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!

  • M Wilcox

    Outstanding gentlemen, If you find the ships bell. Give some thought to permanently re uniting it with it’s captain at the USNA Chapel. Good Hunting !!

  • William Dudley

    The phrase above that describes John Paul Jones as “the father of our Navy” is not acceptable in a statement that purports to represent the truth of the U.S. Navy’s establishment. That he was a brilliant, bold, and visionary officer cannot be denied, yet to ascribe to him a feat that really is owed to a group of naval oriented men of the Revlutionary War era does an injustice to their efforts and exaggerates Jones’s influence. The others who deserve to be considered founders are John Adams for his advocacy of the Navy in the Second Continental Congress, Captain John Barry for his own bold and successful actions during the Revolutionary War and early federal period, and John Glover for his work in the establishing the blockade of Boston as commander of Washington’s fleet of armed schooners which hastened the evacuation of Boston by the British in early 1776, his assistance in the battle of Long Island and in the crossing of the Delaware. The Navy’s official position has been and should be to avoid naming any one person as “father of the Navy” as there are several worthy of that title.

  • Bob Hedgeman

    I would like to receive updates on the hunt for the “Bonhomme Richard”

    Bob Hedgeman BM 2
    U S Navy 1964-1968