If you search for Wake Island on Google Maps, you will come across one short description: isolated coral atoll housing an airfield. Those who have been to Wake Island will assure you that description is apt.
Wake Island sits at 2,100 nautical miles equidistant between Honolulu and Tokyo, and is surrounded by light green and dark blue shallow water. The colors surrounding Wake Island have been like this for decades; with details of colorful waters dating back well before WWII.
On February 14, 1941, the 32nd U.S. President Mr. Franklin Delano Roosevelt issued Executive Order 8682 (EO 8682)—commissioning the building of defenses on the island by over 1,200 contractors. Wake Island was also fortified with 400 men from the 1st Marine Defense Battalion—who arrived with artillery and airplanes. The defenses began development prior to the Battle of Wake Island, which occurred simultaneously during the attack on Pearl Harbor. Wake Island was held by the Japanese for the duration of the Pacific War and World War II, and on September 4, 1945, two days after Japan formally surrendered, the surviving Japanese troops on Wake Island surrendered. The build-up of defenses on Wake Island ended after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and 80 years later, today’s military presence of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, Detachment 1, continues to maintain a strategic refueling and defensive position in the Pacific following EO 8682.
In 2015, NAVFAC EXWC’s Oceans Department mooring engineer—Mr. Tim Kurtin— assessed the strength and condition of the two point mooring system that is critical to the above-mentioned strategic refueling operations on Wake Island. Through rigorous research and design, Kurtin aided in the initial inspection, design modeling and analysis, and emergency repair on the previously installed hardware and fabrication of the old mooring system. This new $4.5M design-bid-build four-point fuel mooring system was installed in November 2020 and directly supports fuel transfer operations and sustainment to the island. The new design will support fuel operations for ships as large as a T-1 coastal fuel tanker offloading fuel in an excess of 18-knot hourly wind conditions—a significant upgrade for tankers who must maintain fueling operations regardless of weather conditions on the island.
The new design uses four individual mooring points each consisting of a 10-tonne Vryhof Stevshark Rex Anchor, which includes 130 feet of 4-1/8-inch chain with four 11,500-pound steel sinkers resembling revolver firearm cylinders; and 100 feet of additional riser chain topped by a 12-foot diameter foam buoy. The 4-1/8-inch chain is larger, stronger, and harder than any standard Navy chain in use—even larger than the anchor chain used on an aircraft carrier.
NAVFAC EXWC was not the only source of labor that worked on the four point fuel mooring system. The contract team—prime contractor PCCI, Inc. and subcontractors American Marine, Inc., Healy Tibbitts Builders, Inc., and Sea Engineering, Inc.—worked around the clock early November under the direction of LT Matt Karny. Teams worked on a crane barge with extreme efficiency, allowing fueling operations to continue without disruption.
The mooring system on Wake Island will remain operable for more than two decades with proper maintenance. Looking onward, NAVFAC EXWC teams will perform underwater inspections and zinc anode changes beginning in 2023.