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Saturday, March 2, 2024 | Back issues
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Joint Effort Reveals Sunken |Pearl Harbor Seaplane

WASHINGTON (CN) - Collaboration between a federal maritime heritage program and the University of Hawaii has revealed rare images of a seaplane lost in the Pearl Harbor attack.

The results of the joint archaeological survey efforts between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency's Maritime Heritage Program and the University of Hawaii's Marine Option Program were announced Thursday, just days before the 74th anniversary of the Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The PBY-5 Catalina seaplane was sunk during the opening minutes of the attack, NOAA said. It now rests on its side at the bottom of Kane'ohe Bay, in Hawaii. Just minutes before Pearl Harbor was attacked, Japanese aircraft bombed the adjacent U.S. Naval Air Station, destroying 33 of the "flying boats," preventing the Japanese planes from being followed back to their carriers, NOAA said. It is possible this plane was attempting to take off during the attack.

Previous attempts by UH dive teams and a local sport diving group to photograph the wrecked plane had been largely unsuccessful, according to the announcement. Van Tilburg, a maritime archaeologist with NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries worked with the UH students to achieve the photo and video documentation of the site, crediting both clearer water conditions and better equipment for the good results.

"The new images and site plan help tell the story of a largely forgotten casualty of the attack," Van Tilburg said. "The sunken PBY plane is a very important reminder of the 'Day of Infamy,' just like the USS Arizona and USS Utah. They are all direct casualties of December 7."

The Marine Option Certificate Program is open to all UH students who have an interest in the ocean, regardless of their field of study, and it offers experiential internships and research opportunities. The program partners with NOAA to provide Maritime Archaeology Surveying Techniques, or MAST courses, where students can dive on actual wreck sites.

"We're excited to partner with NOAA in order to create these unique and important opportunities for our students," said Cynthia L. Hunter, Marine Option Program director. "Partnerships like this provide a means by which forgotten history is remembered, and stories like those of the PBY fleet can be shared with new generations, including the students who worked to map the wreck."

The wreck falls under the protection of the Sunken Military Craft Act of 2004, which applies to foreign sunken military craft as well as those owned by the U.S. government.

NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program was created in 2002, and it works under the authority of the National Marine Sanctuaries Act, first enacted in 1972, along with other laws to designate, manage and protect marine environments that are of historical, cultural or archeological significance.

The exciting joint survey's photos, videos and other information are available at http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/shipwrecks/pby-5/ .

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