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An expedition of monument proportion
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Mission Log: June 26, 2006
The Long Transit to Kure

Kelly Gleason
Maritime Archaeologist

As the NOAA ship Hi’ialakai makes passage to Kure Atoll, the maritime archaeology team is busy preparing equipment, planning field operations and checking gear prior to their arrival at Kure Atoll. As the first stop in this multidisciplinary mission to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, Kure Atoll is an important place for the maritime archaeologists to document and begin to interpret the rich seafaring history of this region.

Maritime Archaeologists Hans Van Tilburg and Bob Schwemmer review charts of Kure Atoll during transit up the NWHI chain
Maritime Archaeologists Hans Van Tilburg and Bob Schwemmer review charts of Kure Atoll during transit up the NWHI chain (Photo: Kelly Gleason, NOAA NMSP)
There are seven documented shipwrecks at Kure Atoll, and the team hopes to spend most of their time working at the site of the USS Saginaw, a fourth-rate gunboat returning a small group of Boston hard hat divers from Midway Atoll to San Francisco. Visiting dynamic shipwreck sites in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands such as the Saginaw require good weather and calm seas.

Consequently, the team has been checking the weather reports daily in hopes of a good forecast. If calm seas prevail, the team plans to explore the area outside of Kure atoll where canon, anchors, sounding lead and sheathing tacks were located in 2003. Along with prepping our traditional tools for maritime archaeological survey (tapes, slates and cameras), the team is spending transit days testing out a mini-ROV that will be used to ground truth potential dive sites.

Maritime Archaeologists test the mini-ROV off the deck of the 
Hi'ialakai during transit
Maritime Archaeologists test the mini-ROV off the deck of the Hi'ialakai during transit. (Photo: Brenda Altimeier, NOAA NMSP)
After a successful ROV test, the team tried out another piece of equipment that they will be deploying at wrecksites during this research expedition: a CTD probe. This instrument, used to collect several environmental parameters such as temperature, salinity, pH and oxygen reduction potential was used by the maritime archaeologists on research expeditions to the Japanese Midget Submarine in 2005. Collecting this type of data at shipwreck sites gives scientists an understanding of the environmental conditions at the wrecksite and how they contribute to the corrosion of materials underwater. Following the successful test run of the CTD probe on board the ship, the team is ready to begin work upon arrival at Kure Atoll.   

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