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An expedition of monument proportion
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Mission Log: July 4, 2006
New Discoveries

Kelly Gleason
Maritime Archaeologist

The maritime archaeology team’s morning operations began with a picturesque transit to their first target location. Seas were calm and briefly interrupted by a pod of dolphins crossing the HI-1’s path as the team approached a spot on the outside of Kure Atoll.

Maritime archaeologist Tane Casserley films the 
wreckage of a 3-masted sailing vessel wrecked at Kure Atoll
Maritime archaeologist Tane Casserley films the wreckage of a 3-masted sailing vessel wrecked at Kure Atoll.(Photo: Kelly Gleason)
Shortly after the maritime archaeologists arrived on site, they received a call from members of the Green Island field camp at Kure Atoll who reported the discovery of a shipwreck site in the channel while they were conducting dolphin surveys. The maritime archaeology team headed to the site, which was close to the area where the Dunnottar Castle, a 258 foot, 3-masted British sailing ship built in Glasgow, Scotland was reported lost in 1886.

A Trotman style anchor at the Dunnottar Castle site at Kure Atoll. (Photo: Hans Van Tilburg)
Upon reaching the site, the shipwreck was clearly visible from the surface. About 20 feet underwater the team could see the massive hull sections, frames and deck machinery of an enormous iron hull sailing vessel.

The team began to document the site with still and video photography as well as preliminary sketches of the artifact distribution. Based upon the size and location of the ship, along with artifacts present, the team believes that they are indeed looking at the Dunnottar Castle.

Maritime archaeologists investigate the site of a 19th century British collier, the Dunnottar Castle. (Photo: Kelly Gleason)
This ship was bound for California, hauling coal from Sydney, Australia. The ship ran full speed onto the reef on July 15, 1886 and soon became a total wreck. Like the USS Saginaw 16 years earlier, the crew outfitted one of the ship’s boats and made a lengthy (52 day) open ocean crossing to Kauai in search of rescue. 

In order to prevent to possible annexation of the island by the British, the Hawaiian government supported a rescue mission by the steamer Waialeale which carried the Hawaiian commissioner James Boyde to the island and Kure Atoll became part of the Hawaiian kingdom on September 20, 1886.

The discovery of this shipwreck site sparked a great deal of excitement from all involved, and helps to tell the story of Kure Atoll’s annexation into the Hawaiian Kingdom. The cooperative efforts of the team at Kure Atoll are much appreciated by the maritime archaeology team who rely on the eyes and ears of all of the scientists and managers working in this remote location to help locate and protect maritime heritage resources.

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