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SeaBED AUV Project

In March 2005 the sanctuary, in partnership with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources (MBUAR) utilized the WHOI autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) SeaBED to image shipwrecks in the sanctuary with high resolution still photography. These images will be stitched together to produce a photomosaic for maritime heritage resource management and public interpretation purposes.

WHOI vessel Tioga
WHOI vessel Tioga was used for the
SeaBED AUV project in the sanctuary.

The SeaBED AUV and WHOI imaging technology offer the possibility of detailed site documentation with several advantages in cost and efficiency when compared to similar documentation using SCUBA diving or remotely operated vehicles. Furthermore, the refinement of AUV site investigation methodologies will allow investigation of sites beyond the range of SCUBA diving.

WHOI AUV SeaBED
WHOI's AUV SeaBED is launched off the research vessel
for its mission in the sanctuary to image a shipwreck.

Photomosaic   SeaBED is a proven platform that has successfully imaged cobble beds in Massachusetts Bay, but it has not been used to document a submerged cultural resource site in the sanctuary. The use of SeaBED on the proposed shipwreck sites will demonstrate the advantages that this technology offers to another discipline that has a need for precision imaging.

The photomosaics of Massachusetts Bay cobble beds are not exact maps of the seafloor; however, the images provide a tremendous amount of information on the bottom habitats that is otherwise unavailable through conventional imaging techniques. Likewise, the resulting site photomosaics will not be archaeological site maps, but will provide information valuable for site characterization, determination of historical significance, site monitoring, and public interpretation.

Furthermore, the photomosaics will also serve to document the habitat created by the shipwreck sites. This secondary habitat documentation component adds further value to the survey for the natural resource management.

The photomosaic strip to the left is of the seafloor on top of Stellwagen Bank near a shipwreck (Courtesy of WHOI).

This project was funded through grant from NOAA's Office of Ocean Exploration and NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program.


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