43 observations in 18 expeditions
Expeditions Contributed to
On our way back from Tahoe, we also stopped by the side of the road to do some under-ice flying in a river that feeds into the lake. The water was very shallow, and Trident was just barely able to fit between the ice and the bottom.
In short the trip was a tremendous success. We're still processing a lot of the video captured durring our dives, but here's a highlight reel of the footage we captured with our 360 camera.
I spent the afternoon staging at OpenROV HQ in Berkeley. One of the things we're excited to try durring this deployment is filming Trident flying around the shipwreck from the perspective of another ROV in the water- possibly another earlier prototype of Trident. The design of our system will require both ROVs to connect through the same topside module so I conducted a test to assure this configuration would function properly. Happily, everything seems to connect nicely! If things go well, this could be the first deployment with two Tridents flying at once.
Although they may seem trivial, the details of how a deployment will be set up should be though out ahead to time to make sure there aren't any holes in the plan. In our case, the deployment architecture is very simple: we'll park the van in the parking area off the main road just south west of the wreck and connect to a WiFi router adjacent to the wreck to minimize the amount of tether needed to get there. As a sanity check, the distance from the nearest point on shore (according to the measurement tool in Google Earth) to the wreck (where we'll set up the WiFi router) is just over 50m, so 100m of tether should be plenty for the ROV to make it there. The distance from the router location on shore to the van is also about 50m, which in an outdoor, low-RF environment, should also be an easy link to close. For good measure, we'll also bring an external WiFi radio and high-gain antenna in case the WiFi connection is worse then we expect.
It was apparently a harsh storm that sunk "Ally Cat", a 20-ish foot long sailboat that is now resting in about 60ft of water in Lake Tahoe. This shipwreck has been a popular destination for SCUBA divers because it can be reached from shore and is an interesting feature to look at in an otherwise dull and barren lake bottom. "Ally Cat" has also been a great place for ROV testing. Over the years, we've done numerous dives on the wreck with our 2-series OpenROV kits, but now that we have a depth-rated Trident prototype, we want to revisit the site for testing of the new equipment. Our plan is to do a day trip to the lake in a rented 12-person van, and use the van as a mobile command center while the ROV dives on the wreck. Because of the wreck's proximity to shore, no boat should be needed. We're also bringing an older Trident model and a 360 camera which we hope to use to get some 3rd-person footage of the dive from underwater. Conditions are expected to be cold and windy, so this is when having a topside tether module that can be connected to wirelessly from inside a heated car really comes in handy!
Here's the most provoking view we got of the object from the sidescan sonar. Passes from other angles made the object appear amorphous, backing up the idea that Site 001 is merely a large rock. We were ready to start packing up the sonar, but just as we were finishing up our last set of transects we got this image which one must admit looks very boat-like! Our next objective would be to try and locate the object visually using our Trident prototype.
We're planning to take a boat out to Site 001 tomorrow! Conditions are not ideal - weather is expected to be rainy with wind gusting up to 18mph. Though we won't be as comfortable as possible, it should still be perfectly safe to venture out into the bay. The boat we'll be taking is OCSC's Lagoon 380, a 38ft catamaran built for handling heavy weather sailing. We'll be taking a crew of 12 people including three journalists who are interested in covering our story. We plan to survey the site using using a sidescan sonar with higher performance than what we used before, and possibly also test out one of our prototype Trident ROVs to try and get a visual on whatever Site 001 is.
San Francisco Bay holds many mysteries. For more than 150 years, ships have traveled in and out of the Golden Gate carrying the building blocks that the California we know today was built with. During this time, there have been many reported shipwrecks in the bay including most notably the SS Rio de Janeiro (discovered in 1987), the SS City of Chester (discovered in 2013), and (as we researched a lot several years ago) the ill-fated SS San Rafael which collided with another ship durring a foggy night in 1901 just off of Alcatraz Island and hasn't been seen since. In 2014, we launched an expedition <openexplorer.com/expedition/insearchofsteamersanrafael> to try to find the wreck of the San Rafael using side scan sonar, but after our research began to indicate that the wreck would likely have ended up in a part of the bay that has since been filled in from dredging operations, we concluded that the San Rafael has likely been buried forever. But there's one small catch.. When we were surveying the area around Alcatraz, we found an anomaly located at approximately 37 49.448, -122 25.744. The object, which we have started calling "Site 001" appears to be somewhat prismatic in shape, and measures about 8.5m long by about 4m wide. It could be a shipping container, but it is also just as likely to be a rock. In our experience, some of the best discoveries are made not when one is trying to gain more details about something they already know, but rather when the thing being examined is not yet known in the first place. Site 001 could be anything - or nothing - we'll just have to find out.
