Science, Tech & Environment

VIDEO: U.S. Coast Guard uses cannon to sink wayward Japanese ship off Alaskan coast

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A Ryon-Un Maru smokes after being barraged by cannon fire from a U.S. Coast Guard cutter on Thursday. It was sunk to prevent it from endangering other ships. (Photo from U.S. Coast Guard video via AP.)

The U.S. Coast Guard trained its guns on a Japanese fishing vessel, already destined for scrapping and set adrift by last year's tsunami.

The boat, the 164-foot Ryou-Un Maru, was sent to the bottom of the Gulf of Alaska by a combination of 25 mm and larger cannon fire, the Coast Guard announced Thursday.

According to the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper, the vessel was believed to be carrying more than 2,000 gallons of diesel fuel, though the fuel was expected to dissipate quickly after the vessel slipped some 6,000 feet to the ocean floor.

A Canadian fishing vessel very nearly derailed the operation when its captain asserted salvage rights to the abandoned ship. But, a short time later, according to the Associated Press, the captain gave up and moved off. 

The Coast Guard decided to sink the vessel rather than run the risk of the lightless ship colliding with another vessel in the busy Asian-North American shipping lanes, or of the vessel shipwrecking on Alaskan shores.

The boat did not have any cargo aboard, Coast Guard spokesman Paul Webb said to the AP.

This is the largest piece of tsunami debris to have made its way close to American and Canadian shores. Other debris, including ship buoys and perhaps even plastic bottles have been found along the North American coast.

RAW VIDEO: Coast Guard Sinks Ghost Ship
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