A U.S. Navy salvage ship carrying deep-sea divers and equipment capable of lifting up to 300 tons arrived Wednesday morning to help search for the wreckage of Swiss-air Flight 111.
The USS Grapple, which helped with the undersea recovery of wreckage of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in 1996, steamed in at about 8 a.m. with 117 on board, including 30 divers."We are proud to be able to assist the Canadian government in their efforts," said the ship's Lt. Cmdr. Dave Davis. "This is a difficult time for all involved and the Canadian forces are doing a superb job of organizing and conducting this mission."
Before heading out, the ship was to be equipped with diving equipment and a remote-controlled submarine with a black-and-white video camera and two retrieval arms.
While searching, most of the divers will wear hard hats with attached hoses through which air will be pumped directly from the boat, allowing them to stay under water longer.
A separate Navy team from Florida arrived Tuesday, equipped with an experimental laser camera to cut through the undersea gloom. The laser camera was expected to provide investigators with images to map and locate objects as small as a seashell, said Gary Kekelis, who heads the sensing technologies division at the Navy's Coastal Systems Station in Panama City, Fla.
Kekelis said the equipment is designed for use in coastal waters where turbid seas and underwater noise can complicate searches with conventional sonar and photography.
The images will be taken from a 25-foot unmanned torpedo-shaped craft dragged deep below the surface by the Canadian coast guard boat Hudson. Surrounded by computer monitors and in small rooms aboard the boat, the Navy team will examine the data and report what they find to the searchers.
A Canadian navy spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Mike Considine, said the U.S. help is welcome.
"Let's face it, the U.S. Navy is probably the most capable in the world," he said.