Coast Guard Academy Begins New Study of Corrosion Rates on USS Arizona

USCGA’s collaboration with NPS Submerged Resources Center Could Illuminate Degradation on Other Wrecked Vessels
By Cynthia Greenwood
DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office

USCGA Cadet 1st Class Marshall Grant (center) hands a corrosion rack lined with steel samples to fellow diver, Cadet 1st Class Terry Jung, for deployment near the submerged USS Arizona battleship in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Cadet 1st Class Alicen Rè (standing, right) also served on the four-person cadet team. Photo by Brett Seymour, NPS Submerged Resource Center.

In the summer of 2018, the U.S. Coast Guard Academy (USCGA) began a new three-year analysis of corrosion rates on the venerable naval battleship, USS Arizona, which currently rests at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The submerged ship serves as a hallowed tomb for 1,102 of the 1,177 men who died aboard her after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. A large volume of oil is held inside, and trickles from, the battleship’s damaged hull. The prospect of understanding the integrity of the battleship in light of concerns about a release of oil makes the vessel an ideal subject for corrosion rate analysis.

For the past 20 years, the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center has analyzed the USS Arizona for purposes similar to the aims of the Coast Guard Academy — to establish the risk of pollution posed by the ship should a catastrophic or accelerated release of oil happen to occur. Since 2013, the DoD Corrosion Policy and Oversight Office has partnered with USCGA faculty and cadets to provide financial support for the new study and previous mass loss experiments that have being conducted at the Coast Guard Academy’s Center for Corrosion and Materials Degradation Research. Under a Technical Corrosion Collaboration agreement, the DoD Corrosion Office funds laboratory and fieldwork designed to preserve the Coast Guard Cutter Fleet, while also supporting USCGA corrosion science curriculum enhancements.

From July 30 – August 3, 2018, four Coast Guard Academy cadets majoring in marine environmental science began work on the corrosion rate analysis project at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickham, under the supervision of Capt. Rich Sanders, USCGA Professor of Chemistry, and National Park Service Submerged Resources Center Deputy Chief Brett Seymour, to deploy racks with 1010 carbon steel samples at various points next to the submerged USS Arizona using concrete cinder blocks.

Seymour and the four cadet divers set the racks in different locations after assessing the site. They installed two racks on top of the torpedo blisters, forward of frame 75. The third was deployed on the deck at the galley, and the fourth was placed on the starboard side near barbette #1, close to the bow of the battleship. Supervised by Capt. Sanders, the cadet team intends to inspect the steel samples over 6-month, one-year, two-year, and three-year intervals. In a separate set of experiments, the team also will inspect another set of coupons weekly for six weeks and after a period of three months.

Cadet 1st Class Terry Jung places a corrosion rack containing steel samples next to one of several points near the sunken World War II USS Arizona battleship. Photo by Brett Seymour.

“We are slowly getting streams of data from the corrosion racks, and we plan to inspect the metal samples at various intervals and analyze the differences between the metal mass at various stages,” explained Marshall Grant, Cadet 1st-Class (senior level). During the rack deployment under water, Grant was joined by Cadets 1st Class Alicen Rè and Terry Jung, as well as Cadet 3rd Class Linda Duncan. All four plan to focus on the project during the 2018-19 academic year.

On August 3, Seymour and Cadet 3rd class Duncan pulled some of the racks out of the water and sent them back to USCGA for testing. “After only two days of being submerged, corrosion was already manifest on our sample coupons,” said Capt. Sanders.

Don Johnson, professor emeritus of mechanical and materials engineering at the University of Nebraska, will support Capt. Sanders and his team of cadets throughout the study. Johnson has advised Capt. Sanders and other cadet researchers on related projects since 2013. In a paper published in March 2018 by The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society, Johnson and five co-authors concluded that “contrary to previous linear projections of steel corrosion in seawater, analysis of an inert marker embedded in the USS Arizona concretion since the [Pearl Harbor attack in 1941] reveals evidence that the effective corrosion rate decreases with time.”

Supported by the National Park Service Submerged Resources Center, the USCGA, and the DoD Corrosion Office, Cadet 1st Class Terry Jung prepares to place corrosion racks underwater near the USS Arizona Memorial. Photo by Brett Seymour.

“During the new study, the Coast Guard Academy plans to compare relative corrosion rates as a function of the position of the ship,” Johnson explained. “Through their mass loss studies, the cadets will measure the amount of metal loss on each carbon steel sample by looking at how the weight of the samples have changed over various time intervals.”

“Essentially, this three-year cadet-centric research project will refine corrosion modeling for the USS Arizona and other actively or potentially polluting legacy vessels in U.S. waters,” said Capt. Sanders.

Chris Reddy, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, collects oil sheen samples from the water surface beneath the USS Arizona Memorial. Photo by Brett Seymour.

As Seymour and the cadets were deploying the corrosion racks in early August, Chris Reddy, a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, collected oil sheen samples from the water surface beneath the USS Arizona Memorial. In collecting and analyzing oil samples, Reddy hopes to identify the major source of oil surfacing within the vessel, which, in turn, will help National Park Service officials and the U.S. Navy fine-tune their response techniques according to the various types of oil being released into Pearl Harbor. “The data we obtain on the oil sheen from the USS Arizona will help companies and the government respond to future oil spills that may occur in U.S. or international waters,” said Reddy.

Overall, the scientific conclusions collected by the Coast Guard Academy, National Park Service, Professor Johnson, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the DoD Corrosion Office have the potential to shed light on other potentially and actively polluting wrecked vessels in U.S. waters. “Our study of corrosion rates on the USS Arizona has important implications for our understanding of corrosion rates on three sunken vessels near the Coast Guard Academy — the Cities Service Number 4 tank barge, the British steam tanker Coimbra, and the Panamanian motor tanker Norness,” explained Cadet 1st Class Jung.

On December 8, 2014, the National Park Service transferred hull and rivet samples from the USS Arizona to the Coast Guard Academy to help an earlier class of marine and environmental science majors understand the relevant environmental impacts upon hull degradation. During the 2014-2015 school year, three senior-level cadets took their first steps in this type of corrosion research, seeking to find parallels between the USS Arizona’s propensity for corrosion in the Pacific Rim and wrecked vessels like the Cities Service No. 4 tank barge. The DoD Corrosion Office provided support for these efforts under a previous cooperative agreement.

The U.S. Coast Guard regulates the transport of petroleum in U.S. waters, Cadet 1st Class Jung explained. “Through our current measurements of mass loss on steel samples, we hope to inspire the next group of cadets to support the long-term preservation of the USS Arizona and the significance of Coast Guard operations in U.S. waters.

Because the Coast Guard falls under the aegis of the DoD during wartime, and because the Coast Guard’s operational environments are very similar to the Navy’s, the DoD Corrosion Office understands that research undertakings at the Coast Guard Academy will benefit DoD. “Besides giving cadets an opportunity to do fieldwork on shipwreck sites, this research allows them to be part of a broader Coast Guard effort to assess environmental threats posed by sunken vessels, and to increase their understanding of corrosion and its widespread impact, ” said Capt. Sanders.


Related Links:
Analyzing Corrosion Rates to Understand Hazards of Wrecked Vessels
DoD Corrosion Office Announces New Corrosion Executives for Army, Navy, and Air Force

Follow Armed with Science on Facebook and Twitter!


Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense of this website or the information, products or services contained therein. For other than authorized activities such as military exchanges and Morale, Welfare and Recreation sites, the Department of Defense does not exercise any editorial control over the information you may find at these locations. Such links are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this DOD website.