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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 24, 2010

SS Maui wreckage a UH laboratory

Advertiser Staff

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

University of Hawai'i students and teachers will spend about three weeks surveying the wreckage of the SS Maui.

Courtesy of NOAA

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The SS Maui, a little-known shipwreck off the coast of the Big Island, is about to be turned into an underwater laboratory for oceanography students and teachers.

University of Hawai'i students and professionals will spend three weeks starting next month doing field work surveying the SS Maui, an interisland steamer that struck a reef in 1917 at Makalowaena off Kona Coast State Park.

Six students from UH's Marine Options Program on O'ahu and Hilo will survey the site with digital cameras, diagrams and measurements.

The underwater classroom is made possible by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration Office of National Marine Sanctuaries Maritime Heritage Program, which preserves historical, cultural and archaeological resources in the sanctuaries and the UH Marine Option Program.

The program also is open to six elementary and six high school students and teachers from the West Hawai'i Explorations Academy for part of the field study.

The students and teachers will camp near the shore at Kekaha Kai State Park this summer and launch inflatable dive boats from the beach to access the wreck site using snorkel and scuba gear, according to NOAA.

The SS Maui was carrying sugar when it ran aground and struck a reef at Makalowaena in a Kona storm, according to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Sanctuary National Marine Sanctuary website.

The UH Marine Options program gives undergraduates interested in the ocean a chance to network with professionals and other students.

"The SS Maui wreck site gives students a chance to practice maritime archaeology and contribute to our understanding of Hawai'i's historic underwater resources," Hans Van Tilburg, a maritime heritage coordinator with the Pacific Island Region, said in a statement. "We're very excited about the growing interest in Hawai'i's unique maritime heritage and the opportunity to include both university and high school students in this program."

The program models one led last summer at Shipwreck Beach on Lāna'i.

The program's goal is to share the information with the public and create an interest in Hawai'i's coastal resources. For more information about the Pacific Islands Region maritime heritage program go to www.sanctuaries.noaa.gov/about/pacific/mhp.html.