2006 Nancy Foster Maritime Cruise

A five day research cruise was conducted on the NOAA ship Nancy Foster in June 2006 to locate and document the sanctuary's maritime heritage resources. The project utilized several types of undersea technologies to study and interpret the historic shipwrecks that lie on sanctuary's sea floor. Project personnel used side scan sonar, multibeam sonar, and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to find new shipwrecks and further investigate previously located shipwrecks.

NOAA ship Nancy Foster
The NOAA ship Nancy Foster was the platform for this project. The vessel is equipped with all of the technology and capabilities required to conduct multi-day maritime heritage research in the sanctuary.

The primary research tool for this project was the side scan sonar which was used to locate potential maritime heritage resources. Side scan sonar uses sound pulses emitted from transducers on each side of the sonar towfish. The pulses are sent in a wide angular pattern down to the bottom, and the echoes are received back in fractions of a second. The pulses are then transmitted back to a computer which allows the archaeologist to "see" the bottom's features.

Utilizing an Edgetech DF-1000 side scan sonar   side scan sonar image of the F/V Josephine Marie

Utilizing an Edgetech DF-1000 side scan sonar (left), the project's side scan sonar survey located acoustic targets within a defined survey area in the sanctuary. A side scan sonar image of the F/V Josephine Marie (right) located in the shallower waters on top of Stellwagen Bank.

While the towed side scan sonar was only used during the day (to lessen the risk of entanglement in fishing gear) the hull mounted multibeam sonar was used mainly at night to maximize the amount of data gathered during the cruise. Multibeam sonar provided a rapid means of determining the nature of the sediments and objects on the seafloor. The data was used to generate high resolution images which contain information about the composition of the seabed. Multibeam sonar is similar to side scan sonar in that it uses sound pulses that reflect off the bottom. The difference is that multibeam sonar sends sound pulses focused directly down from the sensor. The end product of a multibeam survey is a bathometric map which shows depth.

Hull-mounted multibeam sonar

Hull-mounted multibeam sonar (left) and towed side scan sonar (right) (Courtesy of NOAA).

Multibeam images of the coal schooners Frank A. Palmer and Louise B. Crary   Portland

Multibeam images of the coal schooners Frank A. Palmer and Louise B. Crary (left) and the steamship Portland (left) (Courtesy of NOAA).

The final phase of the project was a ROV investigation of several potential maritime heritage sites. Project archaeologists used a Seabotix LBV150 to conduct a video survey to determine whether certain side scan sonar targets were in fact shipwrecks. The ROV gathered color video of the anomalies, which were used to characterize the targets origin (ie. anthropogenic or geologic). The ROV successfully interrogated several targets in the sanctuary and determined that the targets were not maritime heritage resources.

Project archaeologist Matthew Lawrence

Project archaeologist Matthew Lawrence checks the ROV prior to its dive in the sanctuary to investigate side scan sonar targets to determine if they are maritime heritage resources.

Sanctuary maritime archaeologists were joined by two graduate students from East Carolina University's Program in Maritime Studies and Coastal Zone Management Program. The project was also supported by the National Undersea Research Center at the University of Connecticut. Potential shipwreck sites located with side scan sonar will be investigated in subsequent years through diving investigations, remotely operated vehicles (ROV), or an autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV).


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