In The Harbour: July 25th-31st

This week saw an assortment of ships come along. I've picked three that I thought were particularly cool to feature this week. Additionally, the featured picture is of a tug moving a platform across the harbour, which happened early this week. I know the tug was strapped to the side of the platform for ages before it went to work this month, but that's about all I know. If you have any more information about it, please let me know!

Now, for our first ship, we have...

Vizconde de Eza

  • Nationality: Spanish
  • Length: 52.7 metres
  • Beam: 13 metres
  • Speed: 6.2 knots
  • Year: 2000

This beauty of a vessel is a research ship built for the General Secretariat of the Sea in Spain. Her purpose is to analyze and assess the state of the seas, and identify any deep water fishing grounds that could be of interest to the Spanish Fleet.

She is equipped with a specialized positioning system that allows her to stay in one spot, regardless of wind, waves, or currents. She is also designed so that her own vibrations and vessel noise are virtually non-existent meaning they will not affect any on board readings of the area around her.

She has six on board science labs; chemistry, biology, physics, acoustics, computing, and a wet lab. Her reinforced hull also makes her an ideal vessel for doing research in areas with ice. Additionally, she can survey depths of up to 5000m with her on board technology, and her ROV can collect oceanographic data and images up to depths of 600m.

Basically, she's a floating science lab, and I think that is pretty awesome.


  • Nationality: Antigua and Barbuda
  • Length: 134 metres
  • Beam: 23 metres
  • Weight: 10,040 tonnes
  • Speed: 16.3 knots
  • Year: 2010

This ship has been in and out of the harbour a bit over the last month or so. As far as I can tell, she is a general cargo vessel who's cranes can also be used for structural assistance. She has three other sister vessels that are active on projects all over the world, but she is the only one assigned to our area. I'll be keeping an eye on her, for sure.

Palembang  at Pier 17 in St. John's.

Palembang at Pier 17 in St. John's.

And last but not least, we have...

USS Grapple

  • Nationality: American (Navy)
  • Length: 78 metres
  • Beam: 16 metres
  • Weight: 3370 tonnes
  • Speed: 15 knots
  • Year: 1984
  • Class: Safeguard-class salvage and towing
  • Complement: 7 officers, 92 enlisted, 4 military, 26 civilian

This ship I caught completely by luck when I went down to get some snaps of the Palembang. I spoke with a couple of members of the he crew who told me she was a salvage vessel, but it wasn't until I got home and did some digging I realized just how neat this vessel really is. She started out as a naval vessel, and has since been decommissioned to do commercial work as well, but we'll get to that in a minute.

First of all, let's look at her objectively. She's a rescue and salvage vessel that assists ships that are either property of these American government, or benefit the government in come way (think cargo, maintenance, etc). She can provide these ships with towing, salvaging, de-watering, diving, firefighting and heavy lifting capabilities. She has the means to debeach vessels, lift heavy objects from the ocean floor, tow vessels that are stranded and has a full workshop on board that can provide temporary hull patches to get a vessel refloated. She even has a power station to supply disabled vessels with both hydraulic and electric power.

So in this respect, she starts off being just plain epic.

Now, why is an American salvage vessel hanging out in St. John's harbour on a Thursday night? If you go to this article here, it turns out it's anything but a courtesy visit. They just finished up a project in Botwood, Newfoundland, where they were trying to recover the remains of unaccounted for Americans who were lost in the Second World War.

As it turns out, in 1945 there were two American airmen who went missing when their plane crashed around the Bay of Exploits. Almost 60 years later, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command had planned this mission to set out and try to not only locate the wreck, but recover any remains or effects that may still be on the ocean floor. It's obviously still to early to know if they were successful, but I'm going to keep checking back on this story! This comes just weeks after another American group announced they were going to be searching for the wreck of a sunken U-boat off the southern shore of Newfoundland.

For those of you who don't know me in real life, I work in a museum in Newfoundland, and am currently involved in a First World War project. Spending as much time as I have looking at the individual stories of these men who served, it makes me really happy to see projects like this being undertaken. If there wrecks are discovered, then the stories can be identified, and the men are remembered, rather than just becoming a faded footnote in history.

That's all for this week! I'm in La Belle Province of Quebec this weekend, so Monday will be a Quebec feature. I will also be taking a trip down to the Montreal waterfront, and bringing you a special "This Week in the Harbour" from Quebec. So keep an eye out for those, and in the mean time, have a great weekend everyone!