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Mission Logs

Casserley crunching dataApril 30, 2006
Crunching data, wrapping up and heading home.

the ship dockedApril 29, 2006
Rough seas and small craft advisories make the going tough.

divers look at ship timbersApril 28, 2006
The team explores the North America, a 19th century masted vessel.

Russ Green and Brenda Altmeier assemble the diver propulsion vehicleApril 27, 2006
Today kicked off media day as the team provides an educational tour under water.

Photo-mosaic sled in actionApril 26, 2006
Archaeologists kick off the photo-mosaic mission. Take a look at the newly developed sled technology in action!

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Mission Log: April 29, 2006

Walter Bonora, Writer
NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program

The bow of the R/V Odyssey crashed down on the water with a resounding whoosh. Water sprayed over the fly bridge, drenching us. Our dauntless skipper, Stephen Beckwith was unphased.  “Just part of the job,” he said.

Team members check out ship timbers of the North America. Photo by Russ Green
Click image for caption and larger view.
After two days diving the wrecks off Marathon, our journey back to Key Largo was over high seas under small craft advisories. No sea-going mission is complete without a day of strong winds and rough water. And today’s mission was aborted because of bad weather.

NOAA’s maritime archaeologists perform important work in the ongoing study and preservation of our cultural heritage. But to accomplish their work a lot depends on the people who take them out to the wrecks. In Stephen and Brenda Altmeier one would be hard-pressed to find more capable and professional mariners. They were the guts of the journey.

the ship docked
Click image for caption and larger view.
Stephen kept us continually aware of all safety procedures, and never put us in the water if seas were too rough. Once tied to a buoy over a designated wreck, he would make the first dive to check the water current and visibility. He also oversees maritime activities at the site, which includes permitting for research. But Stephen will soon leave the area for an assignment as commanding officer of the NOAA Ship Henry B. Bigelow, at NOAA Northeast Fisheries. The Florida Keys sanctuary will lose a good skipper. 

Brenda was everywhere - a crack photographer, top notch diver, and has a great knowledge of sanctuary resources. She’s the program support specialist for maritime heritage in the sanctuary and coordinates with different research organizations to study the Keys’ bountiful cultural resources.

Unpredictable weather is always a problem when conducting maritime research and documentation. Fortunately the team had enough good weather to create what will become state-of-the-art photo-mosaics of some of the oldest wrecks in Florida waters.

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