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Mission Log: July 10, 2006
Mapping in Surge at Pearl and Hermes Atoll

Kelly Gleason
Maritime Archaeologist

After a day of work at Kure Atoll, the maritime archaeology team returned to Pearl and Hermes Atoll to resume work on the whaling shipwreck site, the Pearl. Two days earlier, the team deployed a 200 foot baseline and several artifact tags at the shipwreck site, which they left on the site at the end of the day. Despite the rough conditions at this particular part of the atoll, the team’s survey equipment remained at the site as it had been left two days before.

The maritime archaeology team navigates inside of the lagoon at Pearl and Hermes Atoll
The maritime archaeology team navigates inside of the lagoon at Pearl and Hermes Atoll (Photo: Brenda Altmeier)

Today’s work at Pearl and Hermes Atoll included more offset and trilateration measurements, mapping topography at the site, and fully documenting the four heavily encrusted trypots at the site. Maritime archaeologists attempted to recognize features on the worn artifacts such as the flat sides and handles that are common to trypots of the early 19th century. The heavy surge and sand movement at the site created challenges for the divers. Taking simple measurements became much more difficult, and entering and exiting the water was a task that took great care and communication with the coxswains who live boated above the team while they worked at the site. At the end of a long dive, the team determined that they had enough measurements to create a preliminary site map, and realized that conditions were quickly deteriorating at the site. Two divers pulled up the baseline and cleaned up the site before the team moved on to the inside of the lagoon at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

The two whaling shipwrecks at Pearl and Hermes Atoll have scattered their artifacts inside of the atoll during the violent wrecking process. Part of the team’s work takes place inside of the reef, where rigging implements, glass shards and other artifacts have been strewn inside of the atoll. The team surveyed for artifacts inside of the reef, and also checked for the amount of movement of artifacts located during surveys in 2005. Though the inside of the lagoon does not contain the same wave action and surge as the sites outside of the reef, the team was faced with strong current inside of the reef. After a long transit back to the ship in two zodiacs, the team continued to work on their site map and planned for another day of work at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

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