Federal transportation investigators set sail Monday to resume the search for the missing “black box” from the El Faro, the cargo ship that sank as it veered powerless into Hurricane Joaquin last year, killing all 33 crew members.
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An initial search in November located the ship’s hull sitting upright on the ocean floor about 15,000 feet deep but missing its two-story bridge. The bridge was later found about a mile away but searchers using an unmanned, remotely operated vehicle capable of withstanding harsh conditions on the ocean floor failed to find the data voyage recorder. Without the recorder, which contains both data and any conversations from the bridge, investigators may never know exactly what happened as the ship sailed into the fierce hurricane despite warnings from the National Hurricane Center.
This time, National Transportation Safety Board investigators will deploy the Sentry, a fully automated vehicle developed by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The vehicle, described by researchers as a “blood hound,” allows searchers to sniff out what they program it to find.
The 790-foot El Faro sank Oct. 1 during its weekly run from Jacksonville to Puerto Rico. In his last communication, the ship’s captain reported that the 40-year-old ship had lost power, was taking on water and listing at 15 degrees as it neared the storm, which had grown to a fierce Category 3.
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