C & C Technologies Inc. (C & C) investigated four unidentified deepwater historic shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico last week. One of the wrecks is the deepest known historic shipwreck in the Gulf, at 7,400 feet of water depth.
The investigation was a part of the second phase of the Lophelia II: Reefs, Rigs and Wrecks Study, sponsored by the Minerals Management Service and NOAA Ocean Exploration research. The total archaeological portion of the study includes six deepwater shipwrecks ranging in water depths from 1,750 to 7,400 feet.
C & C's marine archaeologists Rob Church and Rob Westrick joined a group of scientists on NOAA's flagship Ronald H. Brown for the shipwreck part of the study. Daniel J. Warren is the archaeological Principal Investigator for this project. TDI-Brooks International, the primary MMS Contractor, hired C & C along with the PAST Foundation, Droycon Bioconcepts, Inc., and the University of West Florida to conduct the archaeology for the project.
The team used the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute's Remotely Operated Vehicle Jason II during the investigation. Each site was carefully documented, clues were gathered to study the sites' roles as deepwater artificial reef ecosystems, and select diagnostic artifacts were recovered to aid in vessel identification.
A compass dated 1878 was recovered at the deepest site, known as the 7,000 Ft Wreck, indicating the vessel could not have sunk before then. At a site known as the Green Lantern Wreck, the ship's bell and a small copper box were recovered. The box has yet to be opened and the bell will be cleaned at the University of West Florida's conservation laboratory before the team will know if any inscription or name is present on it.
Five of the six total shipwrecks in the Lophelia study have been surveyed with C & C's C-Surveyor AUVs, which collect side scan sonar, multibeam bathymetry, subbottom profile data, and digital still photos. This remote sensing survey data was critical in planning the ROV investigations conducted at each site.