We're working on establishing a set of "Best Practices" for diving ROVs in sensitive areas. Preservation is very important whether you're doing a dive professionally or as an amature. Here are some of the concepts we've established so far. (Thanks to Denise Jaffke, Frank Cantelas, John Foster, and Andrew David Thaler for help in creating this) Best Management Practices for use of Remote Operation Vehicles to investigate Submerged Maritime Resources Maritime cultural heritage is made up of finite and nonrenewable cultural resources including coastal or submerged prehistoric and indigenous archaeological sites and landscapes, historic waterfront structures, and remnants of seagoing vessels and inland watercraft. The use of underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROV) provides an exceptional opportunity to explore these types of resources safely and economically, but it’s imperative that we do so with the understanding that it is our collective responsibility to protect and preserve our heritage for future explorers. The following are best management practices for touring underwater resources with an ROV: The ROV pilot is prohibited from disturbing or picking up artifacts, feature elements, or structural components of a shipwreck. Video the entire event while visiting the wreck, including the approach and departure. The ROV pilot should avoid dragging the tether on the vessel or in the debris field. If the ROV hits the vessel or feature, back away to a safe distance and attempt to capture the area of impact on video, noting the relative extent of damage. Cease operations and prepare a letter report of the incident that will be filed with the regulating agency and appropriate State Historical Preservation Officer (SHPO). An illustration of where the resource was hit and video will need to be submitted with the letter report. (In our case, we would notify Tahoe Regional Protection Agency (TRPA) and Nevada State SHPO). For protection from transport of invasive species, see this document: tropicalconservationscience.mongabay.com/content/v8/tcsv8i3711-717_Thaler.pdf
One challenge with investigating a deep object throughout numerous deployments is finding the same location across each dive. During our deployment to the SS Tahoe two years ago, it took multiple dives and many hours of searching before we finally located the wreck visually with the ROV, and finding it again during subsequent dives proved to be just as difficult. Even though we had coordinates of the wreck, the ROV and boat both tended to drift during the ROV decent so we'd end up reaching the bottom at a random location and would have to run search patterns which wasted a lot of valuable deployment time. For the expedition this year, we've been considering several architectures for placing a marker near the boat attached to a buoy on the surface so an ROV will be able to easily follow that line to the location of the wreck at the beginning of each deployment. Of course, we want to be very careful not to allow the market weight to in any way damage (or even touch) the wreck, so steps must be taken to assure that can't happen. A system I believe would work well would involve initially finding the wreck using a search pattern with the ROV in a similar fashion to what we've done in the past. Once the wreck is located, a secondary boat would position itself close to the ROV boat and lower a weight (probably a lightweight anchor) to a depth ten or so meters shallower than the minimum depth of the wreck to assure the it can not collide with the wreck. A light beacon can be placed a few meters above the weight to make it easy to spot with the ROV. Once the ROV has visual site of the marker weight, the ROV pilot can instruct the secondary boat carrying the weight to move to a location that places the weight near (but not on) the wreck. At that point, the weight can be lowered to the bottom and a buoy attached to that line can be thrown overboard to mark the top of that line. It may also be possible for the marker line to contain electrical wires which power the light beacon so it can be turned on and off from the surface during deployments. For subsequent deployments to the wreck during the expedition, ROV boats would need only to find the buoy and have the ROV pilot follow the marker line down to the location of the wreck. As Keven_K has demonstrated youtube.com/watch?v=ZqL4Q2juRXo, it is also possible to attach a simple hook to the ROV so that it can stay mechanically coupled with the marker line durring decent. This is still a work in progress, but I'd love to hear people's thoughts on the concept. Developing these techniques seems like something that will be very useful for many expeditions like this one still to come!
