Photographer Scott Haefner fantasized for years about visiting the ‘Ghost Ships‘ of California’s Suisun Bay, a fleet of mothballed merchant ships waiting to be scrapped. But it wasn’t until recently that he and a few close friends built up the nerve to visit these abandoned wonders in person, evading round-the-clock security and ocean currents in the process. The photos he brought back of these magnificent decaying ships are just as amazing as the story of how he was able to take them to begin with.
The story of these amazing Ghost Ships starts with a government program called the Naval Defense Reserve Fleet. These mothballed merchant vessels were set aside by the government to be activated in case of emergency. At its peak in 1950, over 2,000 vessels were scattered around the coasts of the United States, included several hundred in Suisun Bay, about 30 miles north of San Francisco. Today, they sit abandoned, leaking toxic paint and heavy metals into the surrounding waters.
Working with several friends, Scott spent over two years secretly visiting the ships to meticulously photograph their interiors. Using a small inflatable raft, the crew would silently motor out the ships under cover of dark, running a test scouting mission before eventually spending whole weekends wandering and photographing the ships’ eerie rusting interiors. Even though the explorers were under constant threat of discovery (and likely arrest), they never got caught (other than one close call). You can read Scott’s full account of the experience and see more photos over at his website.
The US Army Corps of Engineers says old Navy munitions found under Seattle’s cruise ship terminal are not a major threat and cleanup is underway. Still, that the old shells and weapons were initially uncovered by cruise ship thrusters and that has experts talking.
“Wherever munitions have been handled in the past, they have rolled off the pier, they’ve been dropped out of cargo net. It’s perfectly normal, it’s expected. What is unexpected is that there is a cruise ship terminal built directly above where some of these munitions are.” Jim Barton, an expert in underwater munitions, told Seattle’s King5.com back in October.
Divers started spotting the munitions in April as part of routine security sweeps required by the Coast Guard. Apparently the bombs were dropped in the water between the 1930s and 1970 when the U.S. Navy used the the facility. Initially it was empty shell casings found by divers but later searches revealed live ammunition capable of being exploded under where cruise ships travel.
“These are munitions, designed to kill people. Barton said adding “They’re pretty safe to be around unless you disturb them”
When the munitions were first discovered, Seattle’s cruise ship season was still in operation. Records indicate that at least two times in September, live ammunition was brought to the surface with cruise ships nearby.
This week the Corps of Engineers announced that it is leading a $10 million cleanup project with the Port of Seattle, U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and Environmental Protection Agency. Check this initial report about it all below: