Software company aims to map and preserve the USS Arizona wreck - New York News

Software company aims to map and preserve the USS Arizona wreck

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PEARL HARBOR - This December will mark the 73rd anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. It triggered America's entry into the second world war.

A symbol of that attack has always been the U.S.S. Arizona, which almost 73 years later remains at the bottom of that shallow harbor, a memorial to the men who died there.

But what's happening to the ship after so much time underwater, scientists are trying to figure that out now.

In Phoenix, you can see pieces of the U.S.S. Arizona. At Wesley Bolin Plaza the anchors, mast, and two huge guns from the ship are on display. They're in great shape, but that's not the case with the overall ship wreck in Hawaii.

A company is undertaking an amazing project to map and preserve the shipwreck that's been sitting on the bottom of Pearl Harbor since December 7th, 1941.

Pete Kelsey is from a company called Autodesk. The Flagstaff resident is one of a very select few to dive on the wreck.

What's left of the battleship Arizona sits on about 40 feet of water at the bottom of Pearl Harbor.

"You've got a steel battleship that's been in salt water for more than 70 years, odds are it's not the same ship it was even ten years ago," said Kelsey.

Every year thousands of tourists visit the memorial in Hawaii. Still protruding above the waves, part of the ship's turret number three. Still entombed below are 900 sailors, every crewmember's name is memorialized on a large white wall.

For the first time in 30 years, Autodesk, the U.S. Navy, and the National Park Service are exploring the U.S.S. Arizona, underwater.

"A large, large, team. Everybody pounced and donated time and expertise pro-bono to make this happen," he said.

The mission; to digitally map every detail and bring the experience back to everyone visiting the memorial. Kelsey is part of the underwater team.

"One of the things I will never forget, on the first dive and my hands are shaking because I can't believe what I'm about to do, and the park service ranger diving next to me says, "so you are ready to walk on the moon?" And I didn't know what he meant, and he said, this is akin to walking on the moon, nobody gets in the water at the Arizona," said Kelsey.

While much of the ship is crumbling and covered with barnacles, some of it remains remarkably intact.

"First things that come to mind were swimming along the deck, the teak decking of the ship, in some parts looks like it's new, the grain is perfect, it hasn't eroded, it's just beautiful," he said.

"And then you swim a little further you get into the galley area, and there are these beautiful hexagonal tiles that were on the floor of the galley that are perfect bright white," said Kelsey.

Autodesk makes all kinds of software used in architecture and movie special effects. But this time its equipment and expertise are being used in a three-year project to detail every aspect of the Arizona.

"It's morphed into how can I bring that experience that brought tears to my eyes in a dive mask in more than one occasion, how can I bring that story, that feeling, to a broader audience," he said.

Last year auto desk started with a special underwater laser scanner.

"There's actually two hatches, and there's one with the steps going down into the ship," said Kelsey.

Later this year, they will employer a sonar device to get even more accurate details. Accurate enough to keep track of any changes the ship is going through.

"Our objective was to make it highly accurate, a survey, ultimately a 3D model of the ship and the memorial that we can use a baseline, come back some years later, do the same thing again, overlay the model and look for changes," he said.

A 3D image of a Coke Bottle on the deck of the ship is transformed into a 3D printed model of the same bottle, in the hands of an Autodesk engineer.

"The fidelity of this model really surprised all of us quite frankly," said Kelsey.

The same thing with a kitchen pot on the ship. A 3D image they created. Eventually, they will be able to do the same thing with the entire ship; create a 3D model and hand it over to the National Park Service on December 7th.

"There are so many things you can do once you have that model," he said.

Also carefully mapped was the area near turret #1, still intact underwater.

"One of the most-iconic spots on the ship is turret number one, it's on the bow, and the three 14 inch guns are still there and intact, sort of peering out of the gloom and it's really something to look down the barrel, and I had my hands on it," said Kelsey.

And they mapped near turret #2, a gaping hole where a Japanese bomb sent the U.S.S. Arizona to the bottom of the harbor when it exploded in the ship's magazine.

"High altitude bomb pierced the deck and lit off a million pounds of ammunition; the ship sank in 9 minutes, but I have had my hands around the edge of that hole. It's really something," he said.

The U.S.S. Arizona is a war grave; nobody can actually enter the ship, plus it's too dangerous. This mapping could go a long way toward preserving the wreck for future generations.
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