Sep 23

The Search for Bonhomme Richard: By NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch

Monday, September 23, 2013 8:32 AM

The hunt for the remains of Bonhomme Richard continues in the North Sea. On September 23rd, 1779, Bonhomme Richard engaged in fierce combat with HMS Seripis during the Battle of Flamborough Head off the English coast. Captained by the formidable John Paul Jones, who is often credited as the “father” of the U.S. Navy, Bonhomme Richard emerged victorious from the battle, but proved irreparably damaged. Despite all efforts to save the ship, Bonhomme Richard sank into the North Sea on September 25th, 1779.

Between 21 May and 9 June, 2012, the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), partnered with Ocean Technology Foundation and the U.S. Naval Academy, to continue the multiyear, multinational effort to locate the remains of the historic ship. The 2012 survey mission was accomplished with generous support from the French Navy (Marine Nationale) and the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVO). The mission was conducted off of three vessels French vessels that provided remote sensing technology, utilizing Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) along with French Navy divers. During the three week mission, the teams covered 37 square nautical miles, identified over 80 targets, and conducted several remote-sensing and dive team operations on targets of particular interest. The 2012 survey provided an excellent opportunity for real-world operational cross-training with the French Navy. After data analysis, one target proved of significant interest for any future survey efforts.

In 2013, a documentary was released on the 2011 Bonhomme Richard expedition aboard USNS Grasp on the Discovery Channel show Mighty Ships. If you wish to read about past expeditions, including the 2011 survey mission, click on the “Bonhomme Richard” tag below. For more information on the Naval History and Heritage Command and the NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch visit our website at http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/nhcorg12.htm.

View NHHC’s photo presentation:
“23 Sept 1779: Continental Frigate Bonhomme Richard vs HMS Serapis”
on our Facebook fan page: http://goo.gl/o8VYDY

American and French teams on the 2012 search for Bonhomme Richard. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Neyland).

American and French teams on the 2012 search for Bonhomme Richard. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Neyland).

 
Oct 22

Cuban Missile Crisis: “When the Right Words Counted”

Monday, October 22, 2012 1:00 AM

On 22 October 1962, President John F. Kennedy delivered a televised speech, arguably “the most serious speech delivered in his lifetime” and the “most frightening presidential address” in U.S. history.’ Soviet missile-launch sites had been discovered under construction in Cuba. The response resuIted from deliberations among the President and his ad hoc Executive Committee (ExCom).

Its final draft was improved significantly by an unlikely person: the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Admiral George W. Anderson, Jr.  Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 3

Adventures of Old Glory

Tuesday, July 3, 2012 12:46 PM

The U.S. Flag taken while looking up from the USS Utah Monument along "Carrier Row", Ford Island, Pearl Harbor, Oahu.

A brief American flag history from 1777-1927 is presented in celebration of Independence Day. In the March 1927 issue of Proceedings, an article was published with a chronology of some “firsts” for the American flag. Another “first” not included in the following article: On July 4, 1777, John Paul Jones and the crew of the Sloop-of-War Ranger hoisted the first “Stars and Stripes” flag to be flown on board a continental warship.

Adventures 0f ”Old Glory”

By William E. Beard

The flag of the United States, adopted June 14, 1777, was thereafter in the Revolution thirteen stars and thirteen stripes. The War of 1812 was fought under a flag of fifteen stars and fifteen stripes. Effective July 4. 1818, the original number of stripes, thirteen, was restored, and the number of stars was made to depend upon the number of states. The flag of the Mexican War bore twenty-nine stars; that of the Civil War, thirty-one to thirty-five; of the Spanish American war, forty-five, and of the World War, forty-eight.

