Can you please help with this survey?


In recent years extensive geotechnical and environmental sampling survey programs have been conducted in support of numerous coastal and marine development projects. The data generated from these surveys can play a key role in understanding the historic marine environment. However, to properly engage with this resource, it is important that the data collected, the types of analyses that can be undertaken, and the archaeological questions that can be answered are more widely understood by heritage managers, environmental sub-contractors and clients.

As part of this process COARS, University of Southampton, has been commissioned by English Heritage (as part of National Heritage Protection Plan project 6205) to undertake an audit of the current level of skill shortages that exist in relation to the use of seabed and sub-seabed sediment samples for marine geoarchaeology. This will permit a baseline understanding of practitioners’ knowledge, use of techniques, and the level of demand for training to be identified. A background in marine archaeology is not necessary to participate in the survey as the purpose is to identify different skill sets that exists across the many sectors that engage with coastal and marine development projects.

To participate in the survey please visit: https://www.isurvey.soton.ac.uk/11731

The survey will be available online until Sunday 8 June 2014. The results of this survey will be used to create a bespoke training course, meeting the identified skill shortages, which will take place at the University of Southampton in January 2015. We would be very grateful if you could circulate this email to any colleagues who might also like to participate.
Best wishes,
Dr Michael J. Grant

Coastal and Offshore Archaeological Research Services (COARS)
Ocean and Earth Science
National Oceanography Centre Southampton
University of Southampton

Guilty Divers in the UK


The maritime world has been a buzz recently with news from around the world. The most recent one from the UK for you all to take a look at relates to the prosecution of two divers from Kent, who pleaded guilty to not declaring valuable items from shipwrecks off the UK coast. 

Check out the press release from the Maritime and Coast Guard Agency here.

Plus a great news piece is available on the BBC news page here.

IFA conference update


Registration for the IfA conference closes on 7th April. On the morning of
the 10th April IfA MAG is running a session entitled “Creating Maritime
Research Communities”. Speakers from a wide range of backgrounds, including
Wessex Archaeology, The Thames Discovery Programme, English Heritage and the
MOD, will present a variety of cases studies explaining how by working
together we can create a greater cohesion in Maritime Archaeology. Full
abstracts and details are available on the link below. The session will be
followed by the MAG AGM.

Giant World War II aircraft-carrying submarine discovered


A World War II-era Imperial Japanese Navy mega-submarine, the I-400, lost since 1946 when it was intentionally scuttled by U.S. forces after its capture, has been discovered in more than 2,300 feet of water off the southwest coast of O‘ahu. The discovery resolves a decades-old Cold War mystery of just where the lost submarine lay, and recalls a different era as one war ended and a new, undeclared conflict emerged.

Longer than a football field at 400 feet, the I-400 was known as a “Sen-Toku” class submarine—the largest submarine ever built until the introduction of nuclear-powered subs in the 1960s. With a range of 37,500 miles, the I-400 and its sister ship, the I-401, were able to travel one and a half times around the world without refueling, a capability that, to this day, has never been matched by any other diesel-electric submarine.

The new discovery of the I-400 was led by veteran undersea explorer Terry Kerby, Hawaiʻi Undersea Research Laboratory (HURL) operations director and chief submarine pilot. Since 1992, HURL has used its manned submersibles Pisces IV and Pisces V to hunt for submarines and other submerged cultural resources as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) maritime heritage research effort.

Heritage properties like historic wreck sites are non-renewable resources possessing unique information about the past. This discovery was part of a series of dives funded by a grant from NOAA’s Office of Exploration and Research and the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST). Working with Steven Price of HURL, Kerby has researched the subject of lost submarines off O‘ahu for decades. On these recent dives, Kerby was joined by two NOAA archaeologists with experience in documenting World War II vessels and submarines, Drs. James Delgado and Hans Van Tilburg.

“The I-400 has been on our ‘to-find’ list for some time. It was the first of its kind of only three built, so it is a unique and very historic submarine,” said Kerby. “Finding it where we did was totally unexpected. All our research pointed to it being further out to sea. The multi-beam anomalies that appear on a bottom survey chart can be anything from wrecks to rocks—you don’t know until you go there. Jim and Hans and I knew we were approaching what looked like a large wreck on our sonar. It was a thrill when the view of a giant submarine appeared out of the darkness.”

The I-400 and the I-401 aircraft-carrying submarines held up to three folding-wing float-plane bombers that could be launched by catapult just minutes after the submarines surfaced. Each aircraft could carry a powerful 1,800-pound bomb to attack the U.S. mainland. But neither was ever used for its designed purpose, their missions curtailed by the end of armed conflict in the Pacific.

