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

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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!

 
Aug 23

Battle of Flamborough Head

Monday, August 23, 2010 12:00 AM

On 23 September 1779, off the east coast of England, a four-ship Continental Navy squadron, comprising a 40-gun ship, a 36- and a 32-gun frigate, and a 12-gun brig, encountered forty-one British merchant ships arriving from the Baltic laden with precious commodities, convoyed by two British warships, of 44 and 20 guns. At the conclusion of the ensuing battle, the two British warships had struck their colors. Although the American flagship to which the British 44 was closely grappled was in a sinking condition, the heavily damaged British ship struck because it still faced the undamaged American 36-gun frigate.

The American squadron lost the 40-gun ship, which sank owing to battle damage, and failed to capture a single one of the merchant ships. Richard Pearson, the commander of the British convoy, was knighted for his gallant and successful defense of the convoy. Because of his stubborn refusal to accept defeat, and despite his shortcomings as a squadron commander and the appalling loss of life on board his flagship, the American commander, John Paul Jones, is honored for having given “our Navy its earliest traditions of heroism and victory.”

 
Jun 9

Historical Manuscripts at the Navy Department Library

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 9:04 AM

In previous posts we’ve highlighted many of the incredible books we have in our collections here at the Navy Department Library, but did you know that we have a very nice historical manuscripts collection as well? This collection is composed of US Navy-related original letters, documents and manuscripts from the 18th to the 20th century. Highlights include John Paul Jones’ calling card collection from French and Russian acquaintances; a log from the frigate HMS Lizard during the Revolutionary War; documents relating to the service of Naval hero Asa Curtis during the War of 1812; and a scrapbook of Seaman 1st Class William G. Kelly, who served in the Yangtze Patrol in the 1930s. Other items include a wide range of signed documents and letters written by and to personages such as William Bainbridge, John Dahlgren, George Dewey, David Farragut, Isaac Hull, Abraham Lincoln, Matthew Maury, James Monroe, Matthew C. Perry, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Thomas Tingey, Thomas Truxton, and Gideon Welles.

Manuscript materials are unavailable for loan and must be consulted in the library. Photocopying of manuscripts, as well as fragile items, is generally prohibited, though the use of digital cameras by researchers to reproduce non-copyrighted materials is permitted. Permission to photocopy a few pages may be granted by the reference staff, contingent upon the physical state of items. All photocopying of materials shall be done by the reference staff, or under their close supervision. The use of personal scanners by non-library staff personnel must be approved by the reference staff on a document-by-document basis.

There are wonderful primary source materials waiting for you right here at the Navy Department Library. Come in to view our manuscripts and let us help you tell your story.

 
Apr 18

This Week in U.S. Navy History: 18-24 April

Sunday, April 18, 2010 5:55 AM

April 18

1906 – Navy assists in relief operations during San Francisco earthquake and fire

1942 - USS Hornet launches Doolittle’s Army bombers for first attack on Japan

USS Hornet (CV-8) launches Army Air Force B-25B bombers, at the start of the first U.S. air raid on the Japanese home islands, 18 April 1942. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

1988 – Navy destroys 2 Iranian surveillance platforms, sinks one frigate and one patrol ships, and severely damages a second frigate in retaliation for attack on USS Samuel B. Roberts

April 19

1955 – USS Albany and USS William Wood begin to provide disaster relief to citizens of Volos, Greece, ending 21 April

1989 – an explosion occurred in turret 2 of the battleship USS Iowa (BB 61) as the ship conducted gunnery practice near Puerto Rico. The explosion, which began in the gunpowder charge of the center gun, spread through the three gun rooms and much of the lower levels of the turret. Forty-seven Sailors died. RIP Shipmates. You Stand Relieved. We have the watch.

April 20

1914 – In first call to action of naval aviators, detachment on USS Birmingham sailed to Tampico, Mexico.

1942 – USS Wasp (CV-7) launches 47 British aircraft to reinforce Malta

British Royal Air Force Spitfire V fighter takes off from the carrier, after a 200-foot run, May 1942. Probably taken during Wasp's second Malta aircraft ferry mission. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, now in the collections of the National Archives.

1953 – USS New Jersey shells Wonsan, Korea from inside the harbor.

1964 – USS Henry Clay (SSBN-625) launches a Polaris A-2 missile from the surface in first demonstration that Polaris submarines could launch missiles from the surface as well as from beneath the ocean. 30 minutes later the submarine launched another Polaris missile while submerged.

April 21

1861 – USS Saratoga captures slaver, Nightingale.

1898 – U.S. at war against Spain

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Jan 22

The Wilkes Exploring Expedition Discovers the Antarctic Coast in January 1840

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 3:05 PM

 “The Wilkes Exploring Expedition: Its Progress Through Half a Century” was originally published in the September/October 1914 issue of Proceedings magazine by Louis N. Feipel:

Portrait of Charles Wilkes by Thomas Sully

Portrait of Charles Wilkes by Thomas Sully

The important expedition known as the Wilkes, or South Sea, Exploring Expedition, fitted out in 1838 by national munificence, was the first that ever left our shores, and the first to be com­manded by an officer of the United States Navy. But although organized on a most stupendous scale, and shrouded in a most in­teresting history, this expedition is to-day comparatively unknown.

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