Sites at Kure Atoll
Posted by Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, Maritime Archaeology and
History Team Leader
Photos by Dr.
Hans Van Tilburg
had a fantastic day at Kure. Our work started with a greeting
by four Galapagos sharks, as we jumped in at a site recently
discovered by the crew on the Townsend Cromwell.
About 65 feet down lay an aluminum wing and landing gear
section. Judging by the scale, design and sturdiness of
construction, this piece appears to be a type of navy plane
of older vintage. There is other debris scattered in the
nearby area. Our photos will be compared to a number of
technical references, and perhaps the exact type (if not
the individual identity) can be revealed. This may add another
crash site to the current list of over 1,600 naval aircraft
sunk in Hawaiian waters.
our next dive we searched for the remains of the Dunnotter
Castle, a British collier (coal carrier) which sunk
in 1886. Though we had coordinates for a wreck spotted in
the area, nothing was encountered during this murky and
gloomy drift dive across the channel opening to the atoll.
If we have time tomorrow, we may try another nearby spot.
lunch it was back into the tender and off into the lagoon
area at high speed. We had the numbers on an old anchor
seen a couple years ago, but once in the turquoise shallow
waters we encountered a wide assortment of debris: anchor
chain, copper fasteners, copper sheathing, pulleys, machinery
two more anchors (one stacked on top the other) along with
the common "heavily encrusted artifacts of unknown
origin." It's clear that this is a wreck site of a
sizable wooden sailing vessel. Most of the wood has disappeared,
but the iron and copper and bronze elements remain in place.
The nature of the artifacts and their distribution on the
seabed tell the story, but it must be pieced together carefully
and this takes time.
is the identity of this mystery ship? We have records for
a few older wooden sailing ship wrecks in the northern area,
such as the ship Gledstanes which was run ashore
on June 9th 1837. The castaways gathered floating debris
and were able to construct another vessel, named Deliverance,
by which rescue was procured. The whaler Parker was
also lost in this area on September 24th 1842, quickly becoming
a complete loss. The sailors were rescued from the island
eight months later, having salvaged very little from the
ship. Clues are still scarce, and this site cannot be identified
at this time, but quite possibly this wreck represents a
vessel which was broken on the northern reef at Kure and
then blown intact or in pieces into the shallow waters of
the adjacent lagoon. There is undoubtedly more wreckage
from this event, but our short stay only allows us to film,
photograph, and sketch the major features in a relatively
small narrow area (44 meters long), making a rough site
plan for future reference. Perhaps a field school with student
divers from some local institution will someday return to
fully investigate this site? Crazier things have happened.
rain clouds approaching, we quickly note two other wrecks
in the northern lagoon area. One is a steel fishing vessel
of unknown identity, the other the large Houei Maru #5,
a longliner lost in 1976. It's now home to jacks and monk
seals. We idle quietly at a safe distance and then head
for home. Tomorrow we head for the area where the USS
Saginaw was wrecked in 1870.