“The innovation of air strike capability from long-range submarines represented a tactical change in submarine doctrine,” said Delgado, director of NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Program, within the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, Washington, D.C. “The large I-400, with its extended range and ability to launch three M6A1 Seiran strike aircraft, was clearly an important step in the evolution of submarine design.”

Up until the Sen-Toku’s day, submarines had been almost exclusively dedicated to sinking surface ships (and other submarines) by stealth attack from under water.

“The I-400 is technologically significant due to the design features associated with its large watertight hangar,” Delgado said. “Following World War II, submarine experimentation and design changes would continue in this direction, eventually leading to ballistic missile launching capabilities for U.S. submarines at the advent of the nuclear era.”

At the end of WWII, the U.S. Navy captured five Japanese subs, including the I-400, and brought them to Pearl Harbor for inspection. When the Soviet Union demanded access to the submarines in 1946 under the terms of the treaty that ended the war, the U.S. Navy sank the subs off the coast of Oʻahu and claimed to have no information on their precise location. The goal was to keep their advanced technology out of Soviet hands during the opening chapters of the Cold War. HURL has now successfully located four of these five lost submarines.

The HURL crew identified the wreck site by carefully combing through side-scan sonar and multi-beam sonar data to identify anomalies on a deep sea floor littered with rocky outcrops and other debris. The wreck was positively identified as the I-400 based on features including its aircraft launch ramp, deck crane, torpedo tube configuration, and stern running lights. The remains of the submarine’s aircraft hangar and conning tower appear to have been separated from the wreck, perhaps in the blunt trauma of the three U.S. Navy torpedo blasts that sunk the ship in 1946.

The I-400 was discovered in August 2013 and is being announced today after NOAA has reviewed its findings with the U.S. state department and Japanese government officials.

“These historic properties in the Hawaiian Islands recall the critical events and sacrifices of World War II in the Pacific, a period which greatly affected both Japan and the United States and shaped the Pacific region as we now know it,” said Van Tilburg, maritime heritage coordinator for NOAA in the Pacific Islands region. “Our ability to interpret these unique weapons of the past and jointly understand our shared history is a mark of our progress from animosity to reconciliation. That is the most important lesson that the site of the I-400 can provide today.”

Video from I-400 initial sighting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmjmPHNYXO8

Video from HURL submarine operations: https://www.youtube.com/user/HURLSubOps/videos

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Robotic turtle to survey underwater sites


Dubbed U-CAT or by the team that developed it, this small, pill-shaped bot is designed to explore deep-sea shipwrecks, where its unique design allows it to access places too dangerous, deep, or small for humans to reach. In order to help it do its job more effectively, it’s got a number of unique design features not present in exploration drones.

U-CAT and its kin are the result of an EU-funded initiative aimed at making underwater archaeology easier, known as the Arrows Project. In addition to U-CAT, several larger underwater robots will be tested in tandem in the Mediterranean and the Baltic Seas. Together, these robots will not only revolutionize the field of underwater archaeology, but provide an opportunity to study real-world deep-sea animals.

The robot is equipped with four small, independently-driven flippers instead of propellers, allowing it to achieve an unprecedented degree of underwater maneuverability. As a result of its flippers, U-CAT is able to swim both backwards and forwards, travel directly upwards, and even change direction in tight spaces.The flippers have another added benefit, as well – unlike propellers, which tend to stir up obstructing dirt and sediment, Arrow’s manner of propulsion is relatively calm and quiet, driving the robot without disturbing the water around it.

The little bot is furthermore capable of operating remotely for periods of up to several hours, recording everything it sees with its onboard cameras. This, in turn, allows archaeologists to reconstruct a map of the boat without ever having to set foot underwater. Even better, it’s designed to be cheaper than other underwater exploration vehicles, meaning smaller organizations will be able to afford the use of it, and even if it gets stuck somewhere “it won’t bankrupt the expedition.”

Along with U-CAT, a number of robots were showcased over the weekend at  at the London Science Museum’s Robot Safari Exhibit.  These included a cheetah cub, bat, school of fish, salamander, and even a tumbleweed. These robots were all presented in simulations of the environments their inspirations would have inhabited.

See, U-CAT is part of a new breed of “biomimetic robots;” which imitate animals and plants. This is, says Centre for Biorobotics Professor Maarja Kruusmaa, “an increasing trend in the world of robotics, where we try to overcome the technological bottlenecks by looking at alternative technical solutions provided by nature.”

see original post here