The national marine sanctuary’s set up by NOAA and the federal government are home to many recently found ship and aircraft wrecks. Including the famous George E. Billings, a lumber carrying schooner from the early 20th century. The recent discovery of the Billings is huge because it lies in a national marine sanctuary off the coast of the Channel Islands in California. Being that it is in the sanctuary it is owned by the government and can be properly reserved. Although not directly related to environmental geology, this article shows how the government possessions of our worlds treasures (including the natural) is important in the preservation of such significant things.
Seventy years after it was scuttled off Los Angeles, Calif., government archaeologists have found the wrecked remains of a rare Pacific Coast schooner that was employed in the lumber trade during the early 1900s.
Today, Robert Schwemmer, maritime archaeologist for NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, presented a scientific paper on the George E. Billingshistory and its discovery in February 2011 at the eighth California Islands Symposium in Ventura, Calif.
The Billings, a five-masted schooner built in 1903 by Halls Bros. of Port Blakeley, Wash., hauled lumber from the Northwest to Hawaii, Mexico, South America, Australia and southern California. After decades servicing the lumber trade it was converted into a sport-fishing barge. In 1941, the owner decided to scuttle the aging vessel off the coast of Santa Barbara Island.
Since the early 1990s, archaeologists and historians with Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park have searched for the Billings. The wreck was located using research provided by tech-diver Steve Lawson, researcher Gary Fabian, and Patrick Smith with Coastal Maritime Archaeology Resources.
|CMAR diver Patrick Smith examines one of two massive mooring bitts discovered at the George E. Billings site. Mooring lines were secured from the mooring bitts to similar bitts on wharfs and docks called bollards. (Photo: Robert Schwemmer Sanctuaries/NOAA)|
“The discovery of theBillings is a result of excellent collaboration with the local community,” Schwemmer said. “Now we can write the final chapter of not only the largest, but the last sailing vessel built by the Hall Bros. during their 30-year career of designing some of the finest ships sailing the Pacific.”
More than 150 historic ship and aircraft have been reported lost in sanctuary and park waters, with 30 having been located and surveyed. The wreck sites are protected under state and federal law, and it is illegal to disturb or damage any archaeological sites in sanctuary and park boundaries. The Billingsshipwreck remains are owned by the State of California and managed by the California State Lands Commission.
“Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park are a world destination for sport diving,” said Chris Mobley, sanctuary superintendent. “For years, divers have shared new discoveries with both federal agencies and we commend them for their spirit of stewardship so these historic resources can be surveyed and shared with the American public.”
Since 1975, NOAA has been creating national marine sanctuaries to preserve natural beauty, famous shipwrecks, and endangered wildlife. There are 13 total marine sanctuaries with one marine national monument. They differ in size from a square quarter mile, to 5,300 square miles. The most notable is Monterey Bay; also known for its famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. These sanctuaries preserve the environment for future generations to enjoy. Endangered species such as various types of whales, sea otters, and many fish use these waters to breed and raise their young. In Virginia, one such site protects the area where the USS Monitor has its famous fight with the Confederate ironclad ship the Virginia during the civil war. These sanctuaries are a great thing for the preservation of nature off shores in America. I hope activists continue to push the creation of such places.
For 40 years, NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary System has preserved and protected some of the most spectacular and treasured resources in the world’s oceans. The system, consisting of a network of underwater parks consisting of more than 150,000 square miles of America’s oceans, includes beautiful coral reefs, lush kelp forests, whale migration routes and underwater archaeological sites.
“Over the past four decades, NOAA’s sanctuaries have protected our nation’s most vital and iconic coastal marine resources so that future generations can enjoy and learn from them,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. “Through active research, management and public engagement, sanctuaries sustain healthy environments that are the foundation for thriving communities and stable economies.”
Following an oil spill off Santa Barbara, Calif. in 1969, Congress passed the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act in 1972, now known as the National Marine Sanctuaries Act. The Act was signed into law by President Nixon and directed NOAA to lay the groundwork for the National Marine Sanctuary System, which now includes 13 sanctuaries and one marine national monument.
“The National Marine Sanctuaries Act is the strongest piece of legislation protecting ocean areas today,” Basta said.
Download here. (Credit: SBNMS file photo by Ari Friedlaender. Photo taken under NOAA Fisheries Permit #605-1904.)
Ranging in size from one-quarter square mile inAmerican Samoa’s Fagatele Bay to more than 5,300 square miles in Monterey Bay, California, sanctuary waters provide secure habitats for species close to extinction and protect historically significant shipwrecks and artifacts. Sanctuaries also serve as natural classrooms for students and researchers, provide cherished recreational spots, and support local economies.
Within the sanctuary system’s protected waters, giant humpback whales breed and calve their young, temperate coral reefs and kelp forests thrive, and shipwrecks tell stories of our maritime history in underwater archaeological sites.
Since 1972, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has worked cooperatively with the public and federal, state, and local officials to promote conservation while allowing compatible commercial and recreational activities. The primary objective of a sanctuary is to protect its natural and cultural features while allowing people to use and enjoy the ocean in a sustainable way.
NOAA’s Sanctuary System includes: Thunder Bay, Stellwagen Bank, Monitor, Gray’ Reef, Florida Keys,Flower Garden Banks, Fagatele Bay, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale, Channel Islands, Monterey Bay,Gulf of the Farallones, Cordell Bank and Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuaries andPapahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument.
Some noteworthy accomplishments during the past 40 years include:
A diver swims above the bow of the USS Monitor.
Download here. (Credit: NOAA)
The designation of the first national marine sanctuary in 1975 to protect the wreck of the USS Monitor off the coast of Newport News, Va. The Civil War-era ship is best known for its battle with the Confederate ironclad Virginia in Hampton Roads, Va., in March of 1862.
- The first place in the world — Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary — where mooring buoy technology is used to avoid anchoring on coral. The technology developed at the sanctuary is used to protect coral reefs and seagrass beds in marine protected areas in more than 50 countries.
- The creation of the Beach Watch, one of the first citizen-science monitoring projects within NOAA. Established at Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary off San Francisco, the volunteer program is one of several across the sanctuary system.
- The designation of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, off eastern Michigan, established to protect its nationally significant collection of shipwrecks in Lake Huron. The sanctuary’s Great Lakes Visitor Center has become a major tourist destination and economic stimulant in the region. According to a 2005 study on total visitor spending, the sanctuary has contributed $92 million in sales, $35.8 million in personal income to residents, and 1,704 jobs.
Brittlestars drape a brain coral in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.
Download here. (Credit: G.P. Schmahl/NOAA)
The designation of Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, as the single largest conservation area in the U.S. and UNESCO World Heritage site. One of the largest marine conservation areas in the world, monument encompasses 139,797 square miles of the Pacific Ocean – an area larger than all the country’s national parks combined.
- The shifting of shipping lanes in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, off the coast of Massachusetts, to protect endangered whales in the sanctuary. Since this recommendation, the risk of ships striking whales has been reduced by 81 percent.