Thursday, October 14, 2004

 

Maui still on course to sink "Carthaginian" - a replica of a 19th century brig

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by HARRY EAGAR




The Carthaginian is a replica of a 19th century brig similar to the ships
that first brought commerce to the Hawaiian Islands. Since 1973, has
served as a reminder in Lahaina Harbor of Hawaii's whaling past even
though the ship never took part in the masted ships' pursuit of whales in
Hawaii in the 1840s and '50s. Atlantis Submarines Maui is pursuing plans
to clean the ship and sink it offshore of Puamana as a visitor attraction.


LAHAINA, Maui (11 Oct 2004) -- Sometime next year, Atlantis Submarines Maui hopes to settle the Carthaginian into a new, still useful final resting place about 3,100 feet offshore from Puamana and 100 feet under the surface.

Ronald Williams, president of Atlantis Adventures, says his company has been selling around 70,000 tours a year on Maui, many fewer than the millions who have watched the old brig rusting in the sun at Lahaina Harbor since 1973.

But as the foundation of an artificial reef, the old ship would be visible to "recreational divers" as well as buyers of underwater tour tickets.

A public meeting on the sinking and reef building will be held at 5 p.m. Monday at The Wharf Cinema Center's conference room.

Atlantis built an artificial reef off Waikiki using old airplanes, ships and a specially engineered system developed at the University of Hawaii.

Williams says the 12-year-old project has been very successful, creating a coral and fish community where none existed before.

"It's been great for the environment," Williams says.

According to the draft environmental impact statement prepared by BEI Environmental Services, creating two artificial reefs in the vicinity of "Twin Peaks" about 1.5 miles south of Lahaina Harbor would have few drawbacks because the area is devoid of living coral and supports little in the way of marine life except some limu.

When cleaned structures are sunk in favorable locations, "the coral grows on it," says Williams, and although the steel hull eventually rusts away, by that time the coral supports itself.

Atlantis uses the Twin Peaks area for its tours now, although the reefs in the area are "patchy."

The Carthaginian, which ended its commercial life as a bulk carrier in the Baltic Sea, will be cleaned, says Williams.

Most of its rigging and other loose material will be removed, to reduce the risk of entangling wreck divers.

The wreck will be anchored to keep it in place against storms and currents.

The sinking site is in the state conservation district. Atlantis will seek a nonexclusive easement for its use of the site, and it will install a mooring that will be available to others.

For the past 30 years, Carthaginian II has served as a surrogate for the whaling ships that thronged Lahaina Roads in the 1840s and '50s, on behalf of the Lahaina Restoration Foundation, although it never had anything to do with whaling.

A survey found the hull so corroded that the ship could not be moved to the nearest dry dock, and the foundation has been concerned that the ship would sink at its berth.

A farewell and remembrance party was held in July 2003, and the foundation agreed to let Atlantis have the hulk.
Atlantis is paying the costs. As funds become available, Atlantis hopes to build a second artificial reef, using hulks or specially built substructures.

Carthaginian II replaced an earlier sailing ship that was being taken from Lahaina for maintenance but struck a reef and wrecked.

Atlantis uses a 48-passenger submarine that is moored off Lahaina.

The company has three submarines in Waikiki and one in Kona, but Maui was its original operation in Hawaii.

Atlantis subsequently took over the Navatek, which formerly cruised off West Maui; and it also manages Sea Life Park on Oahu and coordinates land tours for cruise ship passengers.

Williams, a Hilo native who has lived on Maui 17 years, says Atlantis is "looking for growth opportunities," but the congestion at Lahaina Harbor limits the company's choices.

"We would like to see the infrastructure be improved," he says, although other locations, such as Mala, might be an option, too.

Today, Atlantis has parking above The Wharf for its customers. "It's a congested area," he says.

So is the tender pier at the harbor, where Atlantis competes for time and space with other shuttles carrying passengers out to its submarine and to cruise ships.

As more and more cruise ships anchor at Lahaina Roads, the pressure for tender loading space will become more intense, but "cruise ships are good for the economy," so he isn't complaining about that.

Atlantis would like to acquire a berth within the harbor, or at least "see Lahaina Harbor fixed up."
However, says Williams, changes would "have to be well-planned to keep the magic of Lahaina Harbor. It has character."

SOURCE - Maui News








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