Coral Research in Pearl Harbor

Valor-DUW-140903-483
Valor-DUW-140903-483

Pearl Harbor is an active harbor rich in history, and steeped in cultural significance. The site of the Japanese attack on the day that will "live in infamy," December 7, 1941, the harbor is known for its role in involving the United States in World War II. The harbor is also the site of several sunken battleships from the attack, including the USS Utah and USS Arizona, the latter which is open to the public and whose gun turrets protrude from the water at the memorial.

The USS Utah Memorial

Despite the harbor's rich cultural significance, it is not known for it's biological diversity. The harbor's silty and brackish water prevent significant coral growth, but how much coral lives in the harbor is, as yet, a mystery. Recently The Hydrous, in collaboration with the National Park Service, began some of the first research in the harbor to monitor coral settlement and growth. The team placed the first coral settlement tiles around the park, which will be retrieved, analyzed and replace over the course of a year to monitor coral recruitment, the rate at which various coral species settle on different substrates.

The project began from park divers noticing an unusual amount of corals and sponges growing on the USS Utah and Arizona, prompting questions about coral growth in the park. The amount of coral came as a surprise to divers due to the conditions surrounding the battleships: heavy metals and oil constantly leak from the wreckage, but as yet, do not seem to affect the corals. The results of this research will give scientists an insight into the relationship between the wrecks and the coral in the park, and a glimpse of the future where both are understood and protected.

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2B8A3211

A drop of oil floating at the surface of the water near the USS Arizona Memorial.