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Salvage crews dismantle grounded US Navy ship piece by painstaking piece

Feb. 8, 2013: The USS Guardian sits aground on Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea 22 days after it was grounded.Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelby Sanders / U.S. Navy
March 2: The second deck level is guided onto the U.S. Navy contracted vessel M/V Jascon 25.Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson Bomjardim / U.S. Navy
March 9: Contractors remove an exhaust pipe section.Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson Bomjardim / U.S. Navy

The USS Guardian, a U.S. Navy minesweeper that ran aground in a protected marine sanctuary off the Philippines on Jan. 17, has been painstakingly taken apart, piece by piece, over the past two months.

The Navy has been working alongside the Philippine coast guard and a contracted crane vessel to dismantle and extract the ship from the Tubbataha Reef, a World Heritage Site in the Sulu Sea.

The Navy said in January that the 224-foot Guardian was "beyond economical repair." They decided that the only supportable salvage option was to dismantle it in sections due to the deteriorating integrity of the ship, its weight, and where it was grounded on the reef.

March 12: The M/V Jascon 25 and the tugboat Archon Tide are positioned next to the Guardian during salvage operations.Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anderson Bomjardim / U.S. Navy
March 11: Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Brandon Berry, assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, grinds through steel in the engine room compartment in preparation for removal of machinery.Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonah Stepanik / U.S. Navy
March 13: A civilian crew member of the M/V Jascon 25 guides an engine salvaged from the Guardian.Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonah Stepanik / U.S. Navy
March 18: Filipino protesters shout slogans during a rally near the U.S. Embassy in Manila in protest at the alleged destruction of the coral reef by the USS Guardian.Aaron Favila / AP

The ship's bow was lifted on to a barge on Tuesday and the remaining sections of the wood and fiberglass hull are expected to be removed over the next few days, according to a report in Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper. The salvage operation has had to be suspended several times due to adverse weather.

The incident damaged at least 1,200 square yards of coral reef, according to an initial, conservative estimate by the Philippine coast guard, leading to protests outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report 

March 26: The bow of the ship is raised.Philippine Coast Guard via EPA
March 21: Navy Diver 2nd Class Matthew Costa, assigned to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 1, guides a piece of equipment being lifted from the engine room compartment.Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonah Stepanik / U.S. Navy
March 26: A view inside the bow.Philippine Coast Guard via EPA
March 26: The bow is raised by a crane on the M/V Jascon 25.Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelby Sanders / U.S. Navy via Getty Images

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