Sea Technology

SEP 2013

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Remote Underwater Surveys Of War of 1812 Shipwrecks Evaluating the Hamilton and Scourge Wreck Sites By Jonathan Moore • Bob Clarke • Ryan Harris E arly on the morning of August 8, 1813, a violent summer squall sent the United States Navy armed schooners Hamilton and Scourge to the bottom of Lake Ontario, northwest of the mouth of the Niagara River. The schooners were part of an American squadron waiting out the night to do battle with a nearby British Royal Navy squadron. Since the outbreak of the War of 1812 a year earlier, both squadrons had vied for control of the strategically important Lake Ontario. The comparatively small schooners were launched as merchant vessels (the American Diana and British Lord Nelson, respectively) and later pressed into naval service. More than 50 men drowned when the ships sank, and only 16 survived. Surveying the Wrecks With advances in marine remote-sensing technologies in the early 1970s, relocating the wrecks became viable. In 1972, a marine remote-sensing search commenced, spearheaded by the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Canada) and research associate Dr. Daniel Nelson. The project drew support from the Canada Centre for Inland Waters (CCIW) in Burlington, Canada. In 1973, a side scan sonar target was identifed. During a 1975 follow-up survey, 100-kilohertz side scan sonar images showed two well-preserved wrecks with intact hulls, standing masts and guns still in place on the decks. They were located in Canadian waters 12 kilometers offshore from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, 90 meters deep and 460 meters apart in the cold (4º C) and dark shipwreck-preserving waters of Lake Ontario. In November 1975, the prototype ROV TROV 1 of CCIW was deployed to the wreck, which was later identifed as the Hamilton. A series of ambitious sonar mapping and site environmental studies followed in 1978, when CCIW researchers attempted to create georeferenced side scan mosaics and used stationary, bottom-mounted sonar systems to generate scaled wreck-site plans. Additional ROV and submersible dives took place in 1978 (Deep Diving Systems's Sea Scanner), 1980 (Jacques Cousteau's Soucoupe), 1982 (Benthos's RPV-430) and 1990 (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution's Jason). Collectively, these surveys captured thousands of archaeologically invaluable still images, dozens of hours of video and a limited amount of geomatic data, all of which recorded the schooner's hulls, rigging, fttings, guns, shot and even human remains on the lakebed. The wrecks became a National Historic Site of Canada in 1976, and ownership of them was transferred from the United States Navy to the City of Hamilton, Ontario, in 1980. DAS model of the Scourge's hull viewed from the port side. This 3D point-cloud data was indispensable for a range of archaeological products, including site plans and 3D reconstructions. (Photo Credit: ASI Group Ltd.) 10 st / September 2013 www.sea-technology.com

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