HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Resting in Maui’s Maalaea Bay, a World War II U.S. military dive bomber sits on the sandy bottom, collecting coral and aging underwater.
It’s one of more than 400 documented sites of military wreckage in the ocean surrounding the islands.
“Many of them have been identified. Some of them are just suspected locations,” said Dominic Bush, a doctoral student in East Carolina University’s coastal resource management program and a student of underwater archaeology.
“I’ve always loved the ocean and history,” he said. “This program has allowed me to combine those two into a degree.”
Bush grew up in Kailua and graduated from Saint Louis School. He made his first dive on a military wreck as a teenager. That got him hooked.
“It was just the kind of striking visuals of seeing this aircraft that’s meant to be flying high above submerged and surrounded by fish and marks of corrosion. You just see the signs of age and wear,” he said.
Bush is now leading a preservation project.
Later this month, he will be part of a research team that will dive on two military wrecks in Maalaea Bay to study how micro-organisms contribute to the corrosion of the aircraft.
“If we can kind of understand that then maybe we can prevent it and help preserve these wrecks for future generations,” he said.
The scientific method will be similar to what was used on the Titanic to collect bio-film samples.
“Bio-film is a slimy later that actually contains the bacteria and other micro-organisms. We’re going to take that sediment and water and bring it back to the lab at ECU for a DNA analysis,” he said.
He wants to share his findings with NOAA and other agencies.
The aircraft in Maalaea Bay are popular with recreational divers. They are also historical artifacts.
“They’ve been underwater for 75 years, yet they still are very recognizable,” Bush said.
He hopes what he learns will help efforts to keep them that way.