36 observations in 3 expeditions

Recent Observations

On our way back from Catalina Island, we decided to make one last detour and make a quick drop on Site 019-A off Dana Point Head in 75ft of water. The site isn't the dive bomber we have been looking for, but instead another 25ft motor boat, this time right side up. We used one of BlueRobotics' ROVs to conduct the video documentation. A few notes: 1. We are getting much more proficient at setting up dives and we went from anchoring to site identification in about 15 minutes. 2. We are nose on with our GPS coordinates (thanks @garyfabian!) and you can see that we dropped the marker buoy less than 10ft away from the wreck. Although this didn't turn out to be the SBD bomber, we'll keep looking and scouring the area around Dana Point Harbor for other sonar anomalies. There is a bit of a multibeam data gap right off the Head, so it will take some side scan work to finish the imagery for that area. And for that, I've gone ahead and "bit the bullet" and ordered a DeepVision DE680 side scan system that should get us much better imagery at greater depths than the 450kHz Starfish system we had been using.

After a long weekend exploring, I am finally getting caught up on the documentation and putting out videos. We left Dana Point Harbor at around 0900 Saturday morning and made best speed over to Emerald Bay, Catalina to do some video work and equipment testing. I also had the ulterior motive of looking for shipwrecks. We anchored in Doctor's Cove in a location that I thought would put us in a good position to locate the wreck of the S/V Extreme Snailing, a known loss in the cove from before 2011. Video had been shot before by divers in 2011 and 2014, but I was unsure of the wreck's actual (2011) (2014) After deployment, I searched the bottom going in towards the beach, but didn't find anything. It was only when I was coming back out of the cove and past where we anchored that my tether got caught on something. We sent a snorkeler over the side and he confirmed that I had wrapped myself around the mast. After getting the ROV back on deck and the tether disconnected, we got everything untangled and ready to head back down. I shot the following video with an attached GoPro and the quality came out pretty well. I was careful to stay to one side of the wreck so I didn't get tangled again. One thing to note in comparing the previous videos to the 2016 one, the wreck is now almost entirely covered with seaweed. I didn't get a peek at the cabin, but I imagine it is much the same. I copied down the new coordinates. We moored overnight in Emerald Bay as we continued our video shoots and that was where we did the 360 video trial. Take a look in the OpenROV forums if you haven't already seen it. The second video of what we found at site 019-A will be up in a few days.

Side scan imagery of Site 019-A. We have no idea what this one is yet.

Side scan sonar imagery of the A.C.E. wreck site.

After all the excitement from yesterday, today was a bit more relaxed and we took advantage of the good sea state and ran a few passes of the side scan over the A.C.E. and Site 019-A. I'm still in the process of analyzing and processing, but it was still a great day to be out on the water and a good close to the productive weekend.

Below is The GoPro footage from one of the ROV's for the community to analyze. The quality is a bit better. For the animal lovers, the crab shows up at the 8:00 minute mark.

The boat-based command center set-up with two 1080p displays.

We finally got the repairs done on the boat and dove both 019-A and 020-A today. The bad news is the visibility is terrible right now (~5ft). We couldn't find anything at 019-A for today, but we did, however, find something substantial at 020-A (105ft site). We put two ROV's on it and right now we are assessing it as a 20ft fiberglass, single stern drive power boat. It is upside down so we don't know what the interior looks like, but we have some decent video of the stern drive and fiberglass hull. We also found what looks like a plastic identification label off to one side of the bow with a "Df" and either an "S" or a "5". The wreck pre-dates 2008, when the sonar imagery was taken. The video is pretty hazy due to the poor visibility and some fogging inside the electronics tube, but I posted it up for everyone to take a look. At the end of the day, this is the first uncharted shipwreck our team has found off the multibeam sonar data. I'll be turning over the coordinates and description to the USCG shortly.

After a series of issues with the boat today, we unfortunately decided to call the dive off. On the way out to side scan the ACE, the starboard engine overheated for some reason and had to be shut down. We turned around and managed to anchor near Site 019-A on one engine, but immediately after, the main DC power bus went out and we decided to pull back into port. After limping in and getting the boat tied up, I still decided to test the ROV and got the buoyancy balanced out so now the depth hold works perfectly. I managed to do a few dives to the bottom of the murky harbor and got some navigation practice. We'll try to get the boat repaired this week and head out next weekend.

