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Return to Shipwreck Beach Project
Maritime Heritage Resources Survey July 6-20, 2009

Photo of shipwreck off of Lanai, Hawaii
19th-century ship’s boiler, stern section of unidentified wreck site, Shipwreck Beach, Lāna‘i

The Hawaiian Islands, with their long history of intensive maritime activity, have witnessed the loss of hundreds of ships, creating wrecks scattered along the rugged coastline.  Many of these sites represent historic steamships and sailing schooners, reflecting the busy inter-island trade during Hawai‘i’s formative ranching and plantation period in the mid to late 19th century.  The reefs surrounding the island of Lana`i not only presented natural hazards to this navigation, but also provided steamship owners a place to dispose older vessels, and “Shipwreck Beach” on Lana‘i’s north shore soon became the rotten row of Hawai‘i’s historic maritime past.  Surveying these historic resources opens a window on Hawai‘i’s maritime and plantation legacy. 

The systematic study of these historic resources on Lāna‘i began in 2001 with the survey of the naval vessel YO-21 (a Pearl Harbor “survivor”) and the SS Hornet, an inter island cattle carrier associated with Lana‘i Ranch.  The Return to Shipwreck Beach project 2009 will continue this work.  NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Program in the Pacific Islands region, in partnership with the University of Hawai‘i’s Marine Option Program, will offer six university students five days of training in maritime archaeology surveying techniques.  The team will then spend ten days camping at Shipwreck Beach, recording features of an unidentified 19th century steamship wreck site.  They will be assisted in shoreline work by students from Lana‘i Elementary and High School.  Web site and brochure material will highlight heritage preservation for this very special natural, cultural, and historic place.

The project will be conducted in collaboration with the La¯na‘i Cultural 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.  The Return to Shipwreck Beach project is supported by a NOAA Preserve America Initiative Grant, the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and the University of Hawai‘i Marine Option Program.  For more information email or call 808.397.2404 x264.

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