The cargo ship Cougar Ace was entering Alaskan waters when its ballast tanks malfunctioned and a wave turned it on its side. Millions of dollars in shiny new Mazdas were dangling feet from the cold water. Then the A-Team of sea salvage (including a geek) flipped it right side up without the help of cranes or tugs. My good friend Josh Davis wrote this breathtaking feature on the small group of divers, ship captains, salvage masters and ship architects who brought the Cougar upright again.

Instead of using the typical heavy cranes and tugs, they do their jobs very cheaply using computer models of the ship's intricate ballast systems, heavy cutting and drilling tools, pumps (and more than a bit of personal risk.) And salvage like this, recognized as a form of legal modern piracy, is compensated by a percentage of the value of the loot they save. Generally millions for jobs only days long. Here's how they flipped her around:

This is the best feature I've read in a long time. It's worth checking out. [Wired, Illustration by Don Foley/]