Human-Manned Subs Are Being Phased Out — But at What Cost for Hawaii?

PF Bentley/Civil Beat

The University of Hawaii's veteran undersea explorer Terry Kerby on the Pisces IV submarine at a facility near Makapuu.

Terry Kerby’s job takes him to places natural light can't touch.

Kerby's submarine voyages have taken him more than a mile below the ocean’s surface. He has discovered lost wartime relics, including demolished aircraft and torpedoes lodged in the sea floor.

He recently discovered a 400-foot Japanese mega-submarine from World War II that the U.S. Navy seized and then sunk in 1946. The rusted vessel is near Oahu's southwestern coast, 2,300 feet below the water’s surface.

Kerby has witnessed vast kaleidoscopic coral forests and active volcanoes spewing jets of liquid carbon dioxide. He has watched, up close, as the heat from volcanoes melted his gear.

But the real threat to his work is on dry land. Changing funding priorities threaten to put an end to undersea exploration by submarines with people in them.

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