A CORNISH oceanographer has just returned from one of the more challenging jobs of his career – the uprighting of the stricken cruise liner Costa Concordia.
Gabriel Walton worked on the costliest shipwreck in history alongside Italian salvage engineers as they managed to roll the wreck off the rocks of Giglio Island using more than 50 winches, pulling 6,000 tonnes through chains and cables wrapped around the hull.
The wreck, twice the size of the Titanic and weighing 55,000 tonnes, had survived the 19-hour parbuckling operation without breaking apart.
Gabriel, from Pendeen and based at The Workbox, Penzance, where he works for ADUS DeepOcean, was tasked to assess the chances of the Costa Concordia being raised intact from the seabed in the £500 million salvage operation.
Mangled balconies on the starboard side of the ship had revealed to the world just how badly the still-submerged hull might be damaged.
Gabriel said: “We carried out high resolution multibeam and laser surveys of the starboard side of the ship which has been resting on the rocks for 18 months.
“We also co-co-ordinated a team of aerial drones videoing the parbuckling.
“The Italian authorities took control of the wreck as a new search commenced for the bodies of two of the 32 people who died in the disaster. We then gathered the information needed for a three-dimensional sonar visualisation of the port side.”
Gabriel and the team from ADUS DeepOcean worked 18 hours a day measuring the underwater damage.
Other projects in which Gabriel has been involved include the locating of the wreck of the Jessmore, a 3,900-ton steamer torpedoed by a German U-Boat in 1917, bound for Manchester with a cargo of 2,500 tons of American grain and 1,500 tons of copper.
A salvage operation recovered most of the copper ingots. Gabriel has also mapped wartime wrecks, Cairnhill and Laconia.
The liner Laconia was mapped to a high resolution to locate the mailroom which is suspected to contain 44 tonnes of silver.