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29 Oct, 2012 08:35

Golden mystery: Ship carrying precious ore vanishes in Sea of Okhotsk

Cargo carrier Amurskoe disappeared in the Sea of Okhotsk while carrying 700 tons of gold ore. Three ships, an amphibious aircraft and a helicopter are undertaking search and rescue operations to find the eight crewmembers of the lost vessel.

A sonar distress beacon was automatically activated near Feklistov Island in the Shantarsk Archipelago on Sunday, Russia’s Emergency Ministry reported.The tanker Novik was the first to arrive at the scene, but found no wreckage or survivors. The rescue operation was complicated by severe weather, and waves up to four meters high.A specially equipped Be-200 amphibious aircraft was dispatched from the city of Khabarovsk in Russia’s Far East region to join the operation, but the rescue plane found no trace of the Amurskoe. By nightfall, the aircraft was forced to return home. The severe weather prevented smaller planes from joining the rescue mission.The operation continued on Monday morning, with a Mi-8 helicopter and two trawler ships joining the search.The Amurskoe departed the village of Neran in Russia’s Far East Khabarovsk territory, and was headed toward the port of Okhotsk in the Sea of Okhotsk. After leaving the delta of the Kiran River, the vessel entered the Sea of Okhotsk and sent out a distress signal soon after.The Amurskoe was built in 1973 in the port of Nikolaevsk-na-Amure. Over the last year, it mainly operated in Russia’s Far East and around Sakhalin Island, and also reportedly made sporadic trips to China.The vessel was grounded on the bottom of an estuary of the Amur River last year, but was later rescued. Little hope remains that the Amurskoe's distress beacon was somehow washed overboard and activated, and that the ship is still traveling towards its destination.The Sea of Okhotsk is situated in the northwestern Pacific – between Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula and the Kuril Islands to the east, the large island of Sakhalin and the eastern coast of Siberia to the west and north, and the Japanese island of Hokkaido to the south.