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Press Releases

September 28, 2006

Hans Van Tilburg
(808) 397-2660 ext 264


NOAA marine archaeologists have confirmed the identity of a shipwreck discovered on July 3 in the waters of the recently designated Northwestern Hawaiian Islands (NWHI) Marine National Monument. The team has identified the wreck, found at Kure Atoll, as that of the 258-foot iron hulled cargo ship Dunnottar Castle. The discovery was made during the first research expedition to the NWHI since it was designated a marine national monument by President Bush on June 15.

The Dunnottar Castle is an incredible heritage resource from the days of the sailing ships like the Falls of Clyde, Balcalutha and Star of India, when our maritime commerce was driven by steel masts and canvas, and by wind power and human hands,” said Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, maritime heritage coordinator for the Pacific Islands regional office of the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program.

NOAA marine archaeologists working from the NOAA Ship Hi`ialakai confirmed the wreck’s identity following its initial discovery by a volunteer with the state of Hawai`i division of forestry and wildlife, Brad Vanderlip.

Built in 1874 and home ported in Scotland, the Dunnottar Castle was bound from Sydney, Australia to Wilmington, Calif., with a load of coal when it struck a reef at full speed.

During the 28-day expedition to the NWHI, which concluded on July 20, marine archaeologists with the NOAA Maritime Heritage Program also investigated other shipwrecks, including a 19th-century American whaling ship and a U.S. Navy side-wheel steamer lost in 1870.

Also during the expedition, a team of oceanographers and coastal geologists used state-of-the-art seafloor imaging technology to create detailed maps of the seafloor. Educators and outreach specialists chronicled the expedition in daily logs posted to

“Scientific research is critical to understanding the unique marine ecosystem and rich maritime history of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands,” said `Aulani Wilhelm, NWHI Marine National Monument superintendent. “Whether we’re talking about shipwrecks like the Dunnottar Castle or new marine species, discovery begins with exploration.”

 “Discovery and understanding of the unique natural, cultural and maritime heritage resources of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands is critical to our ability to manage and protect these resources for Hawaii and the world as a part of our heritage for present and future generations.” said Peter Young, Hawai’i department of land and natural resources chairperson.

NWHI is home to 7,000 marine species, of which approximately a quarter are unique to the Hawaiian Island chain. Among the species found there are the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, threatened green sea turtle, and endangered leatherback and hawksbill sea turtles. The island chain also contains some of the world’s most untouched submerged cultural resources. The NWHI Marine National Monument, which stretches 1,200 hundred miles north of Kaua`i and spans 140,000 square miles, is the world’s largest marine conservation area.

The NWHI Marine National Monument and Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve are managed by the NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program as a co-trustee with with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state of Hawai`i.

The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America’s marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs.  Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

In 2007, NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, celebrates 200 years of science and service to the nation. From the establishment of the Survey of the Coast in 1807 by Thomas Jefferson to the formation of the Weather Bureau and the Bureau of Commercial Fisheries in the 1870s, much of America's scientific heritage is rooted in NOAA. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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