Wednesday, July 8, 2009

NOAA, UH to Survey 19th century shipwreck off Lanai

Return to Shipwreck Beach Project
Maritime Heritage Resources Survey July 6-20, 2009
Photo right: Steam ship’s boiler, stern section of unidentified wreck site near Yamada’s, Shipwreck Beach, Lanai (Courtesy of NOAA & UH Manoa)

The Hawaiian Islands, with their long history of intensive maritime activity, have witnessed the loss of hundreds of ships, creating wrecks scattered along the rugged coastline. Many of these sites represent historic steamships and sailing schooners, reflecting the busy inter-island trade during Hawaii’s formative ranching and plantation period in the mid to late 19th century. The reefs surrounding the island of Lana`i not only presented natural hazards to this navigation, but also provided steamship owners like Inter Island Steam Navigation Company a place to dispose older vessels, and “Shipwreck Beach” on Lanai’s north shore soon became the rotten row of Hawaii’s historic maritime past. Surveying these historic resources opens a window on Hawai‘i’s maritime and plantation legacy.

The systematic study of these historic resources on Lanai began in 2001 with the survey of the naval vessel YO-21 (a Pearl Harbor “survivor”) and the SS Hornet, an inter island cattle carrier associated with Lanai Ranch. The Return to Shipwreck Beach project 2009 will continue this work. NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Program in the Pacific Islands region, in partnership with the University of Hawaii’s Marine Option Program, will offer six university students five days of training in maritime archaeology surveying techniques. The team will then spend ten days camping at Shipwreck Beach (July 11-20), recording features of an unidentified 19th century steamship wreck site. They will be assisted in shoreline work by students from Lanai Elementary and High School. Web site and brochure material will highlight heritage preservation for this very special natural, cultural, and historic place.

The project will be conducted in collaboration with the Lanai Cultural and Heritage Center, the Lanai Elementary and High School, the Lanai Archaeological Committee, Alu Like Inc., and the Coalition for a Drug Free Lanai. The Return to Shipwreck Beach project is supported by a NOAA Preserve America Initiative Grant, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the University of Hawai‘i Marine Option Program. For more information, contact Hans Van Tilburg at 808-271-4187 or