Featured Seawords Article

Features Seawords Article September 2017

Features Seawords Article September 2017

“You must feel the wreck, for the wreck knows and the wreck goes…” were words of wisdom offered to us by our co-instructor, Dr. Hans Van Tilburg as an insightful parody to a quote from the cave diving movie, Sanctum. Dr. Van Tilburg, Maritime Heritage Coordinator of National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, was accompanied by U.S. Marine Corps Colonel and History Lecturer from UH Windward Community College, Don Froning. Along with immeasurable efforts of UH Mānoa MOP Coordinator, Jeff Kuwabara, this dynamic trio “submerged” the four Maritime Archaeological Surveying Techniques (MAST) 2017 students into a diverse archaeological experience!

MAST took place from June 19 to June 30 as a collaborative effort by UH Mānoa’s Marine Option Program (MOP) and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. The course was held out of the NOAA’s Daniel K. Inouye Regional Center (IRC) on Ford Island on O‘ahu. Every morning humbly began by passing armed guards to enter the base and driving past the most significant maritime heritage sites of the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. During the mornings, students engaged in classroom presentations from their instructors on a wide variety of topics in maritime archaeology. In the afternoons, the wrecks became the instructors as different methods were practiced across many sites around the island.

Unlike scientific methods learned in the Quantitative Underwater Ecological Surveying Techniques (QUEST) program, there are many fewer absolutes in the techniques learned at MAST. For example, during a benthic survey divers deploy a transect line and adhere to a well-defined protocol to accurately record data in a given quadrat. As the Lord of the Rings meme goes, “one does not simply…” map an archaeological site! There are an endless number of options and combinations of features that could be used in collecting data for mapping. It also depends on the physical attributes of the site, with considerations to environmental factors, which influence your decision on which underlying technique to use. This year, MAST students had the unique opportunity of sampling a wide variety of sites ranging from a 4m long winch from a 19th century steamship in Waimanalo, to a near 20m long section of World War II era LSM (Landing Ship Medium) off Ewa Beach.  A total of eight archeological sites were investigated, half of which has not been previously surveyed. However the main wreck of focus was another World War II era landing craft near the mouth of Pearl Harbor. Over the course of only four dives, the class produced an accurate site interpretation that will be added to NOAA’s regional Maritime Heritage inventory. For more information on this wreck, check out the “ship wreck of the month” article!

If the privilege of practicing archaeological techniques on significant World War II wrecks at Pearl Harbor wasn’t enough for a worthwhile experience, the incredible tours the class took outside of the classroom was the “cherry on top!” Students got an up-close tour of the Pisces submersibles by operations director, Terry Kerby, of the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL). One the last day of the course, the group received insightful behind-the-scenes tours of the USS Arizona Memorial, USS Bowfin Submarine Museum, and the Pacific Aviation Museum!


The MAST program offers MOP students an incredible, and rare, opportunity to learn hands-on maritime archaeological training. Very few academic institutions offers this caliber of program and we are so fortunate MOP and NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries have been able to offer it. This course exposed the 2017 class to an exciting new realm of scientific diving, other than counting fish! This year’s MAST students, Bryant Grady (UH Hilo MOP Student), Will Knudson (UC Santa Cruz), Jessica Lotts (UH Manoa MOP Alumna) and Tyler Phelps (UH Hilo MOP Alumnus) would like to thank their instructors for such a rewarding and unforgettable class!


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University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
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Honolulu, HI 96822


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