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Salvage teams return to grounded Shell drilling rig

Richard Mauer
The tugboat AIVIQ sits at the dock at Pier 2 in the Kodiak harbor with a security guard manning the entrance to the dock on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
Members of a salvage team listen to an aircraft operations briefing prior to departing Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
A salvage team aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk wraps up lines from an emergency towing system delivered by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
A pin marks the site of the Kulluk grounding on a map displayed at a Unified Command press conference Monday evening Dec. 31, 2012 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel.
Erik Hill
The tug Aiviq travels at just under 2 mph with the mobile drilling unit Kulluk in tow 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The Aiviq is tandem towing the Kulluk with the tug Nanuq in 29 mph winds and 20-foot seas limiting their maximum speed, so they can safely control the tow.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Usher
The tugboat Nanuq comes into Kodiak Harbor at Pier 2 in Kodiak on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
Cmdr. Mark Vislay, an Mh-60 Jayhawk pilot and the Air Station operations officer, gives an aviation operations brief to the salvage team prior to departing Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
U.S. Coast Guard Commander Shane Montoya addresses questions at a Unified Command press conference following the grounding of the Kulluk drilling rig Monday evening Dec. 31, 2012 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel.
Erik Hill
Crewmembers of the mobile drilling unit Kulluk arrive safely at Air Station Kodiak after being airlifted by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from the vessel 80 miles southwest of Kodiak, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2012. A total of 18 crewmembers of the mobile drilling unit were airlifted to safety after they suffered issues and setbacks with the tug and tow. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.
Jonathan Klingenberg.
The harbor tugboat Brian T stands by as the tugboat Nanuq ties up at the Kodiak Harbor at Pier 2 in Kodiak on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN /Anchorage Daily News In a driving rain tugboat Alert crewmember Mike Mueller, from Homer, feeds a fresh water line to a worker on the deck of the Alert at pier 2 in the Kodiak boat harbor on Wednesday, January 2, 2013. The Alert just docked in Kodiak after being part of the attempt to tow the Shell drill rig Kulluk to safety. Mueller said, "We really hated to let her go. We hung onto it as long as we could. We had 1800 feet of tow wire and a Prince William Sound Tow Package." 130102
Bob Hallinen
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Francis Schiano, a marine science technician at Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, works with Svetlana Kiriako, a Shell employee, as they review information about response vessel locations and assignments at the Unified Command response center in Anchorage, Alaska, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Coast Guard members from across the state and the country are coordinating response efforts with members of the State of Alaska, local communities and industry representatives to ensure a safe response to the grounded conical drilling unit Kulluk off shore of Sitkalidak Island more than 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City.
Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley
A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-65 Jayhawk helicopter crew delivers personnel to the conical drilling unit Kulluk, southeast of Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Response crews have been fighting severe weather in the Gulf of Alaska while working with the Kulluk and its tow vessel Aiviq.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts a basket hoist of parts to the tug Aiviq crew 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Coast Guard conducted the deivery of parts to the tug so they could make repairs and regain full power as they tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
A semi drives down the highway with load of line on its way to be delivered to the tugboat AIVIQ at the dock at Pier 2 in the Kodiak harbor on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN /Anchorage Daily News Tanner crap pots are loaded onto the deck of skipper/wwner Brad Blondin's fishing vessel My Beauty in the Kodiak boat harbor on Wednesday, January 2, 2013. Blondin is getting ready for a tanner crab opening east of Kodiak Island on January 15th. Blondin said, “That is about where we crab fish”, referring to the grounding of the Shell drill rig. “If it were to start leaking diesel I hope it won’t stop us from crab fishing.” 130102
Bob Hallinen
Responders from federal, state, local, tribal and industry work together at the Unified Command center in Anchorage, Alaska, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Response crews in Anchorage are coordinating efforts with crews deployed in Kodiak and offshore of Sitkalidak Island during the ongoing response to the grounding of the conical drilling unit Kulluk.
Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley
The tow vessel Aiviq (left) and the tug Alert tow the conical drilling unit Kulluk through rough seas southeast of Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Response crews have been fighting severe weather in the Gulf of Alaska while working with the Kulluk and its tow vessel Aiviq.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan
The tug Nanuq and the tug Aiviq (not pictured) tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk in 15 to 20-foot seas 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The tug Aiviq lost the initial tow Thursday and suffered several engine failures prompting the deployment of response assets by the Coast Guard and Royal Dutch Shell. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
The tugboat AIVIQ sits at the dock at Pier 2 in the Kodiak harbor as a seine boat passes by on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
A salvage team aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk moves an emergency towing system delivered the Kulluk by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
Incident responders work together across maps and satellite images at the Unified Command center in Anchorage, Alaska, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Several hundred response experts have gathered together in Anchorage to coordinate response efforts and ensure the safety of operations during the ongoing response to the grounded conical drilling unit Kulluk off shore of Sitkalidak Island more than 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City.
Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley
The Coast Guard Cutter SPAR takes water over the bow while underway in the vicinity of the mobile drilling unit Kulluk in 23 mph winds and 4-foot seas more than 40 miles south of Kodiak City, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The SPAR, a 225-foot buoy tender homeport in Kodiak, was on stand by to assist the tugs and the Kulluk for the past several days.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicolas Santos
The tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk while a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Kodiak delivers parts to the tug Aiviq crew so they can make engine repairs while underway 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The tug lost the initial tow Thursday and suffered several engine failures prompting the deployment of response assets by the Coast Guard and Royal Dutch Shell. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
A US Coast Guard helicopter sits on the tarmac at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Salvage crews are working to remove the Kulluk from the beach. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Four technicians return to Air Station Kodiak after visiting the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 52 miles south of Kodiak Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew hoisted the technicians from the Kulluk in 63 mph winds and 20 to 30-foot seas.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak delivers mechanical parts to the tug Aiviq crew while underway 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Aiviq suffered several engine failures while towing the mobile drilling unit Kulluk and required parts to conduct repairs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
The tugboat Nanuq backs in to the dock as the tugboat AIVIQ sits at the dock at Pier 2 in the Kodiak harbor on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
The unified command for the Kulluk response receives a mission overview from the pilots of an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, prior to an overflight of the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander, 17th Coast Guard District and D17 Incident Management Team commander, observes the conical drilling unit Kulluk from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a second overflight Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island Monday night.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew returns to Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, with four technicians from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 52 miles south of Kodiak Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The technicians were hoisted to the Kulluk to assess the vessel and the gear aboard.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts hoists of the first six of 18 crewmen from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Coast Guard was prompted to rescue the crew of the Kulluk after there were problems with the tow Thursday and the weather conditions began to deteriorate. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
The tugboat AIVIQ sits at the dock at Pier 2 in the Kodiak harbor as a seine boat passes by on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
The salvage team returns to Air Station Kodiak from work aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, Seventeenth Coast Guard District Commander, Capt. Paul Mehler, Federal On Scene Coordinator for the Kulluk Tow Incident and Sean Churchfield, Shell Incident Commander talk with Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator for the State of Alaska, about current operations and incident command functions at the Kulluk Tow Incident Command Post at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel Tuesday Jan. 1, 2013 in Anchorage.
Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Schofield
Cmdr. John Hollingsworth, engineering officer Air Station Kodiak, discusses handheld radio operatins with salvage technicians at the air station in Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. An air station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew safely delivered the four technicians to the Kulluk 46 miles south of Kodiak City.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts hoists of the first six of 18 crewmen from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Coast Guard was prompted to rescue the crew of the Kulluk after there were porblems with the tow Friday and the weather conditions began to deteriorate. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
Three life rafts (two pictured) sit on the beach adjacent to the conical drilling unit Kulluk, 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012. The Kulluk grounded after many efforts by tug vessel crews and Coast Guard crews to move the vessel to safe harbor during a winter storm during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska to Everett, Wash. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter
The salvage team returns to Air Station Kodiak from work aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew discusses upcoming hoist operations at the air station in Kodiak, Alaska, prior to departure Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The aircrew safely delivered four slavage technicians to the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 46 miles south of Kodiak City.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts hoists of the first six of 18 crewmen from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The tug Aiviq suffered problems towing the Kulluk Thursday prompting the Coast Guard to deploy cutters and aircraft to while Royal Dutch Shell dispatched additiona tugs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
A life raft belonging to the conical drilling unit Kulluk, sits on the beach adjacent to the barge 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012. The Kulluk grounded after many efforts by tug vessel crews and Coast Guard crews to move the vessel to safe harbor during a winter storm. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter
The unified command for the Kulluk response returns to Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, from an overflight of the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Wallace, an aviation maintenance technician and flight mechanic at Air Station Kodiak, gives four salvage technicians a safety brief in a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter at the air station in Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The salvage team was safely delivered to the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 46 miles south of Kodiak City by a Jayhawk aircrew.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts hoists of the second of 18 crewmen from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk in 15 to 20-foot seas 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Coast Guard was prompted to rescue the crew of the Kulluk after there were porblems with the tow Thursday and the weather conditions began to deteriorate. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits grounded 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012. The Kulluk grounded after many efforts by tug vessel crews and Coast Guard crews to move the vessel to safe harbor during a winter storm. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter
