2004 Aquanaut Cruise

This two-day research cruise in July, held in conjunction with the annual sanctuary-sponsored Aquanaut Program, investigated four shipwrecks within the sanctuary. Each day archaeologists, scientists, teachers, and students boarded the University of Connecticut's R/V Connecticut in Gloucester, MA for the trips into the sanctuary's waters. The National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut provided the investigation's primary research tool, the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Hela. Hela carried lights and cameras into the sanctuary's cold and dark depths allowing the archaeologists and scientists to document the shipwrecks.

R/V Connecticut
The research vessel Connecticut comes into
Gloucester after a day of ROV operations in the sanctuary.

The primary target of this project was the coal schooner Frank A. Palmer. This survey sought to investigate the schooner's stern to learn more about the vessel's condition. As the ROV maneuvered around the Frank A. Palmer, the research team made several new discoveries. The team located and imaged the schooner's partially intact steering wheel along with artifacts from the captain's cabin such as his toilet and sink. Unfortunately, fishing nets caught in the wreck prevented the ROV from exploring further than the aftermost mast. Overall, the schooner's hull is in an excellent state of preservation and is mostly intact up to the main deck level.

Frank A. Palmer Helm/Jug
New features recorded on the Frank A. Palmer include
the helm (left) and a jug (right). Courtesy of NOAA/SBNMS and NURC-UConn.

After exploring the Frank A. Palmer to the extent allowed by the entangled fishing nets, the team moved on to explore three sites that had never been visited by ROV. The sites had been located with side scan sonar during a remote sensing cruise in June 2004.

Aquatnaut Student and NURC-UConn ROV pilot Craig Bussel
An Aquanaut students gets a chance to operate the ROV under the watchful eye of NURC-UConn ROV pilot Craig Bussel.

At each site, sanctuary archaeologists wanted to determine the characteristics and extents of the newly discovered resources. Characteristics included length, breadth, height above the seafloor, construction material, and other identifying diagnostic features.

This project was made possible through support from the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut. Additional assistance was supplied by the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.


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