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2008 Papahanaumokuakea Maritime Heritage Expedition
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Mission Blog: August 10, 2008
Three Tasks: One Day

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

In a departure from our regular scuba diving routine, the archaeology team headed out this morning on HI-1 (our small work boat) without dive tanks, but with an ambitious plan to accomplish three different tasks.  Our first stop was a snorkel on the Hermes.  While drawing up the site plan Friday night, we realized we need a few last crucial measurements to tie all of the site features together.  The Hi’ialakai is still cruising close to the Hermes site. A quick boat ride and a hop over the side, and the team tied up all the loose ends, allowing us to finish the site plan tonight.

A massive windlass on the Quartette site.  Note the white tip reef shark assisting with documentation.

A massive windlass on the Quartette site. Note the white tip reef shark assisting with documentation.

From the Hermes, we transited around to the other side of the atoll to an area the marine debris removal teams on a previous cruise had reported a potential shipwreck.  Two snorkelers at a time jumped in the water astern of the jet boat and grabbed towboards to begin the survey.  We then drove slowly along the reef line, while the towboarders held on to the boards, guiding them down 10-15 feet so they could scan the reef for wreckage. Towboarding is akin to flying through the world’s largest aquarium and searching for (historical) treasure. Everyone got a turn, and, I have to admit, we all enjoyed tow boarding immensely.  As is often the case, no new sites were found, but we quickly turned our minds to the next task at hand – the wreck of the Quartette.

Because of the extremely favorable sea state yesterday afternoon, the archaeology team did a quick dive on the liberty ship Quartette.

Yesterday's dive to the Quartette revealed a vast debris field.

Yesterday's dive to the Quartette revealed a vast debris field.

We discovered that the remains of the ship lie in a huge debris field in close to the exposed reef and strewn into deeper water. The extent of the wreckage warranted further exploration, so today, we returned to this 422-foot long ship.  Just days before Christmas of 1952, the ship ran hard aground on the reef. By January 3, it had been blown broadside onto the reef causing the ship to be deemed a total loss.  Huge elements of ship are scattered across the reef, including an impressive propeller, steering gear, triple-expansion steam engine, and 4 massive anchors. The Hi’ialaki’s Commanding Officer and Chief Engineer accompanied us this afternoon, lending their perspective to this reconnaissance trip. This certainly proved helpful with the huge amount of ship’s machinery laid out across the more than 200-meter stretch on the sea floor.  Photos, video, sketch maps, and GPS data were all gathered and will form the baseline data for the site.

All in all, a very full and exciting day, with the team completing the Hermes site map and downloading images from the Quartette after dinner.  We transit overnight to our next destination, Kure Atoll, and on to another day of diving, so join us again tomorrow.

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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