Displayed in battle for first time. The United States flag was displayed in battle for the first time on August 3, 1777, at Fort Stanwix, or Fort Schuyler (the present site of Rome, New York), by the command of Colonel Peter Gansevoort on the appearance of a force of British, Tories and Indians led by Colonel Barry St. Leger, who was acting in concert with Burgoyne in the latter’s ill-fated invasion of New York. The record reads: “Aug. 3d. Early this morning a Continental flag made by the officers of Colonel Gansevoort’s regiment was hoisted and a cannon levelled at the enemy camp was fired on the occasion.” The improvised flag continued to flaunt a defiance to St. Leger’s blood curdling threats, though the fort was closely beset and an expedition commanded by Gen. Nicholas Herkimer failed, after a furious woodland battle, to relieve it. The siege was not raised until August 22, 1777, when the enemy decamped on the approach of an American brigade led by Arnold. The brave Gansevoort died in 1812 still remembered as “The hero of Fort Schuyler.” Read the rest of this entry »

 
Nov 10

236th Birthday of the U. S. Marine Corps

Thursday, November 10, 2011 1:00 AM

November 10th, 1775

Congress Establishes U. S. Marine Corps

The First Recruits, December 1775, by Col. Charles Waterhouse, USMCR, shows Capt. Samuel Nicholas, 1st Lt. Matthew Parke, and a scowling sergeant with prospective Leathernecks on the Philadelphia waterfront. (USMC Art Collection)

236 years ago, the Continental Congress first established the Marine Corps to assist the Continental Navy in the American Revolution. At the time, Marines were already serving in various State Navies, and their exemplary service conviced the Congress that a Marine Corps would be of great value in winning the Revolution. An article in the June 1923 issue of Proceedings, by Major Edwin N. McClellan, USMC, documents vividly the first years of the U. S. Marine Corps. McClellan’s article gives a detailed account of the founding of the Marine Corps, as well as its recruiting methods, the many services perfomed by Marines, and even the uniform and salary given to the Continental Marines. Noting the great role played by the Marine Corps in the American revolution, the article begins with a quote from the American writer, James Fenimore Cooper:

“At no period of the naval history of the world, is it probable that Marines were more important than during the War of the Revolution,” wrote J. Fenimore Cooper, and “the history of the Navy, even at that early day, as well as in these later times, abounds with instances of the gallantry and self-devotion of this body of soldiers.” Read the rest of this entry »

 
Jul 19

On the Hunt for Bonhomme Richard!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 3:39 PM

On July 17th, the NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) along with partners from Ocean Technology Foundation, Naval Oceanographic Office, SUPSALV, Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MSDU) 2 and the US Naval Academy, set out to continue the search for one of the Navy’s first fighting vessels, Bonhomme Richard. Captained by the father of our Navy, John Paul Jones, the ship was lost in 1779 after engaging in combat with HMS Serapis off the Yorkshire coast of England. Although Jones emerged victorious, Bonhomme Richard was irreparably damaged. After transferring all men and supplies safely to the captured Serapis, Jones set the beleaguered U.S. frigate adrift to sink into the North Sea. Its final resting place has remained unknown ever since.

USNS Grasp as seen from one of its tenders while conducting AUV operations over four neighboring targets. Photo courtesy of Alexis Catsambis.

Over the next three weeks, the expedition will be conducted aboard Safeguard-class USNS Grasp. The team on deck will use survey data collected from remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) equipped with side-scan sonar and multibeam echosounder equipment to investigate targets of interest gathered from previous surveys. The side-scan sonar and multibeam echosounder relay data to create an image of the sea floor using sound waves; if a particular target looks promising, archaeologists will investigate it more closely and, if possible, deploy divers to take an even closer look.

Officer-in-Charge Ray Miller and midshipman Joseph Walter discuss the Swordfish AUV that is being prepared for the first launch of the mission. Photo courtesy of Alexis Catsambis.

Stay tuned for more updates from the field!

