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During a 5-day cruise onboard the NOAA ship Nancy Foster in June 2005, archaeologists used a magnetometer and side scan sonar to survey areas of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. The project's goal was to conduct a systematic survey of discrete areas of the sanctuary. The survey areas were chosen based upon historically reported vessel losses and fishing hangs. In total, the project surveyed 10 square kilometers of seafloor ranging in depth from 70 meters to 140 meters. The side scan sonar mapped several areas of seafloor with large boulders and rock ridges deposited by the glaciers that formed the topography of the sanctuary.

fog over Lake Huron
The principle investigator monitors the computers.
(Photo: NOAA/SBNMS)

The remote sensing equipment located several anomalies with shipwreck characteristics. Future investigations with a remotely operated vehicle will determine whether these anomalies are maritime heritage resources. This project was made possible through support from NOAA's Maritime Heritage Program and the National Undersea Research Center for the North Atlantic and Great Lakes at the University of Connecticut.

Congress designated the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary in 1992 as 'an area of special national significance.' Virtually the size of the state of Rhode Island, the sanctuary stretches between Cape Ann and Cape Cod in federal waters off of Massachusetts. The sanctuary sits astride the historic shipping routes and fishing grounds for such ports as Boston, Gloucester, Plymouth, Salem, and Provincetown. These ports have been centers of maritime activity in New England for nearly 400 years. As a result, the sanctuary is a repository for this nation's maritime heritage resources in the form of shipwrecks.

Historic uses of the sanctuary include fishing and maritime transportation, all evidenced by the remains of historic shipwrecks on the seafloor. Remote sensing survey are the best means available to the sanctuary to locate the physical remnants of this extensive maritime heritage.

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Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

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