We'll be on the lake for a total of four days, however the first and last day (the June 6th and the 9th) will largely be taken up with set up and teardown. For this reason, I think it will be best to focus operations on the 7th and 8th. In optimal conditions, it seems reasonable to do two or three several-hour dives on the ship each day with some break time between dives to debrief and plan for the next dive. The optimal time to dive on the ship is close to noon because that is when the most natural lighting of the ship is available. A very crude schedule for the 7th and 8th might look like this: (June 8th) 0700 - 0800: Breakfast and preparatory meeting 0800 - 0900: Boat prep and transit to dive location 0900 - 1100: Dive 1 1100 - 1130: Boat return 1130 - 1230: Lunch and debrief/ prep for dive 2 1230 - 1300: Boat transit to dive location 1300 - 1500: Dive 2 1500 - 1530: Boat return 1530 - 1400: Debrief 1800 - 1900: Dinner 1900 - 2100: Talks and presentations (June 9th similar to the 8th) In reality, this schedule would probably end up being quite different than planned due to inevitable unpredictable factors like equipment failures, weather, etc, but this schedule at least offers a baseline to plan off of. It may also be possible to do a tag-team style deployment where one team preps as the other is deployed. This architecture could allow at least one more dive per day to happen and could also keep operations going if one of the teams encountered issues and had to scrub a dive or end it early. In fact, provided enough people and equipment, there are no strong reasons multiple dives couldn't happen simotanialsy. I thought it would be good to layout this baseline to hear people's thoughts. Please send feedback!
Keven_K has been an incredible source of information and guidance for this project. In an ongoing email thread between the two of us, he provided this 2m-resolution benthic map of San Francisco Bay in the region we're interested in searching. Keven's no stranger to searching for shipwrecks (check out his other project at openexplorer.com/expedition/southerncalifornia), so he has an eye for anomalies in multibeam sonar data like this. He pointed out two candidate targets (also shown on this map) which are worth investigating. Right now, the feature we are calling "Site 01" seems to be the most promising. We're continuing to analyse the data we have so far and review facts that could help us find the San Rafael, but it feels that we're on the right track toward finding the mighty ship's final resting place.
We're still processing a lot of the information gathered at the Marin History Museum Archives, and the excitement hasn't died down a bit. A little while ago I began describing the trip to David Lang, and he immediately said, "Wait- we should film this!" and pulled out a camera. Here is a (very candid) video of me describing the visit to the Archives as well as a photo of pages inside the petition which helped Capt. Mackenzie regain his licence.
Here is a map that was in "The Wreck of the Ferry San Rafael" (Barbier, Alan. Marin County Historical Society Bulletin, 1991., Page 2) which illustrates the courses taken by both ships, the point at which they collided, and the location of where the San Rafael apparently sunk. There is a plethora of additional information, so I'll post more soon.
Today was an incredible day. After hearing that a lot of information about the wreck of the San Rafael could be found at the Marine History Museum Archives, I decided to stop by for an afternoon to look around. What I found there surpassed even my greatest expectations. The Archives are located in a tiny room extending off a warehouse in the back parking lot of an industrial complex in Novato. They're open for a total of 10 hours a week, and staffed by an extremely lovely woman named Jocelyn. I had called the Archives before coming and described my interest in the wreck. When I arrived Jocelyn had already pulled a stack of cards from a library catalog out, and began searching for the pieces of work they referenced. The first thing she brought out was an entire booklet entitled "The Wreck of The Ferry San Rafael". The first page of the booklet went immediately into quotes from Capt. McKenzie himself accounting for what happened the night of the collision, and a map of what route each boat took, where they collided, and where the San Rafael sank was drawn on the adjacent page. I was overwhelmed and elated, and then she started bringing more out... Each new document Jocelyn presented was an even deeper look into exactly what happened the night of the sinking- historical texts, written accounts from passengers aboard, newspaper clippings (on original paper from 1901), and even several photographs of the ship during her heyday. I was so quickly overwhelmed with how much information there was, that Jocelyn had to be the one to recommend that maybe I should just take some photos of the documents with my phone and read them later, as they would be closing soon and there wouldn't possibly be time for me to read everything. I still haven't finished going through all the documents I photographed, but I'll post the best information I have as I find it.
