Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Loreley

The weather on Sunday at the Loreley matched the scene. The river is still running high and turbulent, the sky was leaden and misty, full of snow higher up, and the wind was biting cold - the kind that doesn't bother going round you.

As can be seen in these pictures, the sunken barge lies right at the foot of the Loreley Statue, it touched an outcrop of shingle bar, and veered out of control, rolling onto its side where it is now pinned by the force of the water. The three heavy cranes have now arrived and it is proposed to lift the wreck slowly and carefully over the next three weeks, currents and weather permitting. It appears that the tanks holding 2,400 tons of concentrated Sulphuric Acid are still intact and haven't leaked, so the object of the exercise is to recover the ship and cargo before they do.

There are still two men 'missing' following the accident, the river has not yet surrendered them, though they may be still trapped inside the hull. With the strength of the current it is hugely difficult and dangerous for divers to enter the wreck.

An idea of how powerful the currents are here can be seen in the first photograph where a tug is actually pulling a barge's bow around the turn. In the final picture the wake of this fully laden barge betrays the way the helmsman is having to work her head into the next bend and not be pushed into the rock embankment.

For those that don't know the legend, it was said that the Loreley, a beautiful, but malevolent, water spirit used to stand on the rocks beneath the headland and sing, distracting the sailors navigating the river and luring them to their doom on the rocks beneath the water here. The legend says that her 'charms' included a stunning figure which she used to full effect. Even the efforts in the 19th and 20th Centuries to make this rather dangerous set of bends safer for navigation haven't completely overcome the lady's legendary reputation.

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