The Bedfordshire. Click here for a larger image. (NOAA)
When a ship sinks to the bottom of the ocean it takes on a whole new life. Instead of continuously moving from one place to another with cargo or passengers, the vessel sits on a bed of sand, motionless. Slowly, life is drawn to this new habitat, and it becomes a home for an abundance of marine organisms.
This summer, scientists will be studying the biology of the Battle of the Atlantic shipwrecks. They will be collecting data on the fish, algae, and invertebrates that now live in and on the sunken vessels.
The Manuela. Click here for a larger image. (NOAA)
Maritime archaeologists will first set up a transect line on the shipwrecks. This line divides the wrecks into smaller sections and makes it easier to document. The line also gives a common point to measure from, so the archaeologists can accurately document the shipwreck and its artifacts.
The biologists may use the same transect line in their research. For example, as the researchers conduct fish counts, they will swim along the transect line and identify, count, and document the length of the fish they observe. Just like the archaeologists, they will carry a clipboard, pencil, and waterproof paper to record the data.
A coral frame. (NOAA)
Another way the biologists will collect data is to use photoquadrats. A quadrat is a square or rectangular frame that defines a specific area for scientists to survey the algae or animals inside. Similarly, the photoquadrat defines a specific photo frame size. The researchers will be scuba diving and won't have very much time underwater to collect data. The photoquadrat allows them to take multiple pictures and analyze them later.
These two methods of collecting data, the fish counts along the transect line and the photoquadrats, are used because it would be impossible to count and identify every living thing on the shipwreck! Stay tuned to the Battle of the Atlantic website during our expedition to see what exciting creatures we have found!