Submerged Cultural Resources Study:
USS Arizona and Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark
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Chapter V: USS Arizona: The Management Experience

This chapter was written by two managers, Gary Cummins and Bill Dickinson, who served consecutively as superintendents of the USS Arizona Memorial from 1980 through 1988.


The USS ARIZONA, USS UTAH and Pearl Harbor surveys, a five-year project to inventory those cultural resources, contributed to our knowledge of the historical significance of submerged cultural resources within Pearl Harbor National Historic Landmark. As a result of these surveys, managers at the USS Arizona Memorial have become aware of the unique and complex issues surrounding submerged-resource protection, and have learned how acute the need is for decisions affecting future preservation policy.

As site managers responsible for an internationally significant submerged cultural resource, we have wrestled with management decisions that had precious few guidelines and precedents. If other National Park Service managers are wrestling with similar issues and making different decisions, NPS will be perpetuating inconsistencies in management practices.

Should we be doing anything to preserve shipwrecks in place? What about shipwrecks that are also grave sites? Should we let the natural processes continue unimpaired? Should we be looking for means to slow or stop deterioration? Should we be retrieving significant artifacts? Should we, for example, remove the 14-inch guns from the USS ARIZONA so they can be displayed and people can see them before they are lost to corrosion? Should we document wrecks with known dead? Should we merely monitor the deterioration process, noting changes in conditions that occur over time but allowing deterioration to continue? Should we be diving on such submerged grave sites? Should we penetrate them? Some people argue that we are disturbing the final resting place of those who perished by diving on these wrecks. If we don't dive them, how do we learn enough to make responsible management decisions regarding health, safety and appropriate visitor use?

As we continue to study submerged cultural resources, we will gain more experience -- and answers. Equally important, we will better understand what future questions to ask.

Last Updated: 27-Apr-2001