depth of 1250 metres (4200 feet). This has been achieved using an in-house designed system, operated in the face of severe onsite conditions and under the stringent financial discipline of "No Cure/No Pay".

INTRODUCTION

The oil industry has had such an effect on marine technology over the last quarter century, that to work outside its aegis or question the way it operates is unusual to say the least. The achievements of this sector have been immense, but up until relatively recently its operating costs have not been an important factor in its working practices. Cargo recovery has always been a contrast. Men were venturing down to depth of 120 metres (396 feet) as long ago as 1929 on a budgetary shoestring in order to repossess what the sea had taken away. Using innovative remote technology, Deep Water Recovery & Exploration Ltd follows in their tradition. The proof of its worth is the steady flow of copper wirebars and cathodes at one thirtieth of oil industry costs.

The "Francois Vieljeux"

The 11,000 ton French cargo/container ship, "Francois Vieljeux" foundered in a storm on 14 February 1979 off the Atlantic coast of Spain en route from Dares Salaam to Rotterdam and Hamburg. Her wreck lies at a depth of 1250 metres (4200 feet) approximately 35 nautical miles west of Vigo. The site is extremely exposed and continually affected by the proximity of Cape Finisterre 45 nautical miles to the NNE. This landfall is one of the most westerly in mainland Europe, being on the same latitude as Cape Clear in Eire. Its influence on weather and sea conditions is ever present, with both wind and current increasing in the vicinity as they pass round it. The prevailing winds are from the north and due to the vast expanse of ocean to the north-west, the sea conditions are without doubt some of the worst we have experienced. The swell, which is seldom absent, can build up fran being relatively calm to Sea State 6 in as little as two hours.

The surface current is not predictable in strength, but our observations find it most frequently flows to the south-west (we have no equipment on board for monitoring its strength). At times there is a subsea current on the wreck which flows predominantly to the north-west.

The sea bed area slopes steeply as the Continental Shelf descends into the Iberian Abyssal Plain, on what averages a 1 in 6 decline. The bottom consists of loose rock, sandy clay and cliffs, some as high as 200 metres (650 feet).

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