The ocean has finally calmed enough to permit major search operations and over the next few weeks we will be investigating a couple of sites on the list including a return to the A.C.E. next weekend. However, this weekend we will be going out to look for a lost WWII USMC dive bomber. The aircraft, an SBD-5 Dauntless Dive Bomber (Serial #10963) was lost on 24 May 1944 after suffering an engine control system failure. From the loss report we have, the pilot made a water landing offshore Dana Point and both the pilot and gunner were picked up by a nearby fishing boat. Gary Fabian and I reviewed the sonar data we have of the area and determined two possible site locations, code-named Sites 019-A and 020-A. Gary actually had the loss records for quite some time, but never had the chance to investigate with his other projects going on. Although 2,965 SBD-5's were built during WWII, only a handful survive, and this happens to be one of the missing ones. We'll be going out around 10:00am tomorrow and I'll try and update as much as I can throughout the day.

Due to the recent winter storms in the area, the ocean is a bit rough this time of year, however when we took the boat out to do some maintenance, we did do some trial runs with the Starfish sonar towed behind the boat about 20 feet back. After I got home, I post-processed the imagery, corrected the layback and exported it to Google Earth using SonarTRX. Below are a portion of my results. I'm not sure what the big square thing is in the middle of the channel.

Also while I was up in San Francisco, @walt was generous enough to let me borrow his Starfish 452F for a few months to take a closer look at some shallow water targets that have previously identified on multibeam sonar. The side scan won't get down to the deeper targets, we'll need another sonar for that, but it should be good for targets in the 60-100 ft range. Thanks Walt!

Spent the last 2 weeks getting the large ROV working, but as of 07JAN16, it has reached IOC (Initial Operating Capability). Special thanks to OpenROV HQ where I spent the last week getting everything working. All 6 thrusters work, the new lights have been installed, and we have the horizontal strafing capability working via a new thruster configuration in the software. Pool tests were conducted and it looks like everything is ready for the 2016 season.

Today was a bit of a page from #fieldworkfail, I'll summarize: We made it out to the A.C.E. by around 1300 and dropped the marker buoy straight on the wreck. The sounder confirmed the wreck's location. We moved upwind to anchor and ended up dragging and moved off the site. Pulled up, and had a go at attempt #2 and this time we caught and had the marker buoy around 100-200 feet parallel to us off the starboard beam. Perfect. We deployed the ROV and with the GoPro slung underneath it seemed weighted and balanced perfectly. After about 20 feet away from the boat, I lost connection to the ROV. Interesting. I tried a few resets and nothing. No leaks in the ROV so I began tracing the connection and then I found the culprit on the tether reel. As you can see from the picture, what ended up happening was the slip ring seized up and severed the wire connection to the topside adapter. Well at least the ROV wasn't the issue, my own poor choice for a slip ring was. so now it's back to searching the internet for a suitable replacement. In the very least we established we could mark a wreck in 114ft of water and successfully anchor in as much water, so not a total waste.

Now that I got the kinks worked out of OpenROV #1790, it's time to start exploring a bit deeper. Today the plan is to head out to the A.C.E., a 58 foot long drum seiner that sunk in in a storm in 2005. More information can be found here: The wreck lies at 114ft, so this will be a bit more of a challenge on my equipment and anchoring skills than the FOSS 125. Although the wreck has been an active dive spot since it was found in 2011, the coordinates have been closely guarded and as far as I know, no ROVs have been on the wreck.

Got my Safe-T-Puller Light Commercial model in the mail today. It has a 300lb lifting capacity and should be ample for gear hauling and towed side scan operations. I still have to build up an A-Frame and do all the wiring to the main batteries on the boat, but I should get something together in a month or two. Thanks @garyfabian for the great idea of using this piece of tech. I'm glad I won't have to haul anything in by hand anymore!

Work continues this month on equipment procurement and integration. Those that have been following my work on the OpenROV forums know that I have been working on a much larger ROV based on OpenROV electronics, BlueRobotics thrusters, and an aluminum MakerBeam frame. Several items came out this week that significantly contribute to this project including readily available General Plastics R-3300 Foam and neutrally buoyant tether. I have purchased quantities of both and I hope to have them integrated and tested by the end of the month. In the search equipment realm, I have also purchased a cable winch with a 300lb lifting capability. This is the critical component for mounting a towed side scan sonar on the boat.

Next, Gary searched through the archives of the San Francisco Chronicle and discovered an article dated December 14, 1901 reporting the location of the SAN RAFAEL. The headline reads "WRECK OF THE SAN RAFAEL FOUND." the article tells how a diver named Henry Rogers from the California Wrecking company discovered the wreck and its whereabouts for salvage: "It lies in twenty fathoms, or 120 feet, of water about three-eighths of a mile due south of the light on Alcatraz Island, on a line between the light and the gas works at the foot of Hyde street." With this information, Gary was then able to plot the location overlaid with our multibeam data. The bad news was this plotted location was right in the middle of the disposal site and meant the wreck was buried under several tons of debris. Newspapers, however, get things wrong so we kept looking...

