Famed Cruise Ship Finally Refloated in California

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More than a month after Aurora began to sink in Stockton, California, the retired cruise ship is finally back above water. 

The decommissioned vessel triggered a crisis response after she began to sink at her berth on May 22, 2024, which is located in a river called Little Potato Slough. 

While the 300-foot vessel only became partially submerged, the crux of the problem was that she was leaking substantial amounts of diesel fuel and oil into the waterway, as was indicated by the tell-tale sheen on the surface of the water. 

The United States Coast Guard quickly formed a Unified Command to address the situation, which also included The California Department of Fish and Wildlife: Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) and the City of Stockton Government. 

The coast guard also brought in a team of specialists from Global Diving and Salvage as contractors to better address the pollution quickly.

But after several weeks of intense clean up, the crisis has ended and the 1955-launched vessel has officially been refloated –  after an involved process of patching the hole that caused her to sink in the first place and slowly pumping out water. 

“Over the last several weeks, response contractors, Global Diving and Salvage and subcontractors, successfully refloated the vessel and removed an estimated 21,675 gallons of oily water, 3,193 gallons of hazardous waste, and five 25-yard bins of debris was removed from the vessel,” the OSPR wrote in an update on social media. 

Extensive surveys suggest that no recoverable oil remains onboard,” continued the post.

As of June 27, 2024, the Unified Command has been disbanded. That said, a containment boom, which was put in place to reduce the spread of oil, will remain for the foreseeable future out of an abundance of caution. 

Additionally, there has been no evidence of any negative impact to marine wildlife discovered throughout the response. 

What Will Happen To Aurora Next?

Now that Aurora is back above water, the historic vessel won’t just be on her own. The City of Stockton has hired contractors to maintain the pumps used to refloat the ship and will continue to monitor the vessel. 

Then it will be up to the mid-size ship’s current owner, who has not been identified, and local agencies to decide the fate of the ship.

Aurora was most recently owned by a former tech developer named Christopher Willson, who brought the ship on Craigslist in 2009. However, she changed hands shortly before the incident.

Sinking Aurora Ship
Sinking Aurora Ship (Photo Credit: California Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Typically, in these types of situations, the decommissioned vessels are either refurbished by a financier willing to make the hefty investment or are scrapped and recycled for parts. Regardless of the final plan, it seems like the next steps will be to remove Aurora from her current berth. 

“Relevant agencies are assessing options for potential removal of the vessel,” wrote the OSPR. 

Read Also: How Many Cruise Ships Have Sunk in History?

Hopefully, the old vessel’s historic legacy can be preserved in some way. Originally christened as Wappen Von Hamburg, Aurora was the first large-scale ship building project completed by the Blohm Voss Shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, after World War II.

After a successful career as a cruise ship, operating under the flag of several brands, she retired from cruising after over 20 years in service in 1977. 

Today, she is most known as the inspiration for the hit “Love Boat” TV show in the 1970s and for appearing in the James Bond Film “From Russia With Love” in 1963.

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