Wreck of the Zalinski
The USAT Brigadier General M. G. Zalinski was a U.S. Army transport ship that served in both World War I and World War II. She was a steel ship 251 feet in length, 44 feet in width, and 26 feet in depth. She was originally built in 1919 as the Lake Frohna (Hull number 765) at the American Ship Building Company in Lorain, Ohio as a cargo vessel for the U.S. Shipping Board. From 1919 to 1924, she was owned by the U.S. Shipping Board.
In 1924, she was renamed Ace, and worked for the Ace Steamship Company from 1924 to 1930.
From 1930 to 1941, she changed hands again, and was owned by the Terminals & Transportation Corporation in Duluth. Finally, in 1941, she was renamed to become the Brigadier General M. G. Zalinski under the employ of the U.S. War Department.
Originally, her final deposition was recorded as torpedoed off the west coast of British Columbia, at a position of 50° 20’ N, 131° 32’ W, on June 26, 1944.
At the time of her sinking, she was transporting the following cargo:
If it hadn't been for the bunker oil she was carrying, the Zalinski's true story may well have remained forgotten. However, in 2003, she started burping up fuel from holes now corroded in her hull. Survivors from the sinking were found, and the real story was finally revealed.
The Zalinski, en route from Seattle to Whittier, Alaska, with a cargo of army supplies crashed into the rocks of Pitt Island in Grenville Channel, 55 miles south of Prince Rupert. Her bottom was torn out and she sank within 20 minutes. The ship's 48 survivors were rescued by the tug Sally N and the passenger steamer SS Catala, but the cargo of bombs and oil went down with the ship. Staggering in the heavy seas under the load of the 48 survivors plus her own crew, the Sally N made her way to the nearby Canadian Fishing Company cannery at Butedale. The wreck of the Zalinski now lies 1.35 nautical miles southwest of James Point on Lowe Inlet in the Grenville Channel.
On September 20, 2003, the United States Coast Guard Cutter Maple was transiting Grenville Channel, BC and reported that they had seen an oil slick off Lowe Inlet. The incident was investigated by the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Tanu, and samples of the oil were obtained on September 23, 2003. It was reported that these samples were similar to crude oil in odor and consistency. Since there was no apparent source, clean up was not required.
In early October 2003, a commercial airline pilot reported that he had seen further pollution in the area that was “quite thick”. The Canadian Coast Guard responded, and sent personnel to the site, which was in a very remote area and not easily accessible. The presence of the slick was confirmed, and some 3 miles of shoreline had been impacted. Again, no source was found and the Coast Guard suspected that the oil could be surfacing from an old wreck.
Arrangements were made by the Canadian Coast Guard to have the area surveyed by a remote control underwater vehicle, and on October 30, 2003, an old wreck was located with oil escaping from cracks in the hull. At the same time, clean up crews were working to remedy the shoreline contamination.
By the middle of November 2003, divers had been sent down twice to plug areas of the wreck’s hull that were breached to stop the escape of oil.
Investigations by the Canadian Coast Guard indicated that the wreck was most likely the Brigadier General M.G. Zalinski.
As a result of the discovery of munitions at the wreck site, no further response operations can be conducted until an assessment of the munitions is completed and the wreck site is declared safe. The Canadian Coast Guard issued a warning in January 2004, ordering mariners to avoid anchoring or fishing within 200 metres of the wreck site, which is about 27 metres below the water's surface.
The Canadian government is currently developing a response plan to remove all the oil and munitions from the wreck, possibly by 2010. The U.S. government has also been contacted, requesting their potential involvement and participation with the response, a cargo manifest list to assist in assessing the risk posed by the munitions, and details on the size of the vessel and its fuel tanks.
As a test of our new sidescan sonar, Ocean Ecology decided to try to obtain some sidescan images of the Zalinski in August 2009. We spent two days at the site, and while somewhat disappointed (we were expecting to see hull superstructures and masts), we did manage to find the wreck and get a few images. Later, anecdotal reports from people who had talked to the divers and seen some of the ROV footage indicated that the ship was possibly lying bottom-up, and was heavily covered with sediment. This made us feel somewhat more positive about our results, as our images appear to show only the curve of the hull, with no apparent superstructures.
The position of the Zalinski is shown below.
Using Martin Johansen's HumViewer software, we can see the 2D/3D perspective of the Zalinski below. Note that she is lying, most likely upside down, on a ledge below a steep drop. There are tufts of bull kelp attached to one end of the wreck, and these extend to the surface. The combination of the steep terrain, which "shaded" the wreck from the sidescan beams, and the kelp, which made navigation with a towfish more difficult, produced poor conditions for achieving good sidescan imagery.
Further processing of the 2D and sidescan images brings out the details abit more.