In January, I submitted a request to the National Park Service San Francisco Maritime Museum for the logs of the SS MATSONIA from July 1921. It was a bit of a longshot, but they were able to locate them and send a copy to us. Contrary to what the newspapers said, she did not sit at anchor for the typical quarantine, but she came in late on the night of 5 July '21, anchored and then pulled up anchor on 6 July and with help from the tugs made it to the Ferry building terminal. What was better, was we had a location where she anchored and a first hand account of pulling up the San Rafael's walking beam. The two entries read as follows: "5 July 11:07 [P.M.]: Alcatraz light bore 333°, Lime Pt bore 260°, Fort Pt. bore 240°, shipshead 183° P.S.C." (P.S.C stands for "Per Standard Compass) "6 July 8:56 [A.M.]: Anchor aweigh, foul of wreckage of S/S San Rafael" Gary crunched the numbers factoring in magnetic variation for 1921 and we got two points within 400ft of each other. As you can see from the picture, the wreck was dragged from where she was first located (orange square) to a position between the two fixes (yellow pushpins). Our final conclusion is that the wreck lies within the disposal area and since 1921 has been covered over by several tons of debris. It's a modern twist to a 100 year old mystery. Although the active search was unsuccessful, by doing our research we were able to determine the wreck's final location with high accuracy and confidence.

Even though we had a reasonable search area, I still wanted to follow up on the MATSONIA lead. As you will recall, the MATSONIA was the last ship to locate here whereabouts with hard evidence by pulling up the walking beam from her engine. Here is the SS MATSONIA's information: I found a article from a periodical "Facts About Sugar; Volume XIII July 2 to December 31, 1921". Nothing really new here , but it kept reiterating the fact that she was at a quarantine anchorage, NOT Quarantine Station on Angel Island. I did some more digging and turned up the "UNITED STATES COAST PILOT; PACIFIC COAST: CALIFORNIA, OREGON, AND WASHINGTON" from 1909. On page 71, it says the quarantine anchorage is the following: "The quarantine anchorage is the area included between Black Point and Powell Street wharf, thence to Alcatraz Island, thence westward to a point 1 mile northwestward from Black Point, thence to Black Point." I drew the box in my picture, "SF Bay Quarantine Anchorage" I plotted these points in the red polygon attached below. The wreck had to have been located somewhere in this red polygon. It was also at this point that Eric and the OpenROV team went out and conducted their first search of the area based on the information we had obtained. Although the team was unable to find anything that resembled a shipwreck on the side scan sonar, they were able to find a target that appeared man made and would require another inspection.

Yesterday, @garyfabian let me know the missing Southern California GIS data became available. After some processing, the data was rendered into Google Earth completing the previously identified gaps. The data can be found here: Over the next few months we'll go through the data and identify any interesting sites and add them to the list to check out in the 2015 search season. For the ROV, according to the latest update from BlueRobotics, the new thrusters for the v2.7 should be shipped by January 23rd. After that, we plan on heading out to the A.C.E. shipwreck and two sites code-named "019-A" and "020-A".

After Eric returned from the Marin History Museum Archives, he shared what he found and we were able to pull out a few details relating to the San Rafael's possible location. From the periodical The Northwesterner, "Sinking of the Ferry San Rafael", we found the following: “For twenty years no one knew where the San Rafael sank, till some ten years or so ago up came the walking beam of the San Rafael, on the hook of the anchor of one of the Matson boats which had anchored prior to passing inspection, just about on a line between the Golden Gate and Alcatraz possibly about two-thirds of the way out to the Island. This walking beam is, or a few years ago, down at Second and Bryant Streets, back in a vacant lot, in apparently a pretty good state of preservation.” “The Matson Navigation Co.’s S.S. Matsonia I caught the San Rafael’s walking beam in 1921. "The outgoing tide apparently caused the San Rafael to drift southwesterly to a point about halfway between Alcatraz Island and Black Point (off Fort Mason) and she settled at the bottom of the bay about sixteen fathoms deep.” “As of this writing the writer has no knowledge of the whereabouts of this relic from the San Rafael.” Our Analysis: The wreck is supposedly half-way between Alcatraz Island and Black Point (Fort Mason, still a known location). It also gives us a depth of 16 fathoms, or 96 feet. We also know that on that night, it was a strong ebb tide (outgoing) so it would have pushed the ship to the west of the collision point. This coincides with the diagrams and written accounts. The walking beam was successfully recovered and was placed in a vacant lot. This item is now lost. It is unknown if any other larger pieces were brought up.With the hard research in hand, we were able to come up with a very reasonable chronology of events after the sinking: November 30, 1901- Steam Ferry San Rafael sinks somewhere south of Alcatraz Island, San Francisco Bay. December 14, 1901- The wreck of the San Rafael is located by Henry Rogers of the California Wrecking Company. The description given is "It lies in twenty fathoms, or 120 feet, of water about three-eighths of a mile due south of the light on Alcatraz Island, on a line between the light and the gas works at the foot of Hyde Street." Sometime after December 14, 1901- "Divers placed cables around the hull and used two tugs to pull it to 16 fathoms. However, a few days later, owners elected not to proceed with the salvage effort and the wreck was abandoned." July 1921- Matsonia I caught the San Rafael’s walking beam upon weighing anchor somewhere around Alcatraz Island.

