The Archaeological and Historical Geospatial Analysis of the Port Chicago Disaster of 1944
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe Port Chicago disaster that occurred on July 17, 1944, is a historically important, albeit infamous event for several reasons. Three hundred and twenty (320) servicemen and civilians, mostly African American, were instantly killed and 390 more were injured from the blast. The events surrounding the explosion highlighted racial injustices and shaped the eventual desegregation of the armed forced shortly after. Ensuing investigations were predominantly of a military nature and occurred before GIS technology became a multidisciplinary approach to analyzing events. Here, a collaboration of historical data obtained and managed by the National Park Service is georeferenced and presented in a manner that tells the Port Chicago story and can be continuously updated and expanded upon. This project seeks to analyze the Port Chicago disaster in two areas: The physical phenomenon of the explosion itself, and the resulting historical/archaeological remnants linked to that explosion over space and time. Features are created and centered on the focal point of the explosion, and have been digitized based on historical maps and imagery. Damage zones were then created to summarize physical impact, such as deaths, injuries, percentage levels of damaged structures and associated costs. Historical imagery, diagrams, personal accounts, and archaeological remnants are then documented and embedded within their respective feature classes. A collaboration of over 100 artifacts, ground level photos, and documents are available to be accessed on ArcGIS Online and can be used to construct web-based mapping applications. This study highlights the integration of history/archaeology with modern GIST mapping and display abilities. It will further aid in explaining the Port Chicago disaster across space and give the user another paradigm from which to view how historical events unfold.