July 15, 2006

By Nigel Sadler

Even though JF had promised us good conditions today it was not long before the storm clouds developed and a thunder storm started. Unfortunately all the teams were in the field and had to sit it out.

The Magnetometer Team
Mike, Jason and Mitch’s plan was to continue using the magnetometer west of Black Rock. However this appears to be a much larger survey area than expected and they will need to reduce the area.

The weather of course severely affected this team as they needed to protect their electronic gear. During the first squall they continued to work but had to go ashore for 45 minutes during the second squall. The wind afterwards caused too much splash so they returned early to Caribbean Explorer 1.

However, their work does not finish when they return to the main vessel. They have to download the data and assess the information collected. For example today the announced that they had two anomalies near to the wooden shipwreck site that would need a team to go and assess.

Wooden Shipwreck Team
Like all others the weather disrupted their work and during the main squall all team members were brought up from the wreck and taken ashore to sit out the rain.

However, weather was not the only problem. It was discovered at the wooden wreck dive site that Randy’s regulator hadn’t been changed to the new tank. Luckily Levardo volunteered his regulator to Randy to allow him to continue working in his test pit.

Another problem was that they didn’t have a funnel to pour extra fuel from the can to the tank. Luckily, the squall provided them with the opportunity to beach comb and they fashioned a funnel from a washed up plastic bottle.

The work on the site is going very well. The size of the wreck continues to grow and the belief today is that the bow is missing, which will of course hinder finding the ships total length. To get the length the team is now trying to identify the widest part of the ship which can then be used to work out its length. In the evening debriefing Dr Donald Keith explained a ships construction and how knowing its maximum width would help understand the length.

At the wreck site the team are still making discoveries, but unfortunately not of it is diagnostic.

Tow Boarding Team
The team of Nigel, Angelie, Johnnie and Dan made their way west of Black Rock to continue the survey outside the reef. Unfortunately this is the furthest distance from Caribbean Explorer 1 so when the first squall started there was little else to do but to work through it. Unfortunately when the second squall hit the rain made it impossible to see the tow boarders or any submerged hazards. The tow boarders were reeled in to sit in the cold rain with the other team members and after a few minutes it was decided the best course of action was to return to Caribbean Explorer 1. In one last attempt to get a success, one of the team’s other objectives was to get a location marked for a boiler that had been seen on the reef in the 2002 aerial reconnaissance. Again the weather defeated the team and this time they returned to Caribbean Explorer 1 to let the weather change.

The winds died down, rain stopped and the seas got calmer. In the afternoon the team went into the reef to the west of Thatch Cay to look for an anchor seen in 2004 but not recorded. The team now consisted of Nigel, Angelie, Dylan and Fujio. The team took with them the two Diver Propulsion Vehicles (DPV), small motorised units that can pull a snorkeller. After Fujio had filmed the team using them the search for the anchor started. Fujio was put to work on the survey and Nigel decided to walk in some of the shallows and seeing a 6ft long black line on the sea bed thought he had found the anchor, however as he approached it, it rose to the surface, and the unmistakable fin of a shark broke the water. Luckily it moved away.

The anchor remained elusive and on the return to Caribbean Explorer 1 the team was not going to accept a day of failures so again the team attempted to reach the boiler on the reef.

This boiler is outside the survey area but as the project knew it existed, it was felt that it needed to be recorded. All the people who have seen the photo taken in 2002, or had seen the site in person all believed it was a shipwreck. After this morning’s inability to get to the boiler, this afternoon the seas were calm, sun was out, tide was low and the boiler was quickly spotted. Dylan and Nigel went in the water to find a piece of the shipwreck to record a location. What they found surprised them. There is no evidence of a shipwreck, but what was found was a number of train wheels and metal frames.

wheels found near to the boiler

The conclusion from this is that the boiler and wheels were part of a cargo shipping a train or train parts. The ship ended on the reef and the heavy items, probably on deck were jettisoned to help the ship free itself from the reef.

So the team managed to remove a shipwreck from the list rather than adding one.

The Documentary Makers
Today Ronnie took time to photograph activities around the boat including the returning boats. Jenn joined the dredging team to record more underwater footage.

In the afternoon Fujio joined the tow boarding team and became a participant in the hunt for an anchor seen in 2004 but not recorded. He filmed the team using Diver Propulsion Vehicles (DPV), but he was not going to be allowed to avoid the work and was given a crash course in the use of the DPV and joined in the survey.

As he could not escape the clutches of the tow boarding team he had to accompany them to investigate the boiler on the reef and snorkelled over the area to see what was found.

Fujio filming

As usual there is a very good spirit amongst the team members. Mitch is never shy in getting his guitar out and provide impromptu ‘Trouvadore project’ lyrics to well known tunes.

Mitch playing to a captive audience