Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration 2020 Expedition

Valor in the Atlantic: Diving into Maritime History

In 2020, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS), and the state of North Carolina’s Office of State Archaeology (OSA) will work with the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration (GFOE) to explore and investigate historic shipwrecks in and surrounding Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.

The 2020 expedition, entitled Valor in the Atlantic, expands the collaboration between NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and GFOE. In 2019, GFOE collaborated with Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

divers inspect a shipwreck resting on its side
Divers explore the stern of the shipwreck E.M. Clark, an oil tanker sunk by a U-Boat during World War II. Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA

Monitor National Marine Sanctuary was the first national marine sanctuary designated in the United States. Currently, the sanctuary protects the famed Civil War ironclad USS Monitor. Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and surrounding waters are home to many nationally significant shipwrecks from the U.S. Civil War, World War I, and, most well-recognized, World War II’s Battle of the Atlantic. Attacks from German U-boats against Allied merchant vessels along North Carolina’s Outer Banks resulted in the highest concentration of World War II shipwrecks anywhere in the United States.

A diver inspects the wreck of the monitor
A diver investigates the wreck of the USS Monitor. Photo: Tane Casserley/NOAA
A black and white photo of Light Vessel 71
Light Vessel 71, also known as the Diamond Shoals Lightship, was sunk by a German U-Boat during World War I. Photo courtesy U.S. Coast Guard

Our nation has a rich tradition of honoring and protecting special places that have defined our history. NOAA is proposing to expand Monitor National Marine Sanctuary to protect additional internationally significant shipwrecks, including one of the only World War II battlefields in the United States. As we commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, the Valor in the Atlantic expedition represents an ideal opportunity to honor the history and sacrifice of the Allied servicemen and the members of the U.S. Merchant Marine who fought and died during the war. While Valor in the Atlantic focuses primarily on World War II shipwrecks, it honors all those that display valor on the high seas.

A map showing the North Carolina coast nad monitor wreck site
Monitor National Marine Sanctuary is located off the coast of North Carolina. Image: NOAA

Valor in the Atlantic aims to introduce audiences worldwide to these historic shipwrecks. GFOE’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) Yogi will be deployed to showcase a range of nationally significant shipwrecks and the biological communities that now live on them.

In addition to using the ROV to view and explore shipwrecks, NCCOS will be using a fishery echosounder. This instrument allows researchers to identify the locations and relative sizes of fish from the surface using sound waves. Data collected by the echosounder will help scientists better understand the importance of shipwrecks as habitat for a diversity of marine life. This information can help decision makers ensure that the wrecks and their inhabitants are sustainably used by fishers, divers, and other interests.

ROV Yogi
ROV Yogi prepares to explore. Image: Dave Lovalvo/GFOE

Through a satellite connection, expert maritime archaeologists and marine scientists will take viewers on a tour of these shipwrecks in real time through the internet. Not only will viewers have the opportunity to join in the excitement of ocean exploration, they’ll also have the chance to learn more about the history and biology of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary and North Carolina’s coastal waters.

Leg 1 of the expedition will occur August 12-17, and live dives will generally run between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. ET.

Leg 2 of the expedition will occur August 24-26, and live dives will generally run from 2 p.m. to 12 a.m. ET.

More information on how you can participate in exploration in and around Monitor National Marine Sanctuary will be available soon. Check back here for updates.