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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Underwater heritage trail in the works for Saupan lagoon

Students and faculty from the Adelaide, Australia-based Flinders University are developing an Underwater World War II Heritage Trail in the Saipan lagoon, further emphasizing the CNMI as an eco-tourism location and protecting Saipan’s underwater treasures.

Jennifer McKinnon and about 18 others from the Flinders University began research in the CNMI for its historical underwater sites earlier this year and, until recently, had been conducting hands-on, site work since May. Sites documented during the project include three tanks, four airplanes, two Japanese landing craft, a possible sub-chaser, a freighter and an American LVT (Landing Vehicle Tracked).

The project was funded through a $50,000 grant from the American Battlefield Protection Program, which the group received in August 2009. The expedition group comprised staff and graduate students from Flinders University’s Archaeological Department. The group also worked with the CNMI Historic Preservation Office.

McKinnon provided the public with an overview of their findings and plans for the trail’s development in the Saipan lagoon Friday last week, with a crowd of over 100 World War II buffs and scuba divers attending the lecture at the American Memorial Park.

Jason Raupp, a PhD student at Flinders University, emphasized at the public presentation the importance for site visitors to “take pictures, not things,”

“The reason we’re doing what we do is that it’s research on one hand, but it’s also…people are diving at these sites anyway. If they’re gonna be out diving the sites its good to know that they know the reason why these sites are here…to try to teach them that ‘you don’t take things from the site’ because, say, everyone takes something and there’s nothing left. There’s no more reason for the tourism, there’s no more reason for the sites,” Raupp said.

The planned heritage trail will be augmented with site brochures, diving and snorkeling guides, and a Web site that divers can use to learn about the history of the sites. The brochures, guides and Web site will be completed by December 2010. (Dencio Manglona)

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