Crew member, Dave Conlin with the National Park Service, prepares his dive equipment. (Photo: NOAA)
After prepping cameras, diver propulsion vehicles (also known as DPVs or scooters) and water chemistry analysis equipment last night, the team was ready for an early start this morning. We arrived at the boat at 7:00 a.m., loaded gear and pushed off the dock amidst breaking clouds and calm seas. Monitor National Marine Sanctuary Archeologist, Joe Hoyt, briefed the dive team as we motored out of Beaufort Inlet and began the 20 mile trip offshore.
Crew members being briefed about the day's diving tasks. (Photo: NOAA)
The task list and dive plan was straightforward: conduct a reconnaissance dive at the HMT Bedfordshire site, spending 30 minutes of bottom time at 100 feet. These are often the most critical dives of the project. It's an opportunity for the team to get familiar with the site, and also make decisions about how to approach the site mapping and deployment of a suite of non-invasive scientific instruments that will help determine how rapidly the steel-hulled shipwreck is corroding.
Research Vessel Joe Ferguson at the dock at NCCOS in Beaufort, N.C. (Photo: NOAA)
It's always exciting to make a dive on an unfamiliar shipwreck site, but even more so when you do it in the context of an archeological expedition. Over the next two weeks, we'll be conducting a series of tasks aimed at gaining a better historical and archeological understanding of the site. Equally important, we'll be producing high quality video and still imagery and other products that help foster awareness of North Carolina, national, and international maritime heritage among the diving and non-diving public.
Crew members leaving the dock. (Photo: NOAA)
Today, however, mechanical issues with our research vessel forced us to turn around just a few miles from the site! The first series of dives on the HMT Bedfordshire will have to wait a day or two as our boat captains, Todd and Chad, work with local diesel mechanics to get us back up and running. It's "part of the business" though, and we'll make up for lost days as the project rolls on. For now, it's back to the researchers' quarters and time to make a series of phone calls to line up another dive platform while ours gets repaired.