The unified command for the Kulluk response prepares to depart aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, prior to an overflight of the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg
Members of a DonJon-SMIT salvage team prepare their gear at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The salvage team conducted an aerial survey of the conical drilling unit Kulluk 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, from a Coast Guard helicopter.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Four members of a salvage team get geared up at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, to be delivered by Coast Guard helicopter to the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 46 miles south of Kodiak City, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The salvage team was safely delivered to the Kulluk to conduct assessments of the vessel and the gear aboard.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts the 13th hoist of 18 crewmen from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The tug Aiviq suffered problems towing the Kulluk Thursday prompting the Coast Guard to deploy cutters and aircraft to while Royal Dutch Shell dispatched additiona tugs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
Members of a salvage team prepare to depart Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The unified command for the Kulluk response receives a mission breifing from the pilots of an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, prior to an overflight of the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Paul Mehler III speaks at a Unified Command press conference Tuesday afternoon Jan. 1, 2013 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel.
Erik Hill
Salvage technicians board an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter at Air Station Kodiak in Kodiak, Alaska, for delivery to the mobile drilling unit Kulluk Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The four technicians were safely hoisted to the Kulluk 46 miles south of Kodiak in 23 mph winds and 4-foot seas.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk while a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Kodiak hoists the 14 membr of the Kulluk's 18 member crew 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The tug lost the initial tow Thursday and suffered several engine failures prompting the deployment of response assets by the Coast Guard and Royal Dutch Shell. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
Members of a salvage team prepare to depart Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The emergency towing system hangs on a pendant below an Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for delivery to the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
Waves crash over the mobile offshore drilling unit Kulluk where it sits aground on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska, Jan. 1, 2013. A Unified Command, consisting of the Coast Guard, federal, state, local and tribal partners and industry representatives was established in response to the grounding.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg
An emergency towing system, rigged for delivery by Coast Guard helicopter, sits on deck at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The ETS is availble for use by response crews and can be delivered by helicopter or vessel to a vessel of opportunity or a tug to provide towing equipment in an emergency. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Members of a salvage team prepare to depart Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The unified command returns to Kodiak aboard an Air Station Kodiak MH-65 Dolphin helicopter following an overflight of the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
From left Tommy Travis of Noble Drilling Corporation, Sean Churchfield of Shell Alaska, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Paul Mehler III and Steve Russell of the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation answer a few questions at a Unified Command press conference Tuesday afternoon Jan. 1, 2013 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel.
Erik Hill
The mobile drilling unit Kulluk is towed by the tugs Aiviq and Nanuq in 29 mph winds and 20-foot seas 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The 18 crewmembers of the Kulluk were successfully hoisted from the vessel Saturday by Coast Guard helicopter crews from Air Station Kodiak.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Usher
Members of a salvage team prepare to depart Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Salvage crews are working to remove the Kulluk from the beach. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
Sean Churchfield of Shell Alaska speaks at a Unified Command press conference Tuesday afternoon Jan. 1, 2013 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel. Behind him is a map of Kodiak Island, with a blue pin marking the site of the Kulluk grounding.
Erik Hill
A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Kodiak overflies the tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tandem towing the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The tug Alert from Prince William Sound and the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley from Kodiak are en route to assist.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Usher
The tugboat Nanuq comes into Kodiak Harbor at Pier 2 in Kodiak on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
A member of a salvage team prepares to depart Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Salvage crews are working to remove the Kulluk from the beach. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
Sean Churchfield of Shell Alaska, left, speaks as U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Paul Mehler III listens at a Unified Command press conference Tuesday afternoon Jan. 1, 2013 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel.
Erik Hill
The tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tow tandem tow the mobile driling unit Kulluk 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The tugs are attempting to tow the Kulluk to a sheltered area but weather conditions, including 29 mph winds and 20-foot seas, have prevented them from taking the necessary northernly course.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Usher

