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Gold Bond Conveyor

The Gold Bond Conveyor and its entire 33-person crew sank in "mountainous seas" on Sunday, March 14, 1993, off the cost of Nova Scotia in what was called the Super Storm of 1993.

Millions of Americans watched videotape of the ship rolling over and sliding beneath huge, frigid North Atlantic seas on CNN news broadcasts.

Investigators explored problems of structural failure and shifting cargo as they tried to identify the cause of the sinking, which took place about 65 miles southeast of Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia, parallel to the Maine coast. Many mariners are speculating as to why Captain Chan chose to sail that day even though at least three other ship captains elected to remain in Halifax Harbor over the weekend after hearing urgent notices to mariners and severe weather forecasts broadcast by radio.

The entire crew was of Chinese or Taiwanese origin, with many being residents of Hong Kong. Most of the crew must have died within minutes of the sinking. The ship was carrying 24,000 tons of gypsum.

Gold Bond Conveyor left Halifax on the day before the storm in clear, spring-like weather and was carrying 27,000 tons of gypsum ore, bound for Tampa. The Halifax pilot, who guided the ship out of harbor, reported that he had discussed the oncoming storm with the ship's captain, who was apparently well aware of the risks.

Less than 24 hours later, the captain discussed his ship's predicament with a Canadian Coast Guard pilot who was circling above the stricken vessel just hours before it sank. He said winds were 90 miles per hour and 100-foot waves were battering the ship. The captain indicated that the ship was taking sea water into some of its five cargo holds, and that he was attempting to counteract the increasing list to port by taking additional water into his starboard ballast tanks.

There was some confusion as to whether the ship was taking sea water through damaged hatches on deck or through some area of structural failure. The ship's master was unable to send crewmembers onto the deck to check for damage for fear they would be washed overboard.

The ship began to list more heavily to port, and would-be rescuers became concerned that sea water was mixing with gypsum in cargo spaces on the port side, thus dramatically increasing weight of cargo on that side and possibly causing additional shifting of cargo. "When gypsum mixes with water it turns into a solid substance like cement, and that can be very dangerous", said a marine surveyor, commenting on the sinking.

 

With its list to port steadily increasing, and waves sweeping directly across her decks, Gold Bond Conveyor finally rolled over and sank by the bow shortly after midnight on Sunday.

Canada's military dispatched a hulking, four-engine, Aurora turboprop patrol plane to keep watch over the Gold Bond Conveyor.

"I've been flying for five years, and it's the worst weather I've ever seen," the plane's pilot, Captain Al Wongkee, told the Toronto Star on March 16. Around midnight, Gold Bond's captain, Man Hoi Chan, radioed that the ship was listing 20 degrees; the Aurora began circling just 150 ft. above the water.

"He just got hit by a huge swell and he went down," said Wongkee, who watched through an infrared camera as the ship rolled. "You could hear him telling everybody to abandon ship, just after we'd flown over him. We'd gone out a couple of miles, turned around and come back over the top where the ship was, and everything was gone."

The ship had been created in 1975 using the bow and stern sections of the former Colon Brown, which had grounded and been heavily damaged in a storm. Rescuers speculated that the vessel may have experienced its final demise through structural failure in places where it had been pieced back together.

The Liberian-registered ship was owned by Skaarup Shipping Corp., of Greenwich, CT, and under long-term charter to National Gypsum Co., a U.S. company. The ship carried gypsum on a regular run between Halifax and Tampa.

Frank Parker of Skaarup Shipping, said that the captain had not been pressured in any way to leave port on the day before the storm.

Ironically, during the 1992 storm, which was portrayed in the book and movie, "The Perfect Storm," the Gold Bond Conveyor crew rescued the crew of another ship.