It has been more than two months since the Navy’s mine-countermeasures ship USS Guardian ran aground on a reef off the Philippine coast. Bad weather has led to repeated delays in trying to take the vessel apart and remove her from the environmentally-sensitive Tubbataha Reef.
But finally, on Tuesday, a privately-hired contractor salvage crew cut the 224-foot vessel’s bow from the rest of the wooden-hulled ship and put it on a barge.
The Philippines government has said it will investigate the damage done to the reef once the entire ship is removed. Local officials have said the vessel entered the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park without required permission before running aground Jan. 17 in the Sulu Sea in the southern Philippines. The reef is a Unesco World Heritage site that is home to hundreds of species of coral and other forms of Marine life. All 79 aboard got off safely.
The U.S. Navy continues to investigate the grounding. The crew has said it may have run aground because of an erroneous digital navigation chart.
The service has begun referring to the $277 million vessel as “the mine countermeasure ship Ex-Guardian” in its statements, which seems kind of cruel (the Navy decommissioned the vessel and struck it from its Naval Vessel Register last month).
While the ship may be the “Ex-Guardian,” its official Navy website remains very much alive — and very sad. “Sad to see her go like this,” one former crew member said on its Facebook page.