The Sunderbans, India’s vast heritage mangrove forest in the Gangetic delta were saved from perhaps their unfriendliest visitor this week, courtesy a daring operating by an Indian Navy chopper crew with special forces, all of it captured dramatically on camera in the video above.
It all began on June 14 when the SSL Kolkata, a large merchant vessel, was abandoned by its 22-man crew following an onboard fire they had fighting to control for two days. Unmoored, the ship was adrift, the winds pushing her directly into the Sunderbans, a highly delicate ecosystem that accommodates some of the most fragile species of plants and animals in India, including the Bengal Tiger. We’ll let the Navy take it from here:
The Navy’s eastern commander, based in Visakhapatnam, had directed that the ship’s drift towards the Sunderbans delta had to be stopped at all costs to avoid an ecological disaster should the ship capsize on the sandbanks causing pollution from oil on board. Accordingly, a Sea King 42C helicopter and a Dornier aircraft were dispatched from Visakhapanam with a core team comprising divers, marine commandos (MARCOS), shipwrights and seamanship specialists to stage through the IAF airbase at Kalaikunda. Indian Navy anti-submarine corvette INS Kadmat, which had been on an exercise in the Bay of Bengal was also diverted directly to the site early this morning to intervene if necessary. Upon arrival near the ship, the Sea King 42C winched down one MARCOS officer onto the deck of SSL Kolkata. The MARCO officer ascertained the conditions in the forward part of the ship and later called in the helicopter to lower on board three crew members who could help with finding necessary systems. The team managed to drop the starboard anchor from the ship to prevent her from drifting any further. Thereafter the team prepared the seamanship gear for the ship to be towed if required. The live nature of the threat was evident from the explosion on board in the forenoon which re-started the fire.