Battered Cole starts long journey home

Herald news services

ADEN, Yemen — Sailors aboard the USS Cole stood at attention as the national anthem played and the battered destroyer glided out of Aden port Sunday, towed by tugboats to a heavy-lift ship that will take it home to repair the gaping hole in its side.

At first light toMday, about 25 miles out, the Navy will begin the 36-hour task, itself risky and unprecedented, of raising the 8,600-ton ship onto the deck of the chartered Norwegian salvage ship Blue Marlin for the five-week, 6,000-mile voyage home.

The Blue Marlin will fill its ballast tanks, slowly submerging its deck, and maneuver under the Cole. Then it will empty the tanks, rising and lifting the Cole out of the water. The process is expected to take at least 24 hours, but the timing isn’t certain because the condition of the damaged ship will only be clear once it is lifted from the water.

For the sailors, the departure meant leaving behind the harbor where 17 shipmates were killed and 39 were injured on Oct. 12 in what officials believe was a suicide bombing attack.

"She left with some help from her friends, but she still left very proudly," Barbara Bodine, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, said of the Cole.

The destroyer’s journey began at 9:20 a.m. local time as the American flag was hoisted on a mast to a hearty cheer from the sailors. Two yellow tugboats steadily and slowly pulled the destroyer out to sea while two more pushed. Two U.S. patrol boats led the procession, and a helicopter made flying runs overhead.

As it inched out of port, the Cole began to blast the song "I wanna be a cowboy, baby" by Kid Rock.

The trip back to the United States was expected to take about five weeks.

As the Cole left the harbor, it passed a cluster of buildings where the two suspects in the bombing are believed to have lived as they planned the attack. Visible from shore was the 40-foot-by-40-foot blackened hole blasted into the ship’s left side. Officials believe the bombers, who have not yet been positively identified, maneuvered a small boat packed with explosives next to the Cole and then detonated it.

The departure of the Cole is a relief for ordinary Yemenis. There has been widespread anger at the United States here for what many Yemenis believe is U.S. bias toward Israel in its confrontations with the Palestinians. Also, tight security in the harbor had made it difficult for Yemeni fishermen to work in the weeks since the bombing.

"It was like a bogeyman keeping our fishermen away. Thank God it has gone. The sight of an American ship in our waters is not a beautiful sight," said one resident, Ibrahim Ahmed.

At another point along the coastal road, about 50 Yemeni men gathered, some wearing the traditional sarong-like Yemeni dress with daggers tucked into their waistbands. When the crippled destroyer appeared, a few men pointed at it and laughed. Women draped in chadors watching from windows and balconies shouted that the sight made them happy.

"We were not comfortable with Americans on our territory. They should have gone. This is an Arab country. They have no business here," Mujahed Awad said.

Bodine said the crisis support personnel that came to Yemen after the attack are beginning to leave. But, she said, the probe has not ended, the U.S. Embassy will maintain a presence in Aden to support the FBI investigation and a group of investigators based on Navy ships.

Most of the crew of about 300 remained aboard the Cole following the attack. A small number were to stay on the destroyer for the trip back to the United States; the rest will be flown home.

The Blue Marlin usually is used to lift and transport commercial cargo such as oil rigs. The Navy signed a $4.5 million contract with the Blue Marlin’s owner, Offshore Heavy Transport of Oslo, Norway, just a few days after the Cole was attacked while refueling in Aden.

The Navy has said it intends to repair the Cole and return it to service, although it has not yet decided where the work will be done.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

Mountlake Terrace Mayor Kyko Matsumoto-Wright on Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Mountlake Terrace, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
With light rail coming soon, Mountlake Terrace’s moment is nearly here

The anticipated arrival of the northern Link expansion is another sign of a rapidly changing city.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
1 dead in motorcycle crash on Highway 522 in Maltby

Authorities didn’t have any immediate details about the crash that fully blocked the highway Friday afternoon.

Photographs in the 2024 Annual Black and White Photography Contest on display at the Schack Art Center on Thursday, April 18, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Black and white photos aren’t old school for teens at Schack Art Center

The photography contest, in its 29th year, had over 170 entries. See it at the Schack in Everett through May 5.

A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett mom charged with first-degree murder in death of son, 4

On Friday, prosecutors charged Janet Garcia, 27, three weeks after Ariel Garcia went missing from an Everett apartment.

Dr. Mary Templeton (Photo provided by Lake Stevens School District)
Lake Stevens selects new school superintendent

Mary Templeton, who holds the top job in the Washougal School District, will take over from Ken Collins this summer.

A closed road at the Heather Lake Trail parking lot along the Mountain Loop Highway in Snohomish County, Washington on Wednesday, July 20, 2023. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Mountain Loop Highway partially reopens Friday

Closed since December, part of the route to some of the region’s best hikes remains closed due to construction.

Emma Dilemma, a makeup artist and bikini barista for the last year and a half, serves a drink to a customer while dressed as Lily Munster Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, at XO Espresso on 41st Street in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
After long legal battle, Everett rewrites bikini barista dress code

Employees now have to follow the same lewd conduct laws as everyone else, after a judge ruled the old dress code unconstitutional.

The oldest known meteor shower, Lyrid, will be falling across the skies in mid- to late April 2024. (Photo courtesy of Pixabay)
Clouds to dampen Lyrid meteor shower views in Western Washington

Forecasters expect a storm will obstruct peak viewing Sunday. Locals’ best chance at viewing could be on the coast. Or east.

AquaSox's Travis Kuhn and Emerald's Ryan Jensen an hour after the game between the two teams on Sunday continue standing in salute to the National Anthem at Funko Field on Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
New AquaSox stadium downtown could cost up to $120M

That’s $40 million more than an earlier estimate. Alternatively, remodeling Funko Field could cost nearly $70 million.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.