Friday, April 25, 2008

Saipan’s Underwater Historical Trail Unveiled

Wow! What an interesting night at Porky's! Only those who were there know that this statement applies on many levels! The title of the post may be miss leading only because it is a little premature - read on!
Rather than talk about the Canadian Peace Keeper in this post I'm going to talk about our first presenter and the discoveries / excitement that ensued!
First, a big, big thank you to Jennifer McKinnon (above) who gave an excellent talk on the 1733 Spanish Galleon Shipwreck Trail in Florida. Jennifer was a senior archaeologist on the project and knows first hand the benefits of such a concept when it is allowed to happen. She also knows first hand how much work it takes and what is needed to pull it off.

If you have not already read the links from my previous post, start with this one. Look around the site as it talks about the entire Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary of which this shipweck trail is a part.

Basically, the program in Florida benefited many people. First, everything about the shipwrecks and surrounding areas, including the coral reefs was documented. This preserves a snap shot in time forever but, it also formed the basis of information guides, maps, and plenty of marketable material and activities. Not to mention the scientific data that will help establish truly sustainable conditions for years to come.

The shipwrecks have no restriction regarding fishing and provide another option for divers of the Florida Keys. Do a Google search for "Florida Shipwreck Trail Diving" and you'll see no shortage of people making money from the program. Historians, divers, fisherman, and marine biologists are at the top of my head right now with regard to who might benefit the most but, we can't forget about the restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and ice cream shops. In fact anyone who sells the guidebook would gain something!
As Jennifer indicated, getting the program off the ground and completed wasn't always looking like an easy task. There were those against it from the beginning. Treasure hunting and removing things from shipwrecks was considered a right of the people for many, many years in the area. It was, in fact, a few lucky people who rode the gravy train and struck the big time. Sadly, after years and years of indiscriminate salvage, the historical trail is likely half as interesting as it could have been. The consolation to that thought is the fact that at least some of it remains and will remain documented no matter what happens from here on in. Did I mention the team researching the ships endured 4 rather large hurricanes over the course of documenting and mapping all the wrecks?

Ya, Ya, Ya, - That's Florida what does this have to do with the Marianas!

Except we're talking primarily WWII artifacts and a few years down the road!

It just so happens that over the past month or so there has been a team here working on identifying the inventory of wreckage in our lagoon and just beyond the reef. You can check out the work done to date here but, basically a team of experts are using sonar scans to identify anything that might be worth looking at. Saipan resident and long-time commercial diver / boat captain, Brady Barrineau (aka Dive God) has been working with the team and helping to document their findings. Ronnie Rodgers from the HPO office gave us a quick review of the progress and it is very exciting. They tell me they are finding things that even Brady, who has dove here his entire life, did not know existed.

Ronnie told us now that they have an inventory started they can begin the process of getting grants and funding for the project in order to continue it in the same manner as the Florida trail. Jennifer has even offered to come back from Australia to give divers instruction and training in marine archeology so they can help with the process!

Are you kidding me?
Training our local people to have a helping hand in delivering more tourists to the island - what a novel concept! With federal money to boot!


When asked what would be the biggest factor in accomplishing something similar here in the Marianas Jennifer said, ENTHUSIAM and a real interest from the local residents to make it happen.

We're going to try to arrange for that excitement to grow a little more with a presentation again next week. This time it will be by the guys on the vessel doing the sonar. They've got pictures and video of the wrecks and from what they have shown me so far there is enough to do something pretty special here already and they’re not done yet.

By the way, does anyone remember that article in the Tribune way back? An "expert" diver in Japan said we needed to work on diversifying our dive sites?

First, don't always believe what you read in the papers.
Second, what a ridiculous statement by someone who really doesn't know what he’s talking about.

I won't argue with him in that a shipwreck trail sure would add to the diversity we have. Is it necessary? No, not really, our diving is already quite diverse but, why not? What are the real drawbacks to it? I’m Looking forward to seeing that so called expert on our shipwreck trail, or even on one of our wall dives, or in a cavern, or mingling with Eagle Rays or perhaps in the sandy flats meditating in crystal clear water at Obyan! If he really wants to be an expert he's going to have to do the research rather than believe what a few tell him!

Get my point?

Imagine if all those people who made the Florida Shipwreck trail a reality just gave up the first time someone said NO, it can’t be done!

That brings me to Act Two!

1 comment:

Scuba Gear said...

Cheers to shipwreck diving! Never underestimate the capability of quality
scuba diving equipment to make your dive the greatest possible...And yes, everything can be possible when you have set your mind into scuba diving...