It's amazing how sometimes the most amazing adventures can be right in your back yard. While searching for possible targets to look at with an OpenROV in San Francisco Bay, I ended up getting in touch with a ranger from the National Park Service who told me of a shipwreck near Alcatraz that very little is known about. After doing some research, I learned that the ship was a 67-m long side-paddlewheel steam ship called the San Rafael that sank shortly after colliding with another steam ship called the Sausalito on November 30th 1901. From all the accounts I could find, no one has seen the ship since she sank, and her exact location is unknown. I started investigating the wreck by looking up old newspaper articles and other accounts from the time, and have been slowly gathering information that could help determine where the ship lies. Here's a summary of what I know so far (gathered through a simple internet search): The San Rafael was a 67m long, wooden hull side paddlewheel steamship weighing 692 gross tons, with a beam of roughly 10m. She was built by Benjamin C. Terry and was first in service in 1878. Her owner was the North Pacific Coast Railroad. The ship left San Francisco at 18:22 on November 30th, 1901, 12 minutes after her scheduled 18:10 departure time. The Captain of the ship was John Taylor McKenzie The Chief Engineer of the ship was James Jones The weather that evening was extremely foggy, and the ship was moving slowly and ringing its bell Near Alcatraz, the San Rafael and Sausalito caught site of each other and both ordered full reverse on the engines. The Captain of the Sausalito was John Tribble The San Rafael was hit by the Sausalito in its forward section and stopped abruptly As the San Rafael sank, passengers moved across a plank to the Sausalito. The San Rafael sank over the course of roughly 20 minutes The tide was likely ebbing at the time of the collision Five or less people died from the shipwreck The Sausalito returned to San Francisco with rescued passengers after the collision On December 14, 1901 a diver reached the wreck of the San Rafael and salvage efforts were made. These efforts were eventually abandoned after the ship was dragged along the bottom. The final location of the ship was not recorded. In July of 1921, the anchor line of the SS Matsonia supposedly got caught on the wreckage of machinary of the San Rafael. Legal action was taken against the North Pacific Coast Railway Company for negligence. The licenses of both Captain McKenzie and Captain Tribble were suspended after the incident By January 1902, Captin MaKenzie's licence was re-instated. Between 1894 and 1997, the once deep area south of Alcatraz was used at least twice as a dump site for dredge waste, contributing 6.7 million cubic meters of additional material and changing the depth there from approximately 50 meters (1894) to roughly 10m (1997). Refernces:sportsmenyc.org/syc07-13.htmen.wikipedia.org/wiki/SanRafael(steamboat)pubs.usgs.gov/of/1998/of98-139/drdisp2.html
There is some uncertainty as to where exactly the town of Kennett is located. Coordinates associated with the Wikipedia site for Kennett (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennett,_California) place it at a location of 40.741667, -122.4075, however a historical website, terrastories.com/bearings/map-of-locations, shows a marker for the town's location in the vacinity of 40.7213222, -122.4183139. A third source, flickr.com/photos/amapple/4995260062, seems to be fairly consistant with the Wikipedia listing, showing the town lying bettween a peninsula on the east side of the lake and an inlet on the west side of the lake. Other websites (such as ghostlakes.blogspot.com/2012/02/kennett-ca-boomtown-sunk.html) describe the town as being "just north of the dam" but do not stipulate exactly what that means. Based on an old map, which can be found on a historical quarrie website, quarriesandbeyond.org/states/ca/quarryphoto/ca-shastaphotos.html, the town was located at the intersection of the Sacramento River and a creek known as "Little Backbone Creek". The two websites (Wikipedia and the flickr page) that suggest a location to the east of a ravine seem internally consistent with this map. Finally, a USGS topographic map of the Redding area I was able to find from 1901 (CARedding2995831901125000_geo), which was printed before construction the Shasta Dam began in the 1930s shows the town's location to be between the ravine containing Backbone Creek to the west and a ridgeline to the east. Provided this information as well as several other geographical features that can be seen in the historical maps as well as modern satellite imagery, it seems very likely that the location of Kennett would be in the vicinity of 40.741667, -122.4075.
