Capturing history: Underwater explorer documents war time wreckage off Maui, Lanai

The photos taken will help scientists as reference points for preservation planning.
Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 8:12 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An underwater explorer from Kailua just spent two weeks documenting submerged military wreckage off Maui and Lanai.

The photos he took will help scientists with their preservation planning.

Maritime archaeologist Dominic Bush studies submerged World War II aircraft and shipwrecks.

The Kailua native and East Carolina University PhD candidate and his research team just completed a fascinating survey near the Hawaiian Islands.

”Now we’re taking a little bit more of a zoomed-out approach,” Bush said. “So we’re doing lots of photo and video documentation of these sites.”

The sites are where the remains of fighter planes sit submerged on the ocean floor off the coasts of Maui and Lanai.

”I’ve been diving on airplane wrecks all throughout the Pacific. I would have to say the Helldiver here in Maalaea Bay is maybe one of the best preserved submerged plane wrecks in the entire world,” Bush recalled.

The team also used a drone to capture aerial shots of a refueling ship the military scuttled on a reef in the 1940s. The flyover showed how much the vessel has deteriorated over the decades.

”Normally, we wouldn’t be able to get that imagery. But with the drone technology it’s really a useful way of getting things which are much higher than we are able to view,” Bush said.

He intends to use the photos and videos to make three-dimensional models of the wrecks as a point of reference for future studies.

”That will give site managers, archaeologists, state officials, and the public an idea of how are these sites changing and what can be done to better protect and preserve them for future generations.”

Education was an important aspect of the project that was funded by the National Geographic Society.

”A big thing we’ve done out here is connect with schools all around the country, all around the world and also here in Hawaii,” Bush said.

You don’t need to be a scuba diver to see the images.

The public will eventually be able to view them on the 3D modeling website Sketchfab.com and on the Ocean Exploration Trust website at NautilusLive.org.

Bush will also share his research with NOAA and Hawaii’s Historic Preservation Division.