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PHOTOS: Pacific Shipwrecks Potentially Toxic Timebombs

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Artemis
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« on: November 29, 2008, 05:46:14 am »

PHOTOS: Pacific Shipwrecks Potentially Toxic Timebombs

November 26, 2008--Some 3,700 World War II shipwrecks lie submerged in the Pacific Ocean.

Encased in coral, host to abundant sea life, and popular among scuba-loving tourists, some of these vessels also contain noxious cargo including oil, diesel, gasoline, chemicals, and even unexploded ordnance.

Concern about the dangers of corrosion is prompting increased investigation of wrecks that may pose hazards to marine life, beaches and local economies.

Here, scuba divers explore the wreck of the coral-covered U.S.S. President Coolidge, a luxury cruise liner-turned-troop ship that was sunk by mines in 1942 as it entered the harbor of Vanuatu's Espiritu Santo Island.
—Photograph by David Doubilet/NGS



http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/11/photogalleries/missions-pacific-timebombs-photos/index.html?source=rss
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Artemis
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« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2008, 05:49:22 am »



The Pacific Ocean is littered with World War II debris. Sunken warships lie in the waters around Palau, pictured here.

So many Allied and Japanese ships sunk in a strait next to the nearby Solomon Islands during the 1942-1943 Battle of Guadalcanal, that it became known as Iron Bottom Sound.

While most wrecks are considered safe, some pose potential hazards to marine life, beaches, and local economies.
—Photograph by Norbert Wu/Minden Picture
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Artemis
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« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2008, 05:50:29 am »



Underwater archaeologist Michael Barrett gathered data on shipwrecks in the Pacific's ecologically rich Chuuk (Truk) Lagoon, Micronesia, with support from the National Geographic Society's Conservation Trust. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

Barrett traced an oil leak he observed in the lagoon to a Japanese tanker, the Hoyo Maru, torpedoed by an American bomb in 1944.

The Hoyo Maru was built to hold up to four million gallons of oil. Conservationists emphasize that tankers like this bear close watch because of their massive fuel capacity.
—Photograph by Michael Barrett
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Artemis
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« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2008, 05:51:53 am »



Japanese forces sunk the U.S.S. Mississinewa, an American tanker, near the Micronesian island of Yap in 1944.

More than half a century later, the Mississinewa was jostled during a typhoon and began leaking more than 300 gallons of oil a day. Micronesia declared a state of emergency.

Because the ship is considered U.S. property, the Navy launched a cleanup in 2003 and offloaded most of its remaining oil, recovering nearly two million gallons.
—Photograph by Storekeeper 1st Class Simon Harris/U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph
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Artemis
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« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2008, 05:53:08 am »



The Pacific waters of the small island nations forming the Federated States of Micronesia are strewn with World War II wrecks.

More than 50 lie in Chuuk Lagoon, an ecological treasure trove that's home to turtles, more than 200 species of fish, and at least one rare coral.

Wrecks are also found off Papua New Guinea and nearby smaller islands. Some 3,700 World War II shipwrecks are scattered throughout the Pacific.
—Map by National Geographic Magazine
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Artemis
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« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2008, 05:55:35 am »



Oil seeps from Japan's Amagisu Maru wreck in Chuuk Lagoon in this photo taken for a May 1976 National Geographic magazine story.

Marine biologist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence Sylvia Earle, who dove the lagoon and wrote that story, advocates a cautious approach to cleanup but believes it's important to assess wrecks for environmental risk.

"We need to know how much oil, the depth, what the complications [of cleanup] might be," she says. "An intelligent evaluation would be mandatory."
—Photograph by A.L. Giddings/NGS
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Artemis
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« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2008, 05:57:24 am »



Some Pacific World War II wrecks still contain oil, diesel, and even weaponry and unexploded ordnance. A diver holds a machine gun found in a U.S. World War II shipwreck near the Pacific island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu.

In cases where oil leaks may present hazards, some conservationists say advanced fuel-draining techniques are safer than waiting for the ship to release a major spill of oil or other toxins into the ocean.
—Photograph by David Doubilet/NGS
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Artemis
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« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2008, 05:58:21 am »



Mines from a sunken Japanese munitions ship appear in this photograph from marine biologist Sylvia Earle's 1976 National Geographic story on Chuuk Lagoon in Mirconesia.

Conservationist Michael Barrett hopes his study of Chuuk's wrecks will help identify those most likely to cause environmental harm and spur cleanup efforts, especially where fuel leaks are possible. "The longer these ships are down there getting corroded or battered by waves," he says, "the higher the risk of a spilll."
—Photograph by A.L. Giddings/NGS
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