Here's a tentative schedule for tomorrow's activities: 0600 - Meet at OpenROV HQ (POINT A, 37.864424, -122.300334) 0630 - Leave OpenROV for U-Haul, North of Redding, CA 1000 - Pick up U-Haul (POINT B, 40.643411, -122.366651) 1030 - Leave U-Haul for lake, parking lot and ramp near dam 1100 - Arrive to Lake Shasta (POINT C, 40.717985, -122.408651) 1200 - Begin deployment 1700 - End expedition 1800 - Return U-Haul 2100 - Return to OpenROV 2130 - Equipment unloaded
Today we visited Malang, about 100km south of Surabaya in East Java where I got to speak at two different universities. The welcome we had there was tremendous and I had a wonderful time getting into quite technical discussions with students in the audience. Although neither university had a pool or pond for us to use, both groups insisted that we try the ROV out after my talk. In the first school, Muhammadiyah University of Malang, I walked with the entire classroom of 30 or so students down several flights of stairs to a fountain at the bottom the buildings that had just enough water to fit the ROV into. Despite having such a small area to fly the ROV in, the whole class crowded around my computer and many people took turns flying the ROV. I was honored that afterward, many students asked to take photos of themselves with the ROV. At the second school we visited, STMIK Malang, I was completely blown away by what a warm welcome we received. As our car arrived to the campus, we saw a large printed banner hanging from the main building of the school welcoming me and OpenROV to the school, and when we entered the lecture hall, many of the students and staff were lined up to great us. I had an incredible time speaking at STMIK. I had heard that at this school, there would be no chance to demonstrate the ROV since they have no pool, pond, nor even a fountain, but when we walked into the lecture hall, there was a huge tub filled with water that they had brought in especially for the talk which was positioned right next to the podium. During the Q&A session of my talk, several students asked questions relating to why OpenROV must use a tether to communicate (as opposed to being wireless). The answer relates to the fact that radio waves- especially at high frequencies like those needed to send video- don't travel very well through water. The details of why this doesn't work were easy to get lost in translation, but thanks to the tub of water they set up, the ROV which was able to show its video feed on the large projector screen in front of the class, and my waterproof cell phone, I was able demonstrate. I had the ROV look at my phone in air so that the class could see I had four bars of reception, then I threw my phone into the tank of water and had the ROV dive down to look at its screen which now indicated zero reception. We had a very good time together, and were laughing and making jokes at the end of the day as if we had all known each other for years. What a fun day!
Today I finished up working with an amazing group of students from Sekolah Robot Indonesia. This robotics club, with students ranging in age from 11 to 17, built an award winning ROV that competed in the 2014 International MATE competition, and they brought their ROV in for me to see. It was a tremendous pleasure to trade design tips with them and hear about their interests in technology and ocean exploration. With such talent and interest all in one room, I thought the best way to demonstrate how an OpenROV works would be to actually build one. My challenge to the class- in less than two days, build an OpenROV kit and test-fly it in the US Consulate pond. Did the team succeed? Of course! We had an amazing time, and even the Consulate General showed up to watch us test our creation!
Today was a great day. Two separate schools came to visit at the US Consulate, and I was amazed by how much enthusiasm they had to learn about what I was showing. I started the talk by showing photographs of our home base in the San Francisco Bay Area and pointed out how passionate people working together has been such an important part of making Silicon Valley the tech center that it is. I showed images of some of the Maker projects I've seen ranging from drivable cupcake go-carts to garage-built fusion reactors, and I made the point that even silly creations can lead to amazing breakthroughs (I showed images of the garages where Google, HP, Facebook, and Apple started.) Great things often start with humble beginnings. When we started talking about exploring the ocean, it was awesome to see how interested all the students were in the images of creatures of the deep that I put on the projector. I talked about how following this passion to explore led us to founding OpenROV and turning a passion into a business. Although some of these students are just beginning high school, the technical questions they had about how the ROV works were phenomenal. We discussed computer programming, manufacturing methods, and some of the theory that goes into making ROVs work. Most of the students speak some english, but terms that were a bit technical (both from me and from the students) had to be translated by people there. When the presentation was over, and all questions had been answered, we found one more activity to do: In the back of the consulate is a small man-made pond. With permission from the consulate staff, I walked with the entire group (over 70 people for the second class) to the pond, and we threw the ROV in the water. Even in a pond that is the size of a walk-in closet and no deeper than half a meter, we had an adventure. Under the control of students who had never piloted a robot before, we were able to fly the ROV through reeds and under planter boxes. Every once and a while, fish would dash by the ROV's camera and the whole class (huddled tightly around the monitor) would shout and point. It was incredibly energizing. Technology has tremendous power to unlock the pursuits of curiosity, and I hope the students I got to spend time with today understand how much potential they have to explore what they are passionate about.
