December 7th, 2016, marked the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the sinking of the USS Arizona. For the occasion, members of the Coast Guard Academy’s corrosion research team (including myself) were invited to Hawaii by the U.S. National Park Service to present research about the corrosion of the Arizona. We were also given the opportunity to dive on the ship to appreciate the Americans who died there and to view the physical condition of the structure.
The Arizona is the gravesite for over 1,000 sailors and marines who died on December 7th, 1941 from the attack. The mighty battleship rests on the bottom of Pearl Harbor as a memorial to the sacrifice of these Americans in service to their country. Along with the crew, the USS Arizona took hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil trapped within the hull to the bottom of the harbor. Since the attack (and to this day) leaking oil has been observed from the ship. Since oil in the water is an environmental concern, the U.S. National Park Service has been conducting research to understand the rate of oil leakage and if there are any factors that may impact the long term structural integrity. One of the greatest areas for concern is corrosion, which it the degradation of a material due to chemical reactions with the environment. Corrosion has slowly been eating away the ship since is became submerged. As corrosion wares away the metal, the rate of oil leakage could increase. As a result, on January 23rd, 2015, the U.S. National Park Service gave the Coast Guard Academy custody of hull and rivet samples from the Arizona to conduct corrosion research on.
Since given the samples, 1/c Azzari, 1/c Naylor, and I have been working to understand more about the corrosion of this vessel. Along with the guidance and help of Captain Sanders and LCDR Crettol, our corrosion team has conducted many meaningful experiments. These tests include looking at long-term environmental exposure corrosion and galvanic interactions between the hull and rivets. Our results directly related to the long term structural integrity of the Arizona, and therefore were important to the National Park Service. Thus, the Academy corrosion team was invited to present this research and also dive on the ship to visually identify the corrosion that has occurred.
My experience with both the corrosion research team and the U.S. National Park Service has been amazing and very rewarding. My advisors were extremely knowledgeable and always steered us toward success. They allowed me to struggle through the difficulties of the research, and encouraged me when I felt lost. Additionally, the National Park Service has been extremely welcoming to the Academy, the corrosion team, and me personally. They genuinely wanted to collaborate with us and work toward learning more about corrosion of the Arizona. Specifically, Dr. Dave Conlin, who is chief of the Submerged Resources Center for the U.S. National Park Service, came to talk at the Academy about the Arizona and has consistently provided support to our team. Dr. Conlin is a well-trained diver and has dove on the Arizona many times. With his expertise, he took us on an incredibly meaningful dive on the submerged ship.
I am extremely humbled and awestruck by the opportunity afforded to me by the Academy and the National Park Service. Every person I have met and worked with along the way has had an extremely positive impact on my life. After this amazing experience, I only hope to honor the Americans who died by ensuring their sacrifice leads to valuable lessons, both in science and in humanity.
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