at Pearl and Hermes Atoll
Posted by Dr. Hans Van Tilburg, Maritime Archaeology and
History Team Leader
Photos by Dr. Hans Van Tilburg
the USS Saginaw at Kure eluded our efforts. We did
a number of diver tow searches in the area indicated by
historic references, but saw no traces of the wreck. Sedimentation
rates on that side of the atoll are high, and it's possible
that after 132 years, the material is buried deep under
our return to Pearl
and Hermes Atoll we began with a shore side survey of
Southeast Island. Again, traces of cut giant bamboo, some
pieces over 6 meters long, with traces of cross pieces and
lashings. Where are these coming from? Are they rafts or
other devices? Who still builds bamboo rafts?
dives included two wreck sites. The first, the SS Quartette,
wrecked in 1952. The remains of the Korea-bound ship long
remained emergent, but are now only four or five small pieces
occasionally awash. The real sight is underwater on the
shallow reef, where a topography of twisted steel and ruins
spread out over at least a football field size area. Many
varieties of fish enjoy the numerous habitats and refuges
of what used to be, according to Mark Rauzon in Isles
of Refuge, a Liberty ship from World War II. Liberty
ships were, of course, the supply train "bridge"
across the oceans, and many found second careers after 1945.
second dive spot appeared as a square shaped block on the
horizon far to the north on the edge of the reef crest.
It is the top of a six-cylinder marine diesel power plant.
On the coral spires below lay the propeller shaft, the damaged
propeller itself, and twisted debris and machinery. There
is no trace of the hull or the rest of the wreck in the
vicinity. We have no record of this vessel, but checking
with the Coast Guard on our return might clear up this mystery.
Tomorrow, back to the most intriguing needles in the haystack
return to the area where the British whalers Pearl
and Hermes wrecked in 1822.