“Return to Shipwreck Beach” NOAA Grant Project Completed
July 20 — Staff and students completed the 2009 Return to Shipwreck Beach maritime heritage survey on the north shore of the island of Lana`i, Hawai`i. The team, led by NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program in the Pacific Islands Region and supported by a Preserve America Initiative Grant of $10,350 documented the wreck site of an inter island steamship lost on Lana`i's famous Shipwreck Beach, an eight-mile stretch of remote coastline facing the rough Moloka`i Channel.
In order to prepare for the mission, six University of Hawai`i Marine Options Program graduates spent a week in Honolulu, under the direction of maritime heritage coordinator Hans Van Tilburg. There they learned the methods and theory of basic maritime archaeology survey, trained at the sunken remains of the Waimanalo steamship landing site, sketched steam equipment at the Oahu Train Museum, and conducted archival research at the Hawaiian Historical Society, Bernice P. Bishop Museum, and University of Hawai`i.
Once on Lana`i, the team established their remote base at historic Federation Camp, a series of beach shacks built in the 1920s by local plantation workers originally from the Philippines. Camp supplies were staged by barge from Oahu, and then supplemented by daily truck runs up to Lana`i City for water and ice. The open camp served as a base for the daily five-mile round-trip hike (it was too rough for ATVs) along the coast to the wreck site. All equipment needed for data collection was packed in to the work site. Fortunately, the ship's heavy wooden timbers along the coast, and the heavy winches, boiler and double compound steam engine components were sufficiently close to shore to allow for free diving techniques. Unfortunately, the strong trade winds, funneled between the islands of Moloka`i and Maui, blew consistently hard during the 10-day field work, and the resulting surf and long shore current challenged the team.
Following an early breakfast in camp, divers hit the trail at 6:30 a.m., arriving back at camp at 3 p.m. for several hours of map work, translating the measurements from their slates onto the detailed site plan. Evenings were spent by the gas lanterns or campfire, or on the beach under the bright array of stars.
The residents of Lana`i were actively engaged in this survey. Student presence in Lana`i City (population 2,500), and visits to the Lana`i Heritage Center, Lana`i Elementary and High School, and the final public presentation were a strong part of the project. The team was assisted in shoreline trilateration work by nine students from Lana`i Elementary and High School. Several other local folks also made the long and exposed hike out to the site, sharing their knowledge of coastal resources and Lana`i history with the group.
The 2009 Return to Shipwreck Beach project was a fantastic opportunity for students and the public to learn about historic coastal resources, maritime archaeology, and historic preservation in this very special natural, cultural, and historic place. The joint agency project (NOAA Sanctuaries and University of Hawai`i Marine Options Program) was conducted in collaboration with the Lana`i Culture and Heritage Center, the Lana`i Elementary and High School, the Lana`i Archaeological Committee, Alu Like Inc., and the Coalition for a Drug Free Lana`i. For more information, contact Hans Van Tilburg at 808-397-2404 x264 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Posted August 13, 2009