Matthew John Carter
Author: Steve Trewavas
2023

Matthew John Carter

Marine Archaeologist/Ocean Advocate

history’s hidden underwater hazards

meet matthew

In 2018, Dr. Matthew John Carter resolved to combine his advanced archaeological and technical diving training with his passion for the marine environment. As research director for The Major Projects Foundation today, he protects marine ecosystems, cultures and livelihoods threatened by pollutant WWII shipwrecks across the Blue Pacific. Dr. Carter investigates hundreds of toxic sites, utilizing a novel combination of cutting-edge photogrammetry, scientific technical diving and community engagement. He collects data to mitigate the impact of marine pollution and creates capacity within local communities to respond to these toxic threats. Dr. Carter has advised the United Nations, the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, and the Government of Australia.

history’s hidden underwater hazards
Nominated by: Stephen Trewavas FI'09
Class of 2023 Location Australia
Author: Steve Trewavas

Growing up in New Zealand I was fascinated by the ocean and history and cultures that are shaped by it. Working on underwater projects in 12 different countries, I became the leading technical diving marine archaeologist in the Pacific region. In the past, archaeological surveys have largely focused on shipwrecks themselves, ignoring fish and other marine life that has colonized the wrecks. My research involves understanding the risk that potentially polluting wrecks (PPW) pose to their surrounding environment.

“I use my expertise to help people overcome challenges that they are unable to alone.”

- Matthew John Carter
Author: Steve Trewavas

Pacific Island Countries and Territories are some of the most vulnerable places to marine pollution. While marine plastics are readily recognized as a threat, the investigation of the toxic legacy of WWII wrecks remains ‘out of sight and out of mind’ and study, let alone management, is critically underdeveloped. The inevitable and ongoing corrosion and destabilizing impacts of climate change mean that PPW are an urgent environmental threat. Many of these wrecks are heritage and tourism sites and war graves, making their management a challenge for Pacific nations. I have begun elevating the issue to the international stage, chairing the first ever discussion between the US, Japanese and Micronesian Governments.

What motivates me most is making a real-world difference. I use my expertise to help people overcome challenges that they are unable to alone. In Chuuk, in the Federated States of Micronesia, I work with local partners to mitigate the impact of 20 high-risk PPW, shipwrecks that regularly leak oil into the lagoon. In 2022, I secured support from the Australian Government, the first significant funding to address this issue in two decades. The Governor of Chuuk expressed, “the Ocean is our life; thank you for helping save our lives.” That is why I do what I do.

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