The U.S. Navy, in conjunction with the Ocean Technology Foundation (OTF), the British Royal navy and the French navy, is leading participation in a search for the remains of the revolutionary warship Bonhomme Richard off the coast of Flamborough Head, England, the week of Sept. 10.
The search is expected to take approximately 10 days.
The Bonhomme Richard was a frigate given by France to John Paul Jones and the Continental Navy in support of the Revolutionary War. John Paul Jones renamed the ship Bonhomme Richard (Good Man Richard) in honor of his patron Benjamin Franklin, who used the pen name Richard Saunders to publish "Poor Richard's Almanac."
The oceanographic survey ship USNS Henson (T-AGS 63), operated by Military Sealift Command for the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command, will be the primary platform for the search. The survey crew is comprised of oceanographers from the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) who planned and coordinated the U.S. Navy's participation in this search.
Representatives from the U.S. Naval Academy, Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Naval History and Heritage Command will also be aboard Henson to assist in the search and identification of found artifacts.
The search planning process included use of a computer program developed by the faculty of the U.S. Naval Academy that integrates historical data, crew actions and last known position to establish where the ship is most likely to be found.
Bonhomme Richard, commanded by John Paul Jones, was lost off the coast of England in 1779 after a decisive battle with HMS Serapis, during which Jones shouted his famous words: "I have not yet begun to fight." Jones and his crew emerged from the battle victorious, seizing HMS Serapis as Bonhomme Richard sustained heavy damage during the battle and sank 36 hours later. The discovery of the Bonhomme Richard would be one of the most important archeological discoveries in U.S. Navy history.
"Over their years of active service, the Navy's oceanographic ships have sailed hundreds of thousands of nautical miles collecting critical oceanographic and hydrographic data that enable decision superiority across the spectrum of naval operations," said Rear Adm. Jonathan W. White, commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (NMETOC). "I consider it an honor that our cutting edge naval ocean survey technology now will now be used to forge a connection with this historic ship and its commander and U.S. Navy hero, John Paul Jones."
Survey equipment will include Henson's towed side-scan sonar, unmanned underwater vehicles with side-scan and multibeam sonar, as well as ONR's unmanned underwater vehicles equipped with buried mine identification (BMI). The BMI system, consisting of an ultra-sensitive laser scalar gradiometer, a side-scan sonar and electro-optical imager, will employ technology used for identifying mines buried in the ocean bottom to find remnants of the Bonhomme Richard. A French navy mine-hunter with embarked divers will join the search to dive on any artifacts that require closer inspection.
This is the fifth expedition organized by the OTF in which the Navy has participated. This year's effort is the largest collaboration to date and includes the most substantial support by U.S. Navy assets.
NMETOC directs the Navy's meteorology and oceanography programs, maintains the Navy's atomic clock for precise time and tracks the positions of the stars for navigation. The command is comprised of approximately 3,000 officers, enlisted and civilian personnel stationed around the world. Naval oceanography enables the safety, speed and operational effectiveness of the fleet by illuminating the risks and opportunities for naval and joint forces posed by the present and future natural environment. NAVOCEANO is NMETOC's largest subordinate command.