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Autonomous vehicle to search local sanctuary for shipwrecks

Submitted by on May 3, 2019 – 6:17 pmNo Comment


Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (TBNMS) is collaborating with Dr. Bob Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust to map unexplored areas of northern Lake Huron with multi-beam sonar.

Deploying an autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) from the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, this mission is focused on mapping unexplored, expanded sanctuary areas, with a goal of discovering new shipwrecks and identifying shipwreck locations to support ongoing exploration and management.

Three targeted survey areas in northern Lake Huron exemplify the diverse maritime landscape of the Great Lakes, including a lighthouse on a treacherous reef; dangerous, near-shore shallow waters; and the deep, mid-lake waters of busy shipping lanes known as “Shipwreck Alley.”  In addition to potentially locating historic shipwrecks, the multi-beam data collected can help identify fish habitats and update navigational charts.

Much of the mapping will occur off the shores of Presque Isle County, but on Saturday, May 11, the ASV, also known as BEN (Bathymetric Explorer and Navigator), will travel south to Alpena to survey in the Thunder Bay River during the sanctuary’s annual ROV (remotely operated vehicle) competition.

From 10a – 3p, students from all over Michigan will be undertaking their own underwater exploration missions in the Marine Technology Testing Tank. ASV BEN is operated from a mobile lab on shore, and will provide an exciting opportunity for students and the public to see cutting edge technology in action, and also interact with visiting hydrographers, surveyors, and other marine scientists.