By Katy Pridgen
In late spring, while surveying off the coast of Long Island in Kodiak, Alaska, NOAA Ship Rainier found an uncharted shipwreck. Although rocks around the shipwreck were previously charted, this sunken vessel is a new feature. What made the find unique was how the top of wreck’s mast resembled a yellow light at the water’s surface. The Rainier crew fondly nicknamed it “ET’s finger.”
During the survey, Rainier was able to sail close enough to get multibeam echo sounder data over the shipwreck and record a shoal depth.
Long Island was once the home of Fort Tidball, a World War II coastal fort established in 1941 and abandoned in 1946. NOAA received permission from the Alaska State Historic Preservation Office to share information about this shipwreck and is currently working to identify the ship.
Why is NOAA surveying around Kodiak Island? The area of Chiniak Bay supports the second busiest and third richest fisheries port in Alaska. In 2015, the Port of Kodiak was responsible for 514 million pounds of fish and $138 million of product. Chiniak Bay is the gateway to Kodiak and has a survey vintage of 1933. This area has seen many groundings and near misses due to the number of dangers to navigation and pinnacles that exist in this area. The navigation of this area is further complicated by the number vessels trying to enter and exit the Port of Kodiak via a choke point located at the channel entrance buoy. In recent years, a number of groundings in and around the area have occurred, the most famous being a 174-foot Army landing craft that was outbound to deliver goods to a remote village in western Alaska in 2012.