12:30 p.m. Friday update:

With the ongoing letup in stormy weather in the Gulf of Alaska continuing Friday, salvage crews have once again returned to the grounded drilling rig Kulluk as air operations appeared to be expanding.

For the first time, the industry-government Unified Command reported Friday morning that commercial helicopters are being used in the salvage and monitoring operation. Coast Guard helicopters will continue to deliver and pick up the salvage team inspecting the rig.

Officials said the salvage team consists of a dozen experts.

Salvage operations are being led by Smit Salvage, a Netherlands-based company with operations worldwide.

The Kulluk grounded Dec. 31 in the middle of a fierce Gulf of Alaska storm. Lacking propulsion of its own, it broke free from its tow on a monthlong voyage from Dutch Harbor to the Seattle area.

In a spot forecast for the area of the Kulluk, just off the southern coast of Sitkalidak Island near Kodiak Island, the U.S. Weather Service predicted rain showers for Friday with 10-foot seas subsiding to 6 feet by afternoon. Stronger winds and higher seas are expected for Friday night and Saturday, but  milder conditions are expected to return by Saturday night.

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12:15 p.m. Friday update:

 

-- From Lisa Demer in Kodiak

The Best Western Kodiak Inn is a hub for the huge command team trying to figure out how to salvage the Royal Dutch Shell oil drilling rig that's been stranded since Monday on a rocky shore just off pristine Sitkalidak Island, a hunting and fishing mecca for Old Harbor Alaska Natives just south of Kodiak Island.

Guards with Purcell Security, owned by Nana Development Corp. -- the Kotzebue-based Alaska Native regional corporation -- are stationed outside a meeting room that's been turned into a command post. They said no reporters were allowed inside and they wouldn't let a photographer snap a quick picture or allow a reporter to glance at the sign-in sheet. But anyone sitting in the hotel lobby could see people -- mainly men -- come and go all day, including a number who came for a 7 a.m. operational briefing in the Harbor Room.

The sign on the door said "Authorized Personnel Only." Many wore logo gear: U.S. Coast Guard, Shell, Noble Drilling Corp., the oil spill cleanup company Alaska Chadux Corp., Global Diving & Salvage, the giant Dutch salvage company Smit, Beacon Occupational Health and Safety Services. After the morning briefing, a Smit leader rounded up his waiting crew."OK boys, let's get out of here,"  he said.

Many of those in and out of the Kodiak Inn and the nearby Shelikof Lodge are at the ready, dressed in Xtratufs and Carhartts and hauling waterproof duffels and Rubbermaid tubs. They appeared to be preparing for several flights to the Kulluk and perhaps a trip on an Old Harbor salmon seiner.

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Thursday night story:

Seawater that is now in the hull of the grounded drilling vessel Kulluk has apparently come from open hatches, a Shell official said Thursday.

While the results of two days of inspections by salvage crews remain preliminary, Sean Churchfield, Shell's Alaska operations official, attributed the flooding below deck to open hatches and not to cracks or holes in the hull.

At a news conference Thursday, Churchfield also said that electrical generators on the Kulluk are wrecked, but declined to say how that would affect future salvage efforts. He and a Coast Guard official, Capt. Paul Mehler, the federal on-scene commander, also wouldn't estimate when an attempt would be made to move the Kulluk.

So far, there have been no signs of oil sheen or other evidence that any of the 155,000 gallons of diesel fuel and other refined petroleum liquids had escaped the Kulluk's tanks since it scraped aground off Sitkalidak Island Monday evening. The island is about 10 miles south of the Kodiak Island community of Old Harbor.

The Kulluk, a cone-shaped rig with a round deck, was built to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean and is part of Shell's exploration program for the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. Built without a propulsion system, it was being towed from Dutch Harbor to the Seattle area after the drilling season for refurbishment.

Churchfield said the Kulluk, aground in 30 to 40 feet of water, remained "upright and stable."

A team of five salvage experts landed on the Kulluk's deck Wednesday for a three-hour inspection. With the weather improving, six were landed Thursday and more were expected to be dropped. An emergency towing package was also placed on board.

The salvage teams discovered "some wave damage to the topsides of the vessel and that a number of water-tight hatches have been breached, causing water damage inside, and the team has secured some of the open hatches," Churchfield said.

Asked whether the hatches were left open by the 18 Kulluk crew members when they were evacuated by the Coast Guard Helicopter Thursday, Tommy Travis of Noble Drilling, Shell's contractor said he couldn't answer until an investigation is done.

Churchfield said Shell was staging oil-spill response equipment and supplies in Seward, Kodiak and Old Harbor in case the Kulluk fuel tanks ruptured.

In addition to sensitive wildlife habitat and salmon streams, the area where the Kulluk is grounded contains "extremely culturally sensitive" resources, said state on-scene coordinator Steve Russell of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. He explained later he was referring to Refuge Rock, the historical site of a massacre of hundreds of local villagers, including children, in 1784 by Russian traders.

Refuge Rock is within a mile from the grounded vessel but is probably not endangered by a potential fuel leak, Russell said. The most historically significant part of the site is above the high tide line, he said.

Mehler, the Coast Guard official, said that at his request, a high-level team is on its way to Alaska from the Coast Guard's Investigation Center of Expertise in New Orleans to conduct a "maritime casualty investigation" into what happened with the Kulluk.

 

Reach Richard Mauer at rmauer@adn.com or 257-4345.

 

 

Video of Coast Guard evacuation of Kulluk crew
Map of grounding area
The vessels involved
Timeline of Kulluk events
By RICHARD MAUER
rmauer@adn.com