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You are here: /main/research/NOWRAMP 2002/journals/Mission San Miguel/


Ship Logs

Mission San Miguel
Maro Reef
Posted By Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, Maritime Archaeology and History dive team leader
September 16, 2002

Mission San Miguel launched a second time?

Today we continue searching for the Mission San Miguel, a 528-foot long navy tanker than ran full speed onto the reef in 1957. That might seem like a big ship, but given the true immensity of the ocean, all ships big and small are mere dots. The crew back then were successfully rescued as they 'abandoned ship,' and eventually salvage vessels from the main Hawaiian Islands arrived on seen. Navy divers, though, were hampered by strong currents, poor visibility underwater, and oil in the water. Things aren't much easier today.

Yesterday we searched around the area of the reported latitude and longitude for the wreck. NOAA coordinates are in close agreement with the numbers from the official navy report. However, an inspection of the bottom at the murky 80-foot depth, and criss-crossing fathometer (depth sounding) readings revealed an empty seabed.

The 1957 salvage attempt of the Mission San Miguel was called off, due to the deteriorating condition of the ship and the enormity of hull damage. Most of her length then was hard aground up on the reef, with some 125 feet of her stern hanging over deeper water. According to the salvage report, as the divers worked, the vessel began to settle at the stern, tilting her bow up out of the water to the point where the ship might slide off the reef into the deep. If she hadn't slid off, Maro Reef would have a giant steel monument today. As it is, there's only open ocean and shallow reef. After the navy salvage engineers left, at some point in the past, the Mission San Miguel may have launched herself to Davy Jones' locker. Only the seabirds were here to see her go, and she's now a peaceful home to fish and invertebrates. The remaining question is, at what point on the seabed did the ship end her final voyage?

Stranding and salvage stories like this, tales of survivors and long awaited rescue, are parts of maritime history, another side to the story of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

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Dr. Hans Van Tilburg
Dr. Hans Van Tilburg

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