 
Oct 13

Reflecting on the Navy’s Heritage on its 235th Birthday

Wednesday, October 13, 2010 8:00 AM

Adapted from Chapter 2 of the 24th edition of The Bluejacket’s Manual by Thomas J. Cutler

Even though the United States is the fourth largest nation in the world in terms of land area, it has always been a maritime nation, focusing on the sea as one of its most important assets. During the colonial period and in the early days of the Republic, it was much easier to travel from colony to colony or state to state by ship than by horse or on foot, and fishing, whaling, and overseas trade were among the fledgling nation’s earliest businesses. One of its earliest challenges was the War of 1812, which was partially decided by a series of stellar naval victories against the world’s foremost sea power at the time. A naval blockade and riverine warfare were essential elements in the Civil War, and the war against Spain at the end of nineteenth century was begun by a naval tragedy and decided largely by naval victories. American commerce would never have thrived without open sea lanes, two world wars could not have been won without the lifelines maintained across the world’s oceans, and United States control of the sea was an essential element in the victory over Communism in the Cold War. Throughout the nation’s history, the sea has played an important role in America’s economy, defense, and foreign policy. Today, the modern United States of America continues to look to the sea for these same things and relies upon its Navy to preserve and further the nation’s maritime interests.

Being a maritime nation means having a comfortable relationship with the sea, using it to national advantage and seeing it as a highway rather than as an obstacle. An illustration of this point can be seen in World War II. By 1941, Hitler had conquered much of the land of Europe, but because Germany was not a maritime power, he saw the English Channel (a mere twenty miles across at one point) as a barrier, and England remained outside his grasp. Yet the Americans and British were later able to strike across this same channel into Europe to eventually bring Nazi Germany to its knees. And in that same war, the United States attacked Hitler’s forces in North Africa from clear across the Atlantic Ocean—a distance of more than 3,000 nautical miles.

The navy of a maritime nation must be able to carry out a variety of strategic missions. Currently, the U.S. Navy has 6 important missions, all of which have been carried out effectively at various times in the nation’s history:
• Sea Control
• Deterrence
• Forward presence
• Power projection
• Maritime Security
• Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response

Read the rest of this entry »

 
Sep 27

2010 Bonhomme Richard Survey Completed!

Monday, September 27, 2010 4:01 PM

USNS Henson at work searching for Bonhomme Richard. Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Neyland.

 The second survey this year for Bonhomme Richard has been successfully completed. Dr. Robert Neyland, NHHC’s Underwater Archaeology Branch Director, together with the Ocean Technology Foundation , Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command Naval Oceanographic Office, Office of Naval Research , and U.S. Naval Academy worked aboard the USNS Henson to survey a 70 sq nautical mile area and analyze several high priority targets. Hopefully, one of which may uncover the elusive wreck. 

Dr. Robert Neyland, Underwater Archaeology Branch Head, on the deck of USNS Henson. Photo courtesy of Robert Neyland.

The 25-knot winds and ten-to-twelve-foot waves in the North Sea paused operations for merely a day, leaving the USNS Henson adequate time to undergo a repair to its winch. The challenges created by the stormy seas are a sobering reminder of Bonhomme Richard’s final struggles as Captain John Paul Jones worked in similar conditions to transfer three hundred and fifty men from the ship to HMS Serapis shortly before Bonhomme Richard sank into the North Sea. 

HMS Victory, a ship contemporary with Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis. Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Neyland.

 The survey continued despite persistent rough seas, and the crew is pleased to report that over 60 sq nautical miles were covered. USNS Henson scientists and midshipmen worked diligently processing the sonar data, categorizing targets, and selecting those for further investigation. A number of interesting targets have been identified and several have been tagged to be further investigated in future surveys. Overall the survey was very successful and put us one step closer to discovering the final resting place of Bonhomme Richard! 

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) on the deck of USNS Henson. Photo courtesy of Dr. Robert Neyland.

 
Sep 7

The 2010 Search for Bonhomme Richard Continues!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010 3:53 PM

 

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.

A SAAB Double Eagle MKII ROV being launched off the deck of CMT Cassiopée during the May 2010 search for Bonhomme Richard. Photo courtesy of Alexis Catsambis.

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.

Photo of the USNS Henson, which will serve as the search vessel for the 2010 Bonhomme Richard survey. Photo courtesy of msc.navy.mil.

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!