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9 May 2012
RFA Darkdale survey
Team of 6 survey for potential environmental problem
Survey of RFA Darkdale at St Helena Island
Lifting the Remote Operated Vehicle back onboard the barge

Terri Clingham, SHBC

The RFA Darkdale Survey Team arrived on St Helena on Sunday 29th April.

They have been studying the wreck's oil leak and the potential impact as an environmental hazard  on marine life.  There are six in the team, from Ministry of Defence (MOD), Marine Salvage Units and the Environmental Science Consultancy.

The RFA (Royal Fleet Auxiliary) Darkdale sank in James Bay in the early hours of 22 October 1941 after four torpedoes from a German U-Boat blasted into her side; since that time oil has been seeping from her hull and as time goes on and the wreck deteriorates there is the potential of a more serious environmental incident waiting to occur.

The team will not be diving  to the wreck as St Helena does not have a decompression chamber and their diving regulations prevent them operating without one.  The depth to the bottom of the wreckage is 42 metres. Instead, they are using a remotely operated vehicle to examine the Darkdale and will interpret the information onto diagrams and a model of the bay will be made. The team have been operating from inside a container, on a barge, moored directly above the site of the Darkdale.

Once the team finds out how much oil is on the RFA Darkdale and if it is likely to pose a serious environmental problem, a plan will be proposed to remove all the oil from the wreck.

They will complete their survey and leave the island on Monday 14th May

A full report on the survey is published in this week's Sentinel newspaper, issue no. 7, out on 10 May. It includes interviews with the survey team and Saints who have dived the wreck and who remember the night the Darkdale sank.



St Helena Broadcasting (Guarantee) Corporation Ltd Radio News
The Sentinel newspaper from SHBC
SHBC St Helena