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2008 Papahanaumokuakea Maritime Heritage Expedition
Mission info 2007 Nancy Foster Cruise

Mission Blog: August 2, 2008
Dive Day 1

By Cathy Green, Education and Outreach Coordinator
Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary

We arrived at French Frigate Shoals this morning, which is our first scheduled dive site.  We’ve been trained on the launching procedures for our small boat HI-1 and have had a dive briefing by our Dive Master Hans Van Tilburg and Chief Scientist Kelly Gleason.  Everything has to be carefully orchestrated to move 19 scientists and their gear into 4 separate vessels and deploy around the reef, with some sites more than 10 miles away from the Hi’ialakai.  Everything went smoothly though, and we are on our way to the Churchill shipwreck.

The Churchill

The Churchill site is shallow, but has much ship’s rigging, anchors and machinery to explore.

The Churchill is an Oregon-built four-masted schooner lost at French Frigate Shoals in 1917.  The site is completely broken up in between 8 to 15 feet of water in and around the south reef area of Shoals.  3 large anchors are the most prominent feature of the site.  The anchors are surrounded by a large area of twisted wire rigging.  Iron artifacts such as chain plates, deadeyes, and bilge pumps remain on site, while virtually all the wooden hull of this large sailing ship has long ago disappeared.  Scatter sites like this are a fun challenge to piece together.

The Churchill

The large anchors dominate the Churchill site, as do the giant Ulua fish that have been keeping an eye on us all afternoon.

The crew spent the first dive setting up the baseline and tagging specific artifacts for documentation.  It quickly became apparent that the current on the site would be a factor complicating documentation, but nothing to stop us from the task at hand: collecting baseline documentation on the site.  That means measurements and scale drawings that will be turned into a site plan.  Still and video documentation also form crucial pieces of accurately depicting the Churchill site.  It is a perfect first site to work, as it is shallow and only about 50 meters in length.  We have 2 more days on this site, and we hope to gather all the information we need for a fairly comprehensive study of the wreck.

To ask us questions, you can email the team at: sanctuaries@noaa.gov and we will answer your questions within the blog, or in a live internet broadcast later in the cruise. Again, stay tuned for details.


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