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You are here: /main/research/NOWRAMP 2002/journals/Kure wrecks/


Ship Logs

Wreck Sites at Kure Atoll
Posted by Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, Maritime Archaeology and History Team Leader
Photos by
Dr. Hans Van Tilburg
September 25, 2002

Kure Aircraft remians.We 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.

On 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.

Ring from unknown shipwreck.After 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…and 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.

What 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.

With 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.

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