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Author Topic: Conserving/Preserving the Electra  (Read 10316 times)

Jonathan_Davidson

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Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« on: January 22, 2016, 11:37:05 AM »

I have been a very long-time lurker, but now that the Forum has a lull, I have decided to ask a question:

What would be the process to conserve/preserve the Electra? I assume that it is more than just hosing off the salt water residue and putting it on display somewhere, but I am interested in a discussion of the technical details.

From what little I have seen on the Discovery Channel, etc. large iron objects (e.g. cannon, anchors) are kept submerged in tanks for preservation reasons, but I know nothing of aircraft aluminum preservation or conservation techniques.

For sake of discussion, let us assume that:
1) A large piece (or even the entirety) of the plane is found off-shore of Niku
2) It is recoverable using currently available technology
3) All licenses, permits, permissions, and ownership issues are resolved
4) An institution has been identified that will preserve/exhibit the Electra in accordance with TIGHAR's wishes and guidelines
(Certainly, all of these are very important topics, but not really germaine to my question.)

By way of introduction, I am a librarian with a solid background in (mostly Canadian) history. I have some training in paper conservation, but my knowledge of archaeology is limited to a handful of popular works -- none of which have covered marine (or aviation) archaeology.

Thank-you.
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Diane James

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Re: Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« Reply #1 on: January 22, 2016, 12:10:43 PM »

Jonathan, welcome to the forum.  I'm afraid I don't have any expertise in those areas either, but someone here will. Preservation is an interesting question you pose that had never crossed my mind before. It's nice to have you among us.  Welcome.
Hugs,
Diane
Diane James
TIGHAR #4821A
 
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« Reply #2 on: January 22, 2016, 12:38:10 PM »

What would be the process to conserve/preserve the Electra?

An excellent question and an important one.  The objective would be to preserve as much of the surviving material as possible.  The more intact the wreck the more difficult that will be, not only because of logistical considerations but because of the temptation to "restore" a more or less intact wreck. 

Whatever may be found of the Electra will be highly unstable when brought to the surface and will need to be "detoxed" through an electrolytic stabilization process.  TIGHAR helped fund the pioneering work on this technique in 1992.  For a detailed description see  The Treatment of the BMW 801D-2 Radial Aero Engine Rescued From the Loiret River (https://tighar.org/Projects/Histpres/Corrosion_Report/corrosion.html).
We anticipate that the institution that will do the work will be CMAC, the Center for Maritime Archaeology and Conservation at Texas A&M University.  TIGHAR will act in an advisory capacity but final decisions about treatment and exhibition will be made by the Republic of Kiribati.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2016, 02:22:28 PM by Ric Gillespie »
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Krystal McGinty-Carter

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Re: Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2016, 04:54:33 PM »

Is it similar to the process that they used to restore the Dornier 17 they pulled out of the English Channel?
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Monty Fowler

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Re: Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« Reply #4 on: January 22, 2016, 06:02:22 PM »

... final decisions about treatment and exhibition will be made by the Republic of Kiribati.

That's enough to give me pause for concern. Kiribati has a lot of fish to fry right now, chief among them its vanishing islands due to climate change, and my sense is there isn't money for "luxuries" like preserving the solution to a 70-year-old mystery. I could be wrong. I devotedly hope so.

LTM,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 EC
Ex-TIGHAR member No. 2189 E C R SP, 1998-2016
 
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« Reply #5 on: January 22, 2016, 07:52:19 PM »

Is it similar to the process that they used to restore the Dornier 17 they pulled out of the English Channel?

Similar, yes. The Dorneir is be sprayed rather than immersed, and there is no electrolytic component to the process, but the goal is the same. "Restore" is not what's being done to the Dornier. The aircraft, or what's left of it, is being conserved.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2016, 07:56:57 PM »

... final decisions about treatment and exhibition will be made by the Republic of Kiribati.

That's enough to give me pause for concern. Kiribati has a lot of fish to fry right now, chief among them its vanishing islands due to climate change, and my sense is there isn't money for "luxuries" like preserving the solution to a 70-year-old mystery. I could be wrong. I devotedly hope so.

I wouldn't expect that the funding would come from Kiribati.  If we're able to recover enough of the Electra to conserve I can't imagine that we would have trouble finding sponsorship for its conservation.
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Monty Fowler

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Re: Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2016, 12:59:03 PM »

I'm not expecting funding to come from Kiribati either, that would be totally unrealistic.

What I am expecting is human nature to make itself know. With the possibility of a big payoff from what could arguably be one of the most famous aircraft of all time, it might be tough for Kiribati officials to remain reasonable in their expectations of what they will realize from its recovery and conservation. Their last-minute insistence on more than doubling the number of officials who had to "clear" Niku VIII, and those unanticipated costs, might have contributed to indirectly costing TIGHAR the second ROV, which contributed to the almost complete failure of that portion of the expedition.

LTM,
Monty Fowler, TIGHAR No. 2189 EC
Ex-TIGHAR member No. 2189 E C R SP, 1998-2016
 
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Richard Wright

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Re: Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2016, 04:06:57 PM »

There is a readable account of an Australian case study at

http://www.nma.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/346072/NMA_metals_s4_p04_stabilisation_aluminium_aircraft.pdf

It details the stabilisation of a Japanese fighter recovered from a salt water swamp in PNG.

Also worth reading ( but expensive) is the archaeological bible of the conservation of objects recovered from salt water - Colin Pearson The Conservation of Marine Archaeological Objects. It has sections that deal with the conservation of aluminium aircraft.
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Ric Gillespie

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Re: Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2016, 04:18:41 PM »

Thanks Richard. The Australian War Memorial has been leading the way in developing these techniques for historic aircraft.
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Jonathan_Davidson

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Re: Conserving/Preserving the Electra
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2016, 09:48:45 AM »

Thanks, everyone -- there are some really useful references listed here, and I shall go and read them. This was exactly the type of response that I was hoping for.
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