Ships of Exploration and Discovery Research, Inc. and East Carolina University’s maritime studies program are headed back to Saipan and Tinian on their fourth grant from the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program Grant.
Awarded in 2016, the $64,600 grant runs two years and hopes to “expand the regional understanding of the World War II “Operation Forager” in the Mariana Islands and monitor the Saipan Underwater Maritime Heritage Trail.”
The WWII Maritime Heritage Trail, created in 2010 from ABPP grant funding, consists of 12 submerged and semi-submerged archaeological sites including four aircraft wrecks, two shipwrecks, three tanks, two landing craft, and one Amtrak. It is open to swimmers, snorkelers and divers of all ages and backgrounds. Nine waterproof guides (in English and Japanese) including a site map and historical information can be taken underwater and used to tour around the sites. Additionally, four posters that include images of the wrecks and more in-depth information are available for download online.
The 2016-2018 project continues to conduct research on the trail sites and will collect a second set of corrosion data to assess deterioration of the sites as well as short and long term impacts to the sites such as climate change. The team will also conduct photogrammetric surveys of the sites to create 3D models for interpretation and future management. The combination of these two surveys makes for a robust set of longitudinal data that can be used by local managers.
After working on Saipan, the team will head to Tinian where they will, for the first time, survey the invasion beaches of the Battle for Tinian. Any data and heritage sites will be recorded and used to develop a military terrain analysis of the battlefield that can be used by archaeologists, historians, and managers to understand the battle and protect it into the future.
Public meetings and a robust media presence is planned to involve the community and communicate the project and results. Local partners who have worked with ships in the past include Historic Preservation Office, National Parks Service, Northern Marianas Housing Corp., Coastal Resources Management, and Division of Environmental Quality. The team plans to work with local partners and community members and brings researchers from as far as Australia (Western Australian Museum, Heritage Victoria), Japan (A.P.P.A.R.A.T.U.S. LLC) and the U.S. (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, SEARCH, Inc.).