NAVAL GAZ­ING

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

And on to vig­i­lance of an­other sort. Un­der­wa­ter ar­chae­ol­o­gists with the U.S. Navy His­tory and Her­itage Com­mand are tend­ing to 3,000 ship­wrecks and 14,000 lost air­craft with a del­i­cate hand and su­pe­rior tech­nol­ogy.

“A large per­cent­age of the Navy’s his­tory re­sides in sunken ship­wrecks and air­craft, lit­er­ally scat­tered around the globe,” says Robert Ney­land, who di­rects the ef­fort to lo­cate, as­sess and pre­serve wrecks that are prop­erty of the U.S. gov­ern­ment, re­gard­less of what ocean they are in.

They up­hold the Sunken Mil­i­tary Craft Act, which pro­tects those craft from unau­tho­rized dis­tur­bances, and was signed into law by Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush as part of the 2005 Na­tional De­fense Autho­riza­tion Act.

Global po­si­tion­ing, sonar and mag­ne­tome­ters are part of the tool­box, Mr. Ney­land says, reach­ing sites that were pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble be­cause of depth or lo­ca­tion. But divers and sci­en­tists are “ste­wards” of the wrecks or ar­ti­facts brought to the sur­face for preser­va­tion — along with the re­mains of the dead.

“One of the re­ally re­mark­able things ar­chae­ol­ogy can do is give th­ese un­known sailors a face once again, and a his­tory,” Mr. Ney­land says. The un­der­wa­ter arche­ol­o­gists drew ac­co­lades on the Pen­tagon Chan­nel last week (www.pen­tagon­chan­nel.mil). Visit with them here: www.histo ry .navy .m i l / branches/nhcorg12.htm.

Sea­sonal com­plaints to j h a r p e r @ wa s h i ng t o n t i me s .com.

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