Cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy conduct a long-term corrosion study on the USS Arizona in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, that will help to determine when the submerged hull of the sunken ship might collapse and release oil.
This summer, First Class Cadets Marshall Grant, Ali Re, Terry Jung and Third Class Cadet Linda Duncan, with the help of the National Park Service, placed four racks with metal test samples in the water on the USS Arizona. The metal test samples will be removed at different times and studied to determine their corrosion rate, which will then be used to determine how long until the hull of the USS Arizona has before it collapses.
“This is the first time that scientific results will be made from a test done on the Arizona by cadets,” said Grant. “Though we are not actually testing the Arizona, the racks are placed on the hull giving us the same results as the actual ship.”
The USS Arizona remains submerged where Japanese forces sank it on December 7, 1941, with the loss of 1,177 crew members. It is estimated that 900 crewmen remain on the ship.
Because the ship was so severely damaged, it was considered a total loss and the Navy did not attempt a salvage effort. As the wreck’s location was not a navigation hazard, the ship was allowed to remain where it sank and was declared a burial at sea. The Arizona is now considered an active American military cemetery.
“While conducting science, it is important to put our work in context,” said Capt. Richard Sanders, the cadets’ research advisor. “The USS Arizona is the final resting place for almost all of the sailors and marines who lost their lives aboard the ship during the attack in 1941. We carry out our tasks with a respectful awareness.”
According to the National Park Service, an estimated half-million gallons of fuel oil remain aboard the ship, either in original bunkers or trapped beneath overheads of numerous undamaged compartments.
Oil leaking from the sunken battleship can still be seen rising from the wreckage to the water’s surface. This oil is sometimes referred to as “the tears of the Arizona” or “black tears.”