Kelly Gleason dives
into the fourth day of diving on the Arizona Preservation
Project. Photo by Brett Seymour, NPS.
Today was my fourth day diving with the
Submerged Resources Center (SRC) team. I am working in Honolulu as a
maritime heritage intern with the NOAA Pacific Regional Marine
Sanctuaries Program while I am also completing my dissertation in the
field of maritime archaeology at East Carolina University. For me,
diving with this team is such a privilege, and to join them on USS
Arizona is an incredible experience. There are many things that are
predictable about a day at the Memorial; boats come and go at routine
intervals and waves of visitors enter and exit in much the same fashion.
But I have found that there is little that is predictable in the daily
activities of the SRC team. By this I mean that their creativity and
ingenuity never cease to amaze me. Matt Russell, as the taskmaster,
describes the daily objectives early this morning, but I love the way
that so much of their success relies on the way that the team can
resourcefully figure out ways to get the job done. While many underwater
archeology projects involve some simple, basic tools (such as measuring
tapes and slates), Matt, Brett Seymour, Dave Conlin and Art Ireland
create their own tools as they go in order to get the job done.
Kelly stands by with collection vials for
the mung samples. Photo by Brett Seymour, NPS.
Today, Brett and Dave continued
improvements to their AMAZING MACHINE in order to keep working on the
photomosaic. Creating a photomosaic is a daunting task for any site; it
is incredibly tedious and so many elements have to work in your favor.
Doing a photomosaic at Arizona is a feat that only a team with
this kind of creativity and experience could attempt. In the middle of
the day I am struck by the scene of Brett near the surface of the bow of
the ship with the AMAZING MACHINE, and Dave on a nearby quay working
with the generator. What they are attempting to do is a complicated
task, but they make it look simple in such an “all-in-a-day’s work”
fashion. I realize how valuable teamwork is in this field, and Dave,
Brett, Matt and Art are all incredible at working together. They work in
environments where traditional methods of communication aren’t always
feasible, and I’m so impressed with how synchronized their work is.
Matt Russell retrieves a mung sample from an interior cabin accessed
through a starboard porthole.
Photo by Brett Seymour, NPS.
While Brett and Dave work at the bow,
Jenni Burbank, Matt and I were wrangling “mung” from one of the
starboard portholes of the ship. This is truly an interdisciplinary
project: another study is being conducted on the microbial canopy that
is growing on the oil that has accumulated on the overhead of the ship.
The team coined this growth “mung” years ago, and today we were going to
try to collect samples to be sent off to Pam Morris at Medical
University of South Carolina. This task was going to require some more
creativity and engineering, not to mention teamwork. Constructing a
device to scrape microbial growth off the ceiling of a ship was one
thing, the trickier part was figuring out how we would get this filmy
stuff into small sample containers through a foot-wide porthole. After
constructing a sophisticated mung retrieving device from PVC pipe and
electrical tape, Jenni, Matt and I got to work. Like most of the work
I’ve been involved in for the last two days, it was a messy task, and
though I managed to avoid getting oil in my hair this time. . . but oil
seemed to get everywhere else. We were successful at wrangling enough
mung to carefully place into solutions that would help Pam Morris
analyze this bizarre phenomenon growing on the oil inside the ship. It
is really an amazing thing to see. I’ve always thought that peering into
portholes on a ship is the most haunting part of visiting a wrecksite,
but like so many other parts of the ship, there is so much growing and
changing and evolving. It is another humbling reminder that working on
Arizona isn’t like any other ship on earth. So much has happened
and so much continues to happen at this site and I feel honored to be
able to experience the site so intimately.
Team Mung prepares the samples for shipment
and analysis. Photo by Brett Seymour, NPS.
I can’t conclude today’s thoughts without
expressing my gratitude to Art, who is such a wonderful part of the SRC
team. In any project involving tons of gear, boats and long days in the
field, its such a blessing to have someone around who always seems to
say the perfect thing or have the perfect remedy.