Dive 01: Engineering and Cultural Heritage
April 12, 2018

Dive 01: Photo"bomb"etry

Looming out of the gloom in the deep water of the Gulf of Mexico, the tug New Hope appears as a long forgotten crumbling relic. With the bow riding proud and a towering smoke stack, the tug sits on the seafloor as if still making way to the next port. Humble, yet powerful, tugs provide aid to vessels in distress, tow barges to move commodities to markets, and assist ships entering and leaving ports. New Hope is a well-preserved example of this vessel class. Read the full video caption here. Video courtesy of the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration and Research, Gulf of Mexico 2018. Download larger version (mp4, 39.6 MB).

We arrived on site with calm weather conditions and launched the remotely operated vehicle (ROV) at 8:15 AM CDT. In the first four hours of the dive, we met the engineering shakedown objectives, including testing of buoyancy and trim at depth; hydraulic functions; and auto depth, altitude, heading, and position functions.

After the testing was complete, the vehicles proceeded to the shipwreck target and arrived on site at approximately 12:15 PM CDT. The objectives of the archaeological portion of the dive were to perform a general reconnaissance survey the shipwreck, conduct a systematic video mapping survey of the site, and collect high-quality imagery of archaeological artifacts, as well as any biology inhabiting the site. The site is believed to be the tugboat New Hope, which was sunk during Tropical Storm Debbie in September 1965.

The ROV approached the shipwreck from the stern and began a reconnaissance survey, proceeding to the bow along the starboard side and returning to the stern along the port side. The presence of masts and a stack rising above the seafloor by over six meters (~20 feet) precluded the planned full wreck mapping survey. The ROV pilots and navigator, in consultation with Bureau of Ocean Energy Management marine archaeologists, commenced a partial mapping survey of the bow and forward superstructure of the wreck. The ROV pilots surveyed the wreck in a pattern that lends itself to making 3D images of the wreck directly from the video. The dive concluded with visual reconnaissance of the stern of the vessel. In addition to surveying the wreck, many organisms were observed. These included sponges, hydroids, squat lobsters, cutthroat eels, squid, rattails, a batfish, a crab, sea cucumbers, urchins, and a cup coral.