Sunday, August 1, 2010

Persian Gulf Monster

The big mystery out of the Persian Gulf region last week was the question of just what happened to the Japanese oil tanker the M. Star? The tanker was passing through the Strait of Hormuz, near the coast of Iran, when something happened that left an approximately 20-foot dent in the side of the massive ship. The M. Star immediately diverted to the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates, though no one on the ship was injured and the tanker was not reported to be leaking any oil. The initial report was that the damage had been caused by a “rogue wave” (a massive wave that runs counter to normal surface wave patterns), though these reports were quickly dismissed because there were no events – like a massive storm or earthquake – that would generate a rogue wave in the region at the time of the incident. The crew of the M. Star claimed to have seen a “bright flash” just before discovering the dent, raising the possibility that the tanker had been the target of a terrorist attack. But that idea has also been discounted, since experts say the dent in the side of the ship, a near perfect square, doesn’t match up with the expected blast pattern from an external explosive. Rather, the experts say, it looks like the M. Star was involved in a collision.

And here’s where I think things get interesting. The incident involving the M. Star is exactly the kind of thing you would expect the hawks out there advocating for military action against Iran, due to that country’s alleged nuclear weapons program, to jump on – raising the specter of an Iranian attack against the world’s oil supply, etc (as we’ve learned from the run-up to the Iraq War, the accuracy of such claims is a secondary concern to just getting the claims out there and ratcheting up the supposed need for action against a rogue regime). Yet the hawks have been silent on the M. Star, making me wonder if the tanker didn’t in fact run into another ship, specifically a ship that shouldn’t have been in the Strait of Hormuz in the first place – perhaps a US or Israeli navy ship on a covert mission? Ships from the navies of both nations are reported to be in the region, a fact in itself that has raised the fear of an impending Israeli or US/Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear sites. There would be a great desire to keep such an incident quiet, since covert operations work best when they’re actually covert. A second possibility being floated was that the tanker did strike another vessel – some damage assessments of the dent say it would be consistent with running into a wooden vessel, like the dhows or fishing trawlers common in the Gulf. The crew of the M. Star could be keeping the real story quiet to keep from implicating themselves in an at-sea collision (of course this raises the question of what happened to the other boat….).

It is all speculation at this point though, and it is worth noting here that a mysterious dent appearing in the side of a ship was also the way several of the Godzilla movies started… So until more evidence is found, or someone starts talking, what happened to the M. Star will remain a mystery for now.
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Shaun Randol said...

i also heard it could have been a leftover, unexploded mine. The square-shaped dent is interesting, making me think that a ship with a prow, which is usually pointed, could not cause a square dent.

Ed Hancox said...

That's why they are thinking it may have hit (or been hit) by a wooden ship, which wouldn't have such a sharp bow and would be more likely to dent, rather than cut into, the side of the tanker.