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expeditions/May 2005/Day 1 Kure
Atoll, Day 1: Reporting from the top of the Archipelago
by Kelly Gleason, Maritime Archaeology Team
Kelly and Tane setting a permanent
datum point using epoxy.
morning we all woke up to a blustery day. The wind was blowing,
seas were high, and the skies were grey and a little bit ominous.
After weeks of gorgeous weather, we really can’t complain,
but the conditions today made everything a little more exciting.
Launches of the small boats were done with greater care and
as we cast off into the drizzly grey skies this morning no
one was quite sure how this weather was going to affect their
work. When the weather gets rough like this, compromises have
to be made in the field since the conditions really do dictate
some of the work that can be done.
the maritime archaeology team, Kure Atoll is an important
site. Several shipwrecks have been reported and a few very
exciting wrecks have been located in two previous surveys
of the area in 2002 and 2003. A main target for our work here
at Kure Atoll is the shipwreck site of the USS
Saginaw. In the past, weather has hindered work at this
site, so we are hoping that weather will cooperate in order
to begin to interpret and fully document the entire site.
One of our first goals will be to determine the boundaries
of this expansive site that has certainly been scattered far
inside and outside of the reef after years of rough weather
and dynamic waves and currents. The USS Saginaw was a bark
rigged side wheel steamship that captures a critical period
of American involvement in the Pacific as a historic vessel
of the “old steam navy.” She wrecked on the reef
at Kure on her way from Midway to Honolulu in 1870 after running
up to Kure to check for shipwrecked sailors. Upon her discovery
in 2003, several artifacts from the ship were located including
anchors, canon, sounding lead and various rigging parts. Unfortunately,
today we were unable to revisit this site because of the weather
condition on the outside of the East side of the reef and
instead we headed to another important shipwreck site inside
of the lagoon, an area with greater protection from waves
and weather. This site is an unidentified
sailing ship, possibly the shipwreck site of the American
whaleship Parker which wrecked in a severe storm in 1842.
Items found at the site include anchors and rigging parts.
Our work at this site was incredibly successful and we were
able to set a permanent baseline which we will be able to
relocate for years to come in order to return to the same
spot to create a detailed map of the artifacts associated
with the wrecksite. The permanent datum points also enable
us to monitor changes in the shipwreck site for years to come
which will contribute to several studies including site formation
processes at these atolls. If this site is indeed the whaleship
Parker, it will add a great deal to the inventory of whaling
shipwrecks in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Whaling is
a large part of the history of this region and these shipwrecks
add a great deal to the historic record.
weather challenged the fish team as well. Their original plan
was to tag sharks in about 100 feet of water, however, because
the conditions were so rough in water at that depth, they
ended up working in shallower water. This was successful and
the team tagged three sharks: a Galapagos and two grey reef
sharks. Carl Meyer reported that it was the largest Galapagos
shark that he had ever seen: a 224 cm female. Tagging these
sharks will help Carl and other scientists understand how
closed the populations of sharks are at these atolls. If species
are moving between atolls you can’t make the same assumptions.
Tagging is a classic way to answer population questions, however,
understanding if the sharks are moving between atolls is an
important aspect of validating population estimates. Presently,
the only species with a very solid dataset in the Northwestern
Hawaiian Islands is the tiger shark, which is highly mobile.
Carl is targeting four different types of shark for study:
tigers, Galapagos, grey reef and white tip.
coral disease team continued their record breaking streak
of setting permanent transects and added two more permanent
transects to the dataset at Kure Atoll. Greta and her team’s
work at Kure Atoll is making her realize that they truly are
just scratching the surface in their understanding of coral
bleaching. She is noticing a little bit of coral bleaching
here at Kure, which is puzzling considering it is still so
early in the season. Comparing what she sees now to what she
will see in September will be a critical step in filling these
gaps in knowledge.
is a little weary from the conditions today, however, it was
still another exciting and successful day for everyone on
the ship. We go to sleep hoping for clear skies and calm waters