I've been invited by the United States Department of State to give presentations throughout Indonesia for the U.S. Speaker Program on Robotics and Technology. During this trip, I'll visit Surabaya (Aug 10-13th), Malang (Aug 14th), Jakarta (Aug 14th-20th), and Bandung in West Java (Aug 21st and 22nd).
Partially from jet lag, and partially from the excitement of being in a new place, I didn't get much sleep last night. I spent most of the night working on the presentation I'll be giving to a group of high school students at the US Consulate this morning. At some point, I dosed off at my computer. Sometime later, the sound of chanting over loud speakers penetrated the ether of my sleep, and I awoke to the sounds of morning prayers coming from mosques throughout the city. As the sun came up, I could see across the lanscape of buildings that make up Surabaya. This is going to be a good day.
I'm in Surabaya! After spending the night at the airport in Jakarta, I met up with Carolina, a Public Affairs Officer from the Department of State, and we headed south on a quick one-hour flight. On the way, you could see an active volcano out the window of the plane. Surabaya is a pretty happening city. With a population of just over 3 million people (5.6 million if you count the surrounding metropolitan area), I immediately felt picked up by the whirlwind of motor bikes and fast-moving cars surrounding our taxi cab in a sort of organized chaos as we drove to the hotel. Our taxi cab driver used his horn very liberally- some times to honk at a bike that passed too close, some times to honk a truck going to slow, and sometimes apparently just for good measure. The roads are densely lined with tropical trees, and the mood of the whole place is bustling, yet relaxed at the same time. Since I've only had sporadic one-hour stints of sleep since I left San Francisco, my body clock is completely out of whack. It's currently around nine in the morning and I'm waiting for my room to be ready at the Shangri La Hotel. I know I should try to keep myself awake and spend some time getting to know the area, but something tells me that when I meet my bed for the first time, we'll spend a lot of time getting to know each other.
I've arrived to Jakarta! I have a 5:30am flight to Surabaya and I got in just past midnight. Looks like I'll be camping out at the airport, but at least I was able to find a familiar place with WiFi to set up shop.
I'm in Tokyo Airport for a short, one-hour layover. I really wish I could take a few hours to look around- people here seem so friendly, and the little differences are very fun to see!
This evening, we decided to do a preliminary dive with a few ROVs in the pool near the house we're staying at. Some passer-byers saw the ROVs in the water and stopped by to take a look, then a few more came, then more still. Before we knew it, the whole pool was lined with onlookers as we flew the robots around!
We're headed up to Lake Tahoe for a few days. The goal is to test out some new features and configurations that can be incorporated into the next version of OpenROV, version 2.7.
Hanging out in the living room of our cabin watching footage from our dives earlier today. It's very nice to recap while the mission's still underway!
I'm getting really excited to try out this new long-range wireless system. We got a (very fancy) house right on the shoreline of Glenbrook Bay, just over 1km away from the wreck of the SS Tahoe. Our plan is to deploy the ROV from a small inflatable boat but have it be commanded from a control station in the house on shore. Here's a diagram...
We just bought all the communication equipment for this weekend's deployment! Because the cabin we're considering is up on a hill, we may be able to make a straight shot to a boat above the Tahoe in Glenbrook Bay some 5.4km away. If this works, we could control the ROV in extreme comfort!
