BLACK SEA 1999
From: Justin Manley
So I am the last member of the MIT team to write an edition of our email newsletter. My name is Justin Manley and I am a Research Engineer at the MIT Sea Grant College program. I develop autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) and autonomous surface craft (ASCs). These are robotic ocean instruments that are similar to the tethered systems we are using here in Sinop except that they are not connected to ships. They navigate, communicate, and collect their data without using an expensive and complicated tether like ROVs. I am here because I hope to develop autonomous systems for use in archaeological research.
So today has been a pretty interesting day. We started the day by using the Yildiz Kardesler (or the Z-boat as we call it) to reacquire our target. Yesterday we had trouble finding the wreck using just the cameras on the ROV on Orkoz 2 (the boat I currently work on). The Sea Rover running from the Z-boat has a scanning sonar which lets it "see" to about 50 meters. Our cameras can only see about 3 meters. Yildiz marked the wreck for us with a new buoy (the old ones keep getting dragged by wind or getting tangled in our tether). I should note that these "buoys" not very sophisticated. They are basically bricks tied to small plastic bottles. One of them uses a beach ball as a float. So as you can imagine they can get disturbed pretty easily. That is why our old marking buoys were not doing us any good and we needed the sonar to find the wreck again. With that done, Yildiz went off to identify more targets from last yearís survey. On Orkoz 2 we still spent another hour getting within visual range of the wreck. We then spent almost 2 hours looking at new areas we hadnít seen yet. Then we broke for lunch.
That was when trouble hit. After we ate we refilled the gas tank on our generator. We need this to power our ROV and computer. Well apparently we were sold bad gas this morning, as we couldn't start the generator. We had to return to port (about 3:30 PM) to get new spark plugs and good gas. While we were there the Z-boat came in to port. They had a hard time finding targets today and needed to come in early so they could do some data processing and think about their problems while they have some energy left to apply to the problem.
Mental energy is a real limiting factor out here. We have all been working hard and if we spend a full day on the water we have a hard time doing any heavy thinking in the evenings back on shore. This promises to be an ongoing issue as we just started using a third boat today which will stretch our crew out. Bob Ballard arrived yesterday and he took the third boat out today to use a side-scan sonar to survey new areas around Sinop. In a few days, another side-scan sonar will arrive and we will use four boats. Basically that means we work hard and will keep working hard for the next two weeks.
So back to our day. With a new spark plug and fresh gas the generator started right up. We went back out to finish our survey. We found the wreck very quickly and we are doing more surveying. I am actually writing this on the boat. Iíll write more when we get back to shore. For now rest assured that we continue to have a positive attitude even though we keep running into frustrating problems like bad gas. I donít mean because of something we ate. Actually the food is quite good and that may be part of our good mood. In addition we are finding ourselves laughing at all kinds of bad jokes. The old hands around here say that it is because we have been together on boats too long. If that is true I canít imagine what bad jokes we will tell at the end of the project in two weeks.
So I am still on the boat but I wanted to describe what it is like to be looking at this wreck. We think this is a 19th century ship. It has many broken timbers and also many metal pieces. Apparently about 50 years ago this wreck was blown up by salvors looking for valuable metal. That is one of the problems with shallow water. Since divers can work here many sites are damaged. The end result is a wreck like this one. It is clearly a ship and some pieces (like some chain we saw yesterday) are identifiable. Most of it looks like a giant dinosaur skeleton. We have to use our imaginations to visualize the ship. Since we are making a great deal of progress I expect we will finish our inspection of this site tomorrow. I hope the Z-boat finds some more interesting things for us to look at.
Well I am finally back on shore and we actually finished surveying the site today. It feels good to have an accomplishment wrapped up and be able to feel like we are making forward progress. I am pretty impressed with how well everyone is dealing with the frustration. This project reminds me of a saying about MIT, "it is like trying to drink from a firehose." Well we have our own firehose here and as we have said to ourselves many times "if it is not one thing it is another." I guess that is what it is all about. You can't see thousands of years into the past in just a few days. By the time I write my next edition for you I bet we will have made even more progress and overcome more challenges.