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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Work to avert USS Arizona oil spill resumes next month

Associated Press

Researchers will take pinpoint measurements on the sunken hull of the USS Arizona next month to help caretakers determine whether the ship's fuel tanks are in danger of rupturing as the wreckage shifts.

A National Park Service team from Colorado with high-end Global Positioning System devices will map previously marked reference points on the ship to see how much they have moved.

"We've got a vessel that's halfway sunken in the mud, that's deteriorating and could at any time release a large volume of oil," said Tim Smith, a GPS expert at the park service regional headquarters in the west Denver suburb of Lakewood.

An estimated 500,000 gallons of fuel oil remain in the wreckage.

Two years ago, divers with high-powered nail guns fired 43 stainless steel nails into the ship's deck. Archaeologists and surveyors measured the longitude, latitude and elevation of each nail with GPS receivers, which calculate their location in relation to satellites.

The project uses surveyor-class receivers accurate to within a few millimeters, Smith said.

The park service hopes to repeat the measurements annually and develop a preservation plan, including recommendations for dealing with the fuel, by 2005.

Preliminary calculations indicate that the collapse of the Arizona may be decades away, said park service archaeologist Matt Russell.

"There is time to come up with the best, least destructive method to remove the oil," he said.