The NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB), Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, Naval Oceanographic Office, Office of Naval Research, and U.S. Naval Academy along with partners from Ocean Technology Foundation began the 2010 search and survey for Bonhomme Richard.
On September 23, 1779, Bonhomme Richard, the flagship of the Continental Navy and commanded by Captain John Paul Jones, participated in one of the fiercest battles of the Revolutionary War against HMS Serapis off the coast of Flamborough Head, England. Although Jones emerged victorious from the battle, Bonhomme Richard was badly damaged and, after drifting for thirty-six hours, sank into the North Sea. If found, the final resting place of Bonhomme Richard could shed new light on US maritime history and would increase public awareness and appreciation for America’s maritime patrimony.
The survey area was determined using a computer program, developed by the U.S. Naval Academy, which integrates the weather and tidal data, crew actions and the vessel’s last known positions to establish where it might have gone down. The Bonhomme Richard Project teams will use an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) equipped with side scan and multibeam sonar, and a separate high-quality side scan sonar that will be towed behind the search vessel to create an image of the sea floor. NHHC will also be joined by a French Navy minehunter equipped with a robotic underwater video camera and teams of divers to further examine any targets warranting closer investigation. Dr. Robert Neyland, Head of UAB, will act as chief archaeologist and lead the investigation in authenticating and identifying any remains of the ship and its artifacts.
Stay tuned for more updates as the search for Bonhomme Richard continues!
On August 12, the NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB), and its partners MD SHA and MHT, successfully completed the first phase of their three-year archaeological investigation of the Patuxent shipwreck believed to be the War of 1812 U.S. block sloop SCORPION. Firstly, a big thank you to our on-site visitors who made the trip out to Upper Marlboro, MD. It was great to see you and we really appreciate your support! We were also glad to welcome members of the press on site to inform them about the SCORPION project, our partnerships and the NHHC and were pleased to see the story covered in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun and The Capital (Annapolis).
During the first part of the two-week project, UAB’s team of underwater archaeologists, in cooperation with MD SHA and MHT, measured the site and extent of the wreck beneath the sediment via a process called “hydroprobing.” Based on the data from the hydroprobe, the team was then able to determine which parts of the wreck most warranted investigation. Archaeologists then removed the overburden (overlying sediment) from specific parts of the wreck using dredge systems; the sediment pulled from the wreck was suctioned up the dredge onto the barges where it was screened by capable staff. Some artifacts were also recovered and brought back to the UAB Conservation and Archaeology Lab for stabilization, treatment and documentation.
Again, the UA team is very grateful to MD SHA and MHT as well as URS and SUPSALV. With their help and cooperation, significant progress was made during Phase 1 and we look forward to working with them again on the next phase of the SCORPION project in summer 2011. We’re always glad to talk about the SCORPION project and answer any questions, so feel free to stop by our offices or send us an email (NHHCUnderwaterArchaeology@navy.mil) and stay tuned for more posts!
On July 19, the NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) along with partners from the Maryland State Historical Trust and the Maryland State Highways Administration, initiated the first phase of a three-year archeological investigation of the shipwreck site believed to be USS SCORPION. SCORPION was the flagship of Commodore Joshua Barney’s Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, which he ordered to be scuttled and burned in the Patuxent River to prevent its capture by the British during the War of 1812. The UAB team, led by Dr. Robert Neyland, in collaboration with SUPSALV, will spend two weeks in the field to complete a survey, limited excavation, and documentation of the site. UAB’s underwater archaeologists will carefully dredge overburden to reveal the structure of the ship, and then map the site and any artifacts uncovered in the process. Artifacts recovered will be catalogued and transported to the UAB Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory for stabilization and treatment.
Stay tuned for more project updates next week!