8 observations in 4 expeditions

Recent Observations

So I finally made it down here. It is a loooong journey (48 hours of non-stop traveling to be exact), but it is worth it off course. Today we are getting the last groceries and topping up water and so on, and we will be away in a few hours. Last night we had the chance to get a nice meal at the Lae Yacht Club, I suppose it's going to be a bit more basic from here on.

We are now returning to PNG in order to carry out a new search, this time for the Douglas DB-7B Boston Mk. III A28-3, with the following souls onboard: Willam Ellis Newton - POW - R John Lyon - POW - R Basil Gilbert Eastwood - M Bill Newton and John Lyon managed to get out of the plane after ditching it on the surface on the water, but Sgt. Eastwood went down with the airplane. Our mission is to search for and document this plane. We will also install a conmemorative plaque.

Durante la semana del 30 de Junio hasta el 3 de Julio, estudiantes y docentes de las universidades de Cadiz y Sevilla han estado trabajando duro en montar su propio OpenROV. El sábado 4 de Julio llega el momento de la verdad: conseguirán los OpenROVs pasar la prueba de agua salada? Nosotros estamos seguros de que si.

Today we dived the "SS Isla de Gomera", better known locally as the "Naranjito" (tiny orange). This small cargo vessel of 665 tons was build in Cadiz ,Spain in 1918, originally under the name "Nadir", and had one single steam engine as propulsion. It's dimensions are: Length Over All: 51,81m / 170 feet Beam: 7,97m / 26 feet Moulded depth: 3,91m / 12.8 feet When facing aft from the bow, the ship consists of 5 sections: First, we're at the Forecastle, which holds the anchor winches and storage area. Second section is the forward cargo hold. It's possible to swim directly from the forward to the aft hold, but the structure is slowly decaying, and at some point it will collapse, as all wrecks do. Third section is the midships section, where the navigating bridge, made of wood, once stood. Aft of the bridge we get to the second hold, and aft of that lays the aftership and poop deck. The ship was loaded with oranges (hence the nickname) on April 12th 1946, on a voyage from Cartagena to Barcelona, when bad weather made the cargo shift, ultimately leading the vessel to capsize just off the port of Cape Palos. One of the crew members, a mariner from Galicia who had already survived one shipwreck, decided to try to swim for help while the rest of survivors where holding on the the flotsam, which included the bridge. Due to the cold waters there were several casualties, including the engineers wife, who was sailing for her first time, eager to see Barcelona. The wreck is sitting upright, in a slight angel getting a few meters deeper at the stern then the bow. It's permanently buoyed, so once the dive boat is tied off, we decend into the deep blue waters following the mooring line until we get to the forecastle, at -27m. From there, we have several options, including moving away from the wreck to take in the beautiful line of the bow, before we swim around one of the side or the upper deck. We can enter the forward hold and swim through to the aft hold, and carry on through the engine room and up through the deck to the poop-deck. We could also swim down to the propeller, the deepest part of the wreck at 44m. There are several options depending on each diver's confidence level and the conditions on that day. Being a small wreck, you can easily cover the whole wreck in one dive, but it has enough features that it won't bore you, even after many dives.

While building the ROV, work is progressing in other fields too. In order to properly chart the wrecks and their surroundings, we are looking at renting a Sidescan and a Multibeam sonar. A multi beam sonar paired with an appropriate charting software will allow you quickly generate a bathymetric chart of your area of interest, and with the correct post production software you can generate some very interesting 3D pictures. A sidescan sonar is based on the same principle but works slightly differently as the sonar beam is slanted at an angle. Due to this, it will create an image of variable light strength as it passes, so that an area closer to the transmitter will be represented by a brighter color, while areas further away are represented by a darker colour. And more interesting, where protrusions exist, shadows are created. Another reason why side scan sonars are often used for search missions is due to the possibility to tow it at various depths behind the vessel, which greatly improves the imaging capabilities. See for some good example of pictures created by one such type "tow fish"

One of the main tools in the project will undoubtedly be the OpenRov we are currently building. You can see the process on Roy's facebook page:

The project has now started! We are currently working on a few different paths simultaneously; OpenRov #780 is under construction and should hopefully be complete in a couple of weeks at most. We are in talks with the local dive-centres to create support for the project, and we have gotten a seasoned archeologist onboard. This forthcoming weekend we are looking at getting out to dive the "SS Lilla", or the Carbonero, as it's know locally, since it was carrying a cargo of Carbon on the day it was sunk. I've attached a cool video from the wreck, made by the guys over at Rivemar, the most hardcore diveshop in the area. I hope you enjoy it!

Throughout history, a large number of vessels have ended their days in the waters surrounding Cape Palos in southeast Spain, either as victims to the efficiency of the German U-boots during the two world wars, through battle with other surface vessels during many wars, or by the treacherous reeves made up by an underwater mountain-range, the Islas Hormigas (Ant Islands), stretching far into the Mediterranean. Some of the wrecks we will visit and document are: SS Doris This 103m long steamer was torpedoed by the German U-boot U-35 on October 13th, 1917. There were no casualties. This vessel is laying upside down in approx. -50m. SS Lila This 88m steamer was sunk on the same day and only a mile from the SS Doris by the same submarine. Again, there were no casualties. This vessel is sitting upright in approx. -45m. SS Isla de la Gomera This steamer is a popular dive, sitting upright at -43m. On April 12th 1946, it was carrying a load of oranges when the cargo shifted in bad weather, causing the vessel to capsize only 1 mile from the port of Cape Palos. One crewmember managed so swim ashore to call for help. One passenger, a lady traveling to Barcelona, was the only casualty. This wreck is locally known as the “Naranjito”. The La Manga Tusk Wreck It is believed that a cargo ship dated from 620 B.C. ran aground near Isla Farallon and Isla Grosa, off La Manga, Spain. The ship was carrying elephant tusk with Phoenician inscriptions, copper ingots and stones containing silver and lead. This wreck has now been opened for visiting Scuba divers. Ceramic pots which were used for transporting fish and oil have been found, as well as plates, bowls, combs, ivory knife handles, bronze needles and chandeliers. The find has been described as one of the most important of all archaeological discoveries and the most spectacular is that the tusks are believed to come from a race of elephants that is now extinct. Source: We will also search for an airplane thought to have ditched in the area during the Spanish Civil War. A local fisherman caught a plane engine in his trawl a few months ago, and if we have time and resources we will set out to search for it with a sidescan sonar. Then, if further time permits and our gear can take the challenge, we will set out to document a completely undocumented wreck resting at -126m. So far this wreck has been dived a couple of times, but the challenges of diving to these deeps are numerous and time consuming.