When I started working for the National Park Service (NPS) nearly two decades ago as an intern, my primary job was cataloging tens of thousands of slides, by hand and generating a database. Day after day, month after month I viewed the underwater world, including the Pacific, through someone else’s lens. It was the lens of several underwater archeologist and volunteers who were part of the Submerged Cultural Resources Unit (or the SCRU team as we once were known) that had run field projects around the world under the founder and Chief Dan Lenihan’s direction. From 1985-1991 members of SCRU crisscrossed the tiny dots on the map with names like Pohnapai, Kosare, Palau, Chuck, Marjaro, Saipan and Bikini to name a few in a series of “Pacific Swing”. Lenihan was the master of the big picture. For several years he had SCRU partnering with the US Navy under Project Seamark with unprecedented access to Navy assets, divers and support. This partnership in conjunction with official request from several US Trust Territories let to archeological assessments throughout the Pacific that are still the benchmark for research in the area some 25 years later.
From 1941-45 these miniscule dots on a map had the utmost strategic importance for both the Japanese and American forces and the battles that were waged over their control were some of the bloodiest in the history of the war. To the underwater archeologist, these islands hold unprecedented concentrations of WWII era heritage. In most cases, the most preserved icons of the WWII in the Pacific were found underwater – not rotting in the jungles. I often imagined what it would be like to image these relics of war - airplanes and tanks, shipwrecks and submarines as I cataloged the tens of thousands of slides the NPS had generated over their “Pacific swings” back then. I finally get my chance to hit a couple of those dots on the map.