By Dr. Alexis Catsambis, Naval History and Heritage Command, Underwater Archaeology Branch
(Thursday, June 11, 2014) Today was our last day of operations on the presumed site of USS Houston. Operations began once more with a morning brief involving the master diver, Senior Chief William Phillips, Chief Warrant Officer Jason Shafer and myself at 6:30 a.m. Following breakfast, the team engaged in gear and camera preparations and by 8:45 a.m. a small boat was in the water to undertake the first U.S. Navy dive of the morning.
By 11:00 a.m., we had completed three dives between the U.S. and Indonesian dive teams, exploring the mid-section and stern of the wrecked vessel. At that time, Senior Chief Phillips had to call a halt to further dive operations due to the strength of the prevailing current. After reviewing the appropriate charts, we determined that dives could resume at 2:00 p.m.
As planned, we renewed diving operations at 2:00 p.m. which lasted until 5:30 p.m. when lightning and thunder required that we stop diving operations in accordance with established safety protocols. In the three and a half hours we had on site, the U.S. and Indonesian teams completed five more dives, focusing on the midships and bow of the vessel. In total, we have collected several hours of footage that require careful review and comparison with USS Houston’s schematics. As of now, nothing has contradicted the working hypothesis that the wreck site is the remains of USS Houston. However, only careful processing and analysis of the collected data can confirm this tentative identification.
Tomorrow morning we expect to conduct the final dives of the operation to remove the buoys that have been placed on the wreck-site, followed by a ceremony to commemorate the partnership that made this operation possible, and continues to make CARAT14 successful. Collaboration with Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One, the Military Sealift Command crew of Safeguard, our Indonesian counterparts and the rest of the supporting teams throughout the operation has been seamless, and all engaged were driven to deliver the best results possible within the short amount of time we were allocated on the site.
I am scheduled to depart for Jakarta tomorrow at about 10 a.m. and will arrive in the late afternoon/evening, then depart for Washington the next morning. I look forward to returning to the Washington Navy Yard to begin the process of thoroughly analyzing the data we’ve collected over the last few days.
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