Is the Pattern Really Full?: Asking Questions That Count In The Archaeology of Sunken Aircraft

Part of: Society for Historical Archaeology 2014

In an effort to help progress the field of historical archaeology, we must constantly reevaluate the questions that we ask ourselves during our fieldwork and as we attempt to interpret the results. As with sunken aircraft sites, many factors affect the aircraft long before it has even settled on the seafloor, and these are often the first questions that need answering. These factors may include the pilots actions before ditching or crashing to the water surface, whether or not the plane floated before sinking, and what the orientation of the plane was upon impact with the water. Questions like these will arise well before the field documentation, and based on published reports of sunken aircraft archaeology, these questions and answers have been well addressed by the archaeologists interpreting these sites. However, what archaeological questions or theories are we applying to the site themselves that may differ from shipwrecks or other submerged sites? Do we, can we, or need we formulate new methods and theories for studying sunken aircraft? In this session, we hope to explore these questions and evaluate whether or not we are asking the questions that count for sunken aircraft archaeology.

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  • Documents (8)

  • Beyond Identification: Aviation Archaeology in the U.S. Navy (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Heather Brown.

    The United States Navy maintains title to all its aircraft, irrespective of date or place of loss. While the primary aim of any investigation into a newly-discovered wreck site is the identification of the individual aircraft and, if applicable, recovery of lost servicemen and women, recent technological advances in underwater data collection allow for a broader range of study. While marine conditions can destroy identifying features, and historical records do not always provide definitive...

  • Current Trends in Aviation Archaeology (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Megan Lickliter-Mundon.

    Aviation archaeology as a field of study has struggled for academic, professional, and public acceptance since its beginning. In some ways, this sub-discipline of historical or underwater archaeology mirrors the development of nautical archaeology. As nautical archaeologists overcame the barrier of the oceans and pioneered methodology, the proponents of aviation archaeology are using the discipline to overcome barriers of perception and tradition. The practice of aviation archaeology, however,...

  • A Flying Coffin Discovered in Midway Atoll Lagoon: The Archaeological Investigation of a Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Kelly Gleason.

    In June of 2012, a team of NOAA divers were conducting marine debris surveys and came across an exciting discovery ‘ a sunken World War II aircraft in the Midway Atoll lagoon. NOAA maritime archaeologists followed up with archaeological survey at the site in July of 2012 as part of a broader maritime heritage survey of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. The team documented the site and determined its identity as a Brewster F2A-3 Buffalo lost during a squall in February of 1942. This is the third...

  • Forensic Archaeological Approaches to Addressing Aircraft Wreck Sites in Underwater Contexts: The JPAC Perspective (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Richard K. Wills. Andrew T. Pietruszka.

    For nearly 20 years, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and its Central Identification Laboratory (CIL) have conducted forensic archaeological activities on submerged aircraft wreck sites. This work is undertaken for the ultimate purpose of recovering and identifying the remains of unaccounted for U.S. Military service members, and is world-wide in its scope. Over these years, JPAC and the CIL have had to confront challenges that have included: developing a structured program for...

  • How did they land here? Survey of a 1942 Catalina OA-10 US military aircraft lost in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, Québec, Canada (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Chriss Ludin. Charles Dagneau. Marc-André Bernier. Thierry Boyer.

    This paper presents fieldwork undertaken by Parks Canada’s Underwater Archaeology Service (UAS) in 2012 on the wreck of a fairly intact 1942 Catalina OA-10 US military aircraft situated in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, Québec, near Mingan Archipelago National Park Reserve of Canada. This non intrusive survey documented the aircraft on the seabed, its general state of preservation, as well as the extent of sediment levels and the presentation of archaeological remains inside the aircraft. It confirmed...

  • Sinking Slowly: Adapting Underwater and Terrestrial Methods for Surveying Airplane Sites in the Bogs of Newfoundland and Labrador (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Lisa Daly.

    Airplane sites in Newfoundland and Labrador tend to be in isolated locations, and are often resting in bog environments. Due to the nature of bogs, neither underwater nor terrestrial techniques are adequate for the proper survey of these sites. Similarly, the isolation of sites means investigators are limited by the equipment they can carry. As such, methods must be combines and adapted based on the characteristics of each aviation site to achieve the most accurate and detailed survey possible....

  • Site Formation Processes of Sunken Aircraft: A Case Study of Four WWII Aircraft in Saipan’’s Tanapag Lagoon (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Jennifer McKinnon. Sam Bell.

    From 2009 to 2012 a multidisciplinary team collected archaeological and conservation survey data on four sunken aircraft in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. This data was analysed in an effort to better understand site formation processes of WWII aircraft lost in the Pacific. A site formation model was produced based on previously established shipwreck models as well as corrosion data collected and analysed to provide a detailed description of how these sites have been and...

  • Sunken Aircraft Archaeology Within U.S. National Parks: Lessons Learned from the Documentation of a Submerged WWII B-29 Super Fortress (2014)
    DOCUMENT Citation Only Dave Conlin. Bert Ho.

    With numerous submerged aircraft sites in the U.S. National Park System, the Submerged Resources Center has had several opportunities to conduct research and test methodologies in a variety of underwater environments that these airplanes now reside. Many lessons have been learned from each site, but none have taught more than the submerged World War II-era B-29 Super Fortress at the bottom of Lake Mead, outside of Las Vegas, NV. This discovery, subsequent legal battle, and eventual full...