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2008 Papahanaumokuakea Maritime Heritage Expedition
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Mission Blog: August 11, 2008
Kure Blue

By Kelly Gleason, Maritime Archaeologist
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument

I have heard that the color of the water at Kure Atoll is so beautiful that it is almost impossible to describe. No words can convey the breathtaking blue color of the water inside the lagoon. I was reminded of this when we arrived at Kure Atoll this morning. After an overnight transit from Pearl and Hermes Atoll, we woke up to the sight of a sandy island with low lying green vegetation, appropriately called Green Island. Shortly after we arrived, Hi’ialakai’s small boats were launched, and we headed to our work site inside the picturesque lagoon.

The bell of the Parker is gently brought to the surface and onto HI-1.

The bell of the Parker is gently brought to the surface and onto HI-1.

The New Bedford-built Parker is one of at least ten whaling ships lost within the boundaries of the Monument. Maritime archaeologists have thoroughly documented the site over the course of the last few years, and, this year, we began a project to recover, conserve, and exhibit the Parker’s bell. The challenge of interpreting these sites in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands begins with their remote nature. Very few people will ever have the opportunity to view these shipwrecks with their own eyes. By recovering this artifact and later exhibiting it, we share our experience and this heritage with the public in a tangible and meaningful way. Today, the team recovered a ship’s bell that will be conserved at a laboratory that specializes in the conservation of submerged artifacts. Following this process, the bell will become part of an exhibit at the Monument’s Mokupapapa Discovery Center in Hilo, Hawaii, so that the public can appreciate these sites first hand.

Divers prepare to enter the vivid blue waters of Kure Atoll.

Divers prepare to enter the vivid blue waters of Kure Atoll.

Much like the spectacular blue of the lagoon at Kure Atoll, sometimes a place can be impossible to describe with words or even photographs. Shipwreck sites convey stories of tragedy, survival, and adventure. Often, our attempts to describe these sites and the history that they represent fall short of the first-hand experience of diving on a shipwreck or simply gazing at the spot where a dramatic wrecking event took place. These sites and the artifacts that remain humble and intrigue us. They compel us to revere and connect with the sailors who came before us. Creating an exhibit to interpret the maritime heritage of the Monument will serve to provide a bit of this first-hand experience to people, most of whom will not have the opportunity to visit this remote and protected place. We are excited to begin the process of bringing these sites closer to the public and look forward to visiting the exhibit in the future.     

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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