Maritime Heritage ROV Survey

Sanctuary archaeologists conduct periodic side scan sonar surveys to map the sanctuary’s seafloor and locate sonar targets that may be archaeological sites. Following these surveys, archaeologists undertake visual inspections of these sonar targets to determine if they are an archaeological resource. In the sanctuary’s deeper waters, remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are the best tool for this research. Over a two-day period in August 2010, sanctuary archaeologists partnered with the Northeast Underwater Research Technology and Education Center at the University of Connecticut (NURTEC) for a ROV cruise onboard the research vessel Connecticut. The project sought to investigate several newly located sonar targets and characterize the archaeological sites. The team visited seven historic shipwrecks and gathered High Definition video imagery and still photos with the science class ROV Kraken 2 (K2) operated by NURTEC staff.

Kraken 2 ROV
The Kraken 2 ROV is prepared for launch off the R/V Connecticut (courtesy of NOAA/SBNMS and NURTEC)

UConn Student
University of Connecticut student Joe Mangiafico controls the winch that holds the ROV’s fiber- optic cable (courtesy of NOAA/SBNMS and NURTEC)

Since 2002, the sanctuary and NURTEC have partnered on six maritime heritage ROV cruises, investigating 28 shipwreck sites. The information gathered from four of these archaeological sites, comprised of five shipwrecks, was used to successfully list the sites on the National Register of Historic Places. Additionally, the research team has characterized the organisms now living on these shipwrecks.

The shipwrecks investigated in 2010 ranged from fishing vessels to wooden-hulled sailing vessels. One shipwreck had a cargo of coal while another carried granite. Several shipwrecks without obvious cargo remains may be the oldest vessels yet located in the sanctuary. Preliminary research on these vessels indicates that the artifacts and vessel construction features date to the early nineteenth century.

Finger Sponge
A finger sponge amidst the wooden remains and artifacts of an unidentified sailing vessel (courtesy of NOAA/SBNMS and NURTEC)

Acadian Redfish
Acadian redfish swim above the deck of a fishing vessel penetrated by round fish hold hatches (courtesy of NOAA/SBNMS and NURTEC)


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