Shipwrecks! (Trident Kickstarter Update #3)

Original post : Sep 28, 2015

Last year, a team of archaeologists and scientists from NOAA made headlines with the discovery of the wreck of the SS City of Rio de Janeiro. The find was referred to as the Bay Area's Titanic, as it was found just outside the Golden Gate Bridge. It was found lying at just 90 meters of depth using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

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Although the causes and general location of the wreck were known since it was sunk in 1901, it still took over a century to actually find and photograph it. Many people were surprised that a shipwreck of such historical importance - and seemingly conspicuous location - could elude discovery for so long. We were not.

If you're paying attention, stories like this are all too common. Like the Vasa, the Swedish warship that was sunk in the middle of the Stockholm harbor in 1628. It wasn't until it was wreck was rediscovered in by the amateur archaeologist Anders Franzén in the 1950's (at a depth of just 32 meters) that the ship was finally raised (it's now on display at the Vasa Museum in Stockholm - highly recommended).

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Brendan Foley, the Woods Hole marine archaeologist working on the Antikythera project, told me he believes there are over 750,000 wrecks in the Mediterranean.

Here was his rational:

"My rough but conservative estimate based on some assumptions and guesses. Take 10,000 ships as the entire Med fleet at any given point in the ancient past (probably lower number in the very distant past, but certainly far more than 10k by the Greek and Roman eras), multiply by the number of voyages per year (5? Probably lots more but this is a conservative estimate), figure a loss probability per voyage of 0.005%, multiply by 3000 years of antiquity = 750,000 shipwrecks."

Whatever mathematical route you take, when you start adding it up, the numbers are huge. There is so much left to be discovered. How exciting is that?!?

But it also carries a big responsibility. We've seen a number of community members search for (and find) all sorts of wrecks on OpenExplorer. As the technology in Trident pushes the limits of what amateur marine archaeologists are capable of doing, we - as a community - have an opportunity to set the tone.

Over the next year, we'll be working with archaeologists like Brendan to create more content around this emerging field: instructions, best practices, as well as expedition opportunities.

Again, our goal is to make sure the experience of owning the Trident and being a part of the OpenROV community goes far beyond just the device itself.

(We'll have more details about Trident in the next update - stay tuned!)