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Classic Colin Archer raised from deep

Jan 1, 2003

One hundred years of maritime history was raised to the surface of the sea about 15 miles south of Mandal, Norway, on May 2. Christiania, the wooden lifeboat designed by Colin Archer and owned by Carl Emil Petersen, had sunk only 19 months earlier in September 1997 (Correspondence, Issue No. 91, July/August 1998). His sons, Carl Emil, Jr., and Johan, both experienced sailors who grew up sailing Christiania and later crossed oceans in other vessels, were skippering her when she fell heavily off a wave and began taking in water. The leak became uncontrollable, and the crew abandoned Christiania. As crewmembers were airlifted from their liferaft they saw her sink. Since that time the Petersens have used boundless energy to recover her. First she was located using ROVs in November 1997. Then, with input from friends and experts, it was necessary to decide if she could be raised from such a depth, more than 1,600 feet. Knut von Trepka, skipper of Colin Archer, hull number one of the Colin Archer-designed rescue boats (redning skøyte, in Norwegian), used his deep-sea expertise to design a means to raise her sunken hull since she had settled deep into the soft muda sling made up of Kevlar straps that were run under Christiania's bow at the waterline and through the prop hole in the stern. The straps were then connected and tightened using shackles. Christiania is RS 10, or hull number 10 of the series. Stolt Comex Seaways, a Norwegian underwater engineering company, generously provided, for an at-cost price, expertise, technical equipment, ROVs and the deep-sea installation and maintenance vessel Seaway Kingfisher. Once a suitable weather window appeared, the raising operation began. It was a success; suction did not damage the vessel, and the masts rose, still stepped, to the surface. The rigging was draped in seaweed, and, although worms had attacked the decks and masts, the oak-planked and -framed hull appeared in fine shape. Christiania was towed alongside to Mandal and then shipped by freighter to a shipyard in Brevik for anticipated reconstruction. Colin Archer rescue boats were first built in the 1890s and accompanied fishing fleets on voyages. Under sail, the stout vessels often towed the smaller and less seaworthy fishing vessels to safety.