Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Debuts Virtual Archaeology Museum

May 16, 2019

Dubbed the "Monterrey A Shipwreck," the wreck of this wooden-hulled and copper-sheathed sailing ship sank in over 4,000 feet of water in the Gulf of Mexico some 200 years ago. The shipwreck was explored using NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer in April 2014. The vessel carries at least five cannon and crates of muskets. Its mission remains a mystery – was this a pirate, a privateer, a military ship, or a heavily defended merchant. This is the photogrammetry model of Monterrey A Shipwreck Ver 1.0 and is one example of what can be explored in the Virtual Archaeology Musuem. Data processing and design by BOEM's Marine Archaeologist Scott Sorset. To explore the shipwreck, click on the image to load the 3D model and use your mouse to turn the model and zoom in and out. Model courtesy of BOEM.

On May 10, 2019, the Bureau of Ocean Management launched its publicly accessible Virtual Archaeology Museum. The platform showcases interactive 3D models of shipwrecks created using imagery collected during missions led by the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research on NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer. This collaboration has led to the documentation of an array of 19th-20th century shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic over the last several years.

To create the models, the Okeanos Explorer’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) films while being piloted over the survey site in a gridded pattern that captures 80 percent image overlap in four directions. The ROV also records additional angles to ensure that a geometrically accurate 3D model of the wreck can be created. The video data is then run through photogrammetry software which stitches the images together, creating highly detailed, photorealistic models of the sites.

These models serve as a baseline of information about the conditions of these wrecks and allow a broader audience of scientists, researchers, and the public to access and interact with these remote sites from their own computers.