Cultural tourism in the Pacific has always offered an underwater option for those who snorkel or are certified to dive. In addition to the coral reefs and marine life, World War II (WWII) shipwrecks, aircraft wrecks and other submerged vehicles draw hundreds of tourists to the Pacific each year. While it is encouraging that so many are interested in the cultural heritage of battlefields, these same visitors can cause considerable amounts of damage. This paper presents a case study of cultural impacts on submerged WWII sites in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) where diving heritage tourism is a growing industry. Cultural impacts in the CNMI include a diverse range of direct and indirect impacts including vandalism, the act of memorialization, looting and collecting souvenirs, anchor and mooring damage, and moving artifacts. What is often viewed as detrimental cultural impacts by archaeologists and managers can also be examined as behavior that reflects various stakeholders’ values and attitudes towards heritage sites. As such, these behaviors can and should be examined and considered concurrently during research and management discussions.
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The author would like to thank the community of Saipan for welcoming this research and supporting and contributing to it along the way. Thanks to the many graduate students and colleagues who have contributed to the archaeological survey and research conducted on CNMI’s WWII UCH, particularly Toni Carrell, Jason Raupp, Peter Harvey, Genevieve Cabrera, John D. San Nicolas, Della Scott-Ireton, Vicki Richards and Jon Carpenter. The American Battlefield Protection Program provided funding for large portions of this research and Flinders University provided the academic and administrative home. Finally, thank you to the reviewers who provided comment on this article which made it a stronger, more relevant work. The author takes full responsibility for any errors, omissions or gaffes.
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McKinnon, J.F. Memorialization, Graffiti and Artifact Movement: A Case Study of Cultural Impacts on WWII Underwater Cultural Heritage in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. J Mari Arch 10, 11–27 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11457-015-9133-4
- Heritage management
- Cultural impacts