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Laser scans give new look inside USS Arizona

PHOENIX – After nearly 73 years underwater, researchers and the public alike could soon get a look at the USS Arizona like never before.

The U.S. National Park Service has teamed up with a software company called Autodesk to create complete 3-D scans of the entire ship that was destroyed in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. The scans can then be compiled into 3-D virtual images of the ship.

Daniel Martinez, chief historian for WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument and the USS Arizona Memorial, said the laser scans could help researchers study the wreckage, which is submerged in about 40 feet of water.

“We’re able to look at the artifacts on the ship and the wreckage of the ship without touching it (and) without bringing anything to the surface,” Martinez said.

The scans could also be used to replicate items and parts of the ship, as well as for comparing changes in the ship over time.

“We’re going to be able to take the measurements and the scans that we did this year and we could literally compare that 10 years later to see what changes have been done,” Martinez said.

The images produced from the scans could also provide a unique interaction for visitors to Pearl Harbor, or for people around the world in an online database, he said.

“We’re looking even at a possibility of having you actually dive in the ship yourself from your computer,” Martinez said.

“The other possibility is putting in a kiosk at the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center where people can actually look at the scans.”

During the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the USS Arizona was the most devastating loss, with 1,177 crew members killed and the ship a total loss. Even today, there are still about 900 remains still within the ship, Martinez said.

“This allows these war graves to be not only be observed, but in a way honored because they’re not forgotten,” he said. “You can look at them and see them with the kind of reverence that should be available to people that can’t come to Pearl Harbor.”

While the laser scans have been completed, Martinez said it will still take a few months for Autodesk to compile the images into the interactive and virtual 3-D images.