Creating a digital monument to Pearl Harbor

Using 3D modeling technology the US National Park Service is working on the first comprehensive survey of the USS Arizona memorial in 30 years.

On December 7, 1941, Japanese forces attacked US ships in Pearl Harbor. It marked the US's entrance into World War II and resulted in nearly two thousand casualties. The World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument was dedicated in 1962 and sits overtop the USS Arizona, where still 900 sailors and Marines rest.

"It's been at least 30 years since anyone has done any kind of survey on the ship," says Sly Lee, a scientist at the National Park Service. "This will be the first quantitative survey that we'll be able to track change detection on a minute scale over time.

"The ship is corroding overtime because its in a hostile environment. It's in salt water. There's up to half a million gallons of oil in the ship. We don't know exactly how much oil is in there, but it's slowly leaking out. A lot of this project is to start the conversation about what needs to be done.
Scott Pawlowski, chief of cultural and national resources at the USS Arizona Memorial, says that "using multiple sensors, software and techniques to accomplish what one time took three years to map and draw by hand into what we hope will take just a couple of months."

"For the first time people are going to be able to interact with a 3D model of the USS Arizona," says Sly. "Up until now there's only be static film, photos, 3D film, but nothing has been completely immersive and interactive as this will be."

Scanning the USS Arizona

The National Park Service is able to gather 3D information about the ship without disturbing it. It's using reality computing technology from Autodesk, underwater photogrammetry, subsea LiDAR, high resolution SONAR and above water laser scanning to conduct the investigation.

"At the end of the project we hope to have a survey grade scan and digital file of this vessel," says Scott, "as well as interpretive products, educational products and the story behind the ship and what happened on December 7."

The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center will host 1.7 million people this year, making it the most popular destination in Hawaii. For those who can't make the trip, the National Park Service hopes that these 3D models could educate people from afar. The team would like to create and entire 3D model of the USS Arizona by the end of this year. In the meantime its created 3D replicas of items found on the deck of the ship.

"I think it's really important for people to remember that sailors died on that ship and that this is a really important piece of American history," says Sly." Also the USS Arizona is a war tomb and should be treated as such out of respect and dignity, but also not forgotten.

"This project is going to be groundbreaking in terms of being able to monitor the ship overtime and also be able to provide an interactive experience for visitors."

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