When Heath Bleau was out looking for things to photograph, a barge tilted to its side in Saltair caught his eye.
“I happened to look out and saw a boat that looked like it was listing to the side,” Bleau said to CHEK News. “I saw a bunch of vehicles parked off to the side and a clearing on the other, so I pulled over and I happened to have my camera setup and I started shooting.”
Initially Bleau thought the barge was capsizing but another onlooker who happened to be a retired crane operator on that exact ship explained otherwise.
And as it all happened, Bleau’s timing couldn’t have been better. The whole process of this barge releasing the logs takes around two hours, according to John Fowlis, vice president of fleet maintenance at Seaspan Marine.
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The barge Bleau caught on camera is Seaspan’s Hercules III and it’s one of two of these types of barges in operation.
“There’s only two self-loading, self-dumping barges in current operation, and at least four existing. They’re parked right out front here,” Fowlis told CHEK News.
The other self-loading, self-dumping barge is the Survivor. Fowlis says the Hercules III is the faster of the two. The Survivors takes around four hours to dump.
The process of dumping the logs is done by radio and no one is on board the barge while it takes place. Fowlis says this is both for safety and because the barge is built to do it.
“In the 60s and the 50s, they used to do this with barges that had no cranes and they’d send somebody on board to kind of open and close the valves,” Fowlis said. “But it pulls about one and a half G’s as it does this, so it’s not exactly unviolent and so for safety, we don’t let people ride the barge.”
While the load is being transported, there’s a crew of seven on board the tug. When it arrives where the load will be dumped the tug sends a signal to the barge to take on water in the ballasts to bring the barge lower in the water.
The barge is then pulled into position by a tug and a barrier is set for the barge to dump the load into to prevent it from spilling out.
“And then they begin the process of heeling the barge over, and to do that we transfer the water that’s in the center of ballast tank into the side-heeling ballast tanks,” Fowlis said. “Once the center ballast tank is empty we continue to flood the side ballast tanks until they’re full and the barge slowly bodily sinks and then starts to heel over.”
The barge then tilts between 25 to 29 degrees and then the logs drop off the barge into the water.
After the logs are dumped, the barge then starts the process of righting itself by pumping the water out until it is once again upright.
Fowlis says there are always people interested in watching this process happen. Bleau says while he thought people would be interested in watching the process, he didn’t anticipate that 50,000 people would watch it within the first 15 hours since it was uploaded to Facebook.
“That’s as viral as it gets for me,” Bleau said. “My nature photographs will occasionally get a couple of thousands of views but interactions like that are few and far between. I think that’s only happened maybe two other times.”