Our dive next week is in the middle of Lake Tahoe's "off" season. Because snow storms and cold temperatures are still common in April, most of the large boats around Tahoe are still winterized and won't be on the water until May. Since more then 15 people are likely to be participating in this preliminary expedition, we'll need some way to do the dive from shore. The SS Tahoe is more then a kilometer off shore, so we've come up with a deployment plan that utilizes a long-range wireless Ethernet bridge to communicate from shore to a small inflatable boat that could be stationed above the wreck. With only two or three people in the boat (to manage tether, communicate with the shore, and keep the boat on station) the rest of the party should be able to command the ROV from a station set up on the shore or even the cabin we're all planning to stay at. Here's the system architecture we're considering:
Next weekend, we plan to do a preliminary dive on the SS Tahoe in order to gather information about the wreck, experiment with deployment methods, and test equipment. Because the SS Tahoe lies at a depth well beyond what the OpenROV submarine was designed for (the deepest part of the wreck is more then 150m underwater), we'll need to a thicker main tube and reinforced endcaps to withstand the pressure. Using a waterjet at TechShop in San Jose, I've crafted some special endcap flanges out of 1/4" aluminium which should make the them much stronger. Using the pressure chamber at OpenROV HQ, we were able to test the endcaps to a depth of about 130m, but the only way we'll know if they can handle the full depth of the ship will be to dive there!
In 1940, the 50m long "Steamer Tahoe" was skuttled in Glenbrook Bay on the east side of Lake Tahoe in Nevada. The owners of the steamship intended for it to sink in shallow enough water for tourists to see it from a glass-bottom boat, but the ship was sunk too far from shore and ended landing on a slope and sliding do a depth between 110 and 150m. Because of its great depth in a high-altitude lake, very few divers have ever been able to see the sunken ship, and no footage has been recorded of the ships interior. Our mission is to find the SS Tahoe using OpenROV submarines and record video of its hull and interior.
My last chance to visit a centoe with OpenROV was Feb 12th. I went with my parents to "Cenotes Tercer Cielo", about 3km North of where we were staying. These two natural cenotes which are right next to each-other have been surrounded with a man-made cement walkway, however after entering the water the formation of the cenote is completely natural and filled with life. We were surprised at how many fish could be seen swimming around the opening of the two cenotes, and it was immediately clear we were in a great place to take the ROV for a spin. After more then an hour of flying, we started running out of places to explore- we chased fish around, explored openings in the rocks to see where they went, tested the new heading/depth lock system, and even ventured more then 30m into one of the cenote leads before feeling nervous about being able to retrieve the ROV so we turned back. Aside from some occasional video-lag issues, the ROV worked flawlessly. The only thing we wished we had was a second one to film all the actions of the one we were flying. Every time we put an ROV in the water, something amazing happens, and it will take weeks to compile all the amazing bits of video we recorded from the dives that day. Until then, here's an image I shot from beneath the ROV as it was about to plunge into the dark abyss of the first cenote we explored.
Today I did my first dive with the ROV in a cenote called "Yak Chen" just down the street from where we're staying. The part of the sign that says "en este cenote viven especies como el caiman" is warning that we may encounter crocodiles in the cenote.
I've arrived to Tulum, and after a ton of sleeping (some of which was on a beach in the sun with no sunscreen) I'm feeling energetic (but maybe a little sun-burnt). Today, I visited the Myan ruins of Tulum- a collection of rock structures from a city that was built in the 1200s. One spot that interested me in this city was a building called "Casa Del Cenote" which is an aptly building constructed above a small cenote. I took an OpenROV and laptop computer along with me in my backpack just in case deploying it in the cenote there would be a possibility, but sadly the entire area was fenced off and the city was completely filled with other tourists. On the way back home, I asked the taxi driver about other cenotes in the area, and he gave a few pointers on where to find ones that are off the beaten path enough to be relatively free of tourists. From what I here, cenotes are prevalent enough here that they can often be stumbled upon just by looking around in the woods. I'll see what I can find tomorrow...
About to board my plane to Mexico from SJC! Carrying with me the normal equipment: a backpack with cloths and a computer, and a pelican case with an OpenROV and support equipment. All carry-on of course!
I'm getting pumped for the upcoming trip... Here's a video from Colin's trip at the end of last year... man this get's me excited!
About six months ago, Colin Ho went to Tulum with a prototype v2.5 OpenROV and had an amazing time. He saw amazing things with his little ROV, and the now that 2.6 is ready, the potential for adventure is even greater! Admittedly, the main purpose of me going to Tulum, is to visit my parents who are on vacation there, but when you bring the right tools for adventure and an open mind, anything can happen! We'll see how it goes..