Navy Technology to Help NOAA Find Sunken History

Partnership Using Undersea Robots Runs Deep at AUVfest 2008

May 12, 2008

NOAA explores and protects many shipwrecks around the nation.

NOAA explores and protects many shipwrecks around the nation.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

U.S. Navy mine-hunting technology has a potential dual use to help NOAA find historic shipwrecks by allowing maritime archaeologists to “see” below the seafloor. With greater resolutions and access to deeper depths, maritime archaeologists can better understand submerged cultural and historic resources without disturbing those sites.

This technology will be put through its paces at AUVfest 2008 from May 12 – 23 in Narragansett Bay, R.I. Hosted by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport, R.I., Navy technical teams will deploy AUVs, or autonomous undersea vehicles, equipped with advanced mine hunting sensors. Teams will demonstrate several mine countermeasure mission objectives, including broad area searching and mapping capabilities, confined area searching capabilities, and buried mine hunting.

A team of maritime archaeologists from NOAA, including representatives from other federal and state agencies, and universities will employ this advanced technology to survey four shipwrecks, including HMS Cerberus, a 28-gun British frigate intentionally sunk along with other ships in 1778 to avoid capture by an approaching French fleet.

“Historically, maritime archaeologists have not had access to as much advanced technology as we would like,” said Frank Cantelas, a maritime archaeologist from NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. “By introducing maritime archaeologists to this new technology, NOAA hopes to significantly advance and support how archaeologists will search for sunken history.”

The theme of AUVfest 2008 is “Partnership Runs Deep:  ONR Unmanned Mine-Hunting Technologies help NOAA Explore Sunken History.” Seven previous AUVfests have been conducted since 1997. However, this is the first festival to focus on a dual-use civilian application of the AUV technology.

Details about AUVfest 2008, including background essays on AUVs, daily logs from archaeologists and AUV experts, and up-to-date photography and film clips may be found online.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.