Now that the initial search is over and our research has pointed us to the SS San Rafael's final location, we can tell all about the research adventure that happened in the background. When Eric first mentioned the possibility of finding this wreck, Gary Fabian and I both went diving into the books (No, not everything is on the internet!) and came up with some interesting information. From Don B. Marshall's "California Shipwrecks" written in 1979, page 79 had this to say: *SAN RAFAEL 1901 steamship, side wheel ferry, Capt. McKenzie. She collided with the SAUSALITO in fog in San Francisco Bay...sank in 15 minutes near Alcatraz Island. In July of 1921, MATSONIA's anchor pulled up wreckage from the SAN RAFAEL. The hulk was dragged to the dock at the quarantine station, where it was salvaged out by the Haverside Wrecking Co. (on the bottom of the next page) *re-floated or partially salvaged We could find no mention of the Haverside Wrecking Company so it was a bit of a dead end. However, the part about the MATSONIA seemed interesting.

I've uploaded the dive video from the ROV camera and you can watch it below. No sound on this one. A few notes: 1. I made a hook for the ROV to follow the marker buoy line down to the wreck so it didn't get thrown around in its way down. It worked perfectly and I ended up right in the middle of the wreck. 2. Although the wreck is heavily deteriorated, you can still see some of the frames and knees. 3. I terminated the dive earlier than I wanted because I was getting concerned about my negatively buoyant tether getting caught on the wreck. I was able to get the ROV back on deck, but I'll have to do something about making the tether neutrally buoyant. 4. I also had a GoPro attached to the underside of the ROV that shot some very good video when it was in the water column, but once it was on the bottom, it was pretty useless. I'll probably keep it removed from this ROV. 5. The BlueRobotics thusters worked great, but as you can see in the video, the ROV is just a bit too small for open water use and got banged around quite a bit in the surge. I've also added some more pictures from today on my Facebook page: Endurance Marine Exploration Facebook Page More parts are coming for the larger ROV this week, so I'll get some progress shots as it comes along.

Great success! Video(s) to come this afternoon.

Additional multibeam image of the Foss 125 wreck site courtesy of @garyfabian.

Big things are happening today as I move this project from the preparation stage into the underway stage. Although I am not 100% where I want to be with equipment, I have enough to start diving on shallow wrecks. The first wreck we will be heading out to today is the Foss 125. Here is the vessels history from the California Wreck Diver's page: "Built in 1919 in Chicago, Ill as the USN YC-470 (YC: open lighter), the barge came a long way through the Great Lakes and the Panama Canal, eventually ending up with Foss company of Seattle, WA. On November 17, 1958 the Foss 125 was moored at Laguna, with a deck load of gravel for the Griswold Construction Co, who are installing a new out fall sewer line for the City of Laguna. A violent wind storm came up out of the South East, before the barge could be taken off the mooring and towed to a port of safety, she swamped and foundered at her mooring at Laguna Beach Calif." The barge does have some naval history too as she was in Pearl Harbor, HI on December 7th, 1941. I don't know how much I can live post, but I will try and do what I can off a cell phone. I have attached the vessel's site listing for additional information on the site conditions.

After a lengthy wait and some moderate hacking, OpenROV #1790 is complete and had its first dive this afternoon. As far as I know, it is the first v2.7 to utilize the BlueRobotics thrusters and performed very well on its first dive. #1790 Is only intended to be a "quick look" platform or something I can easily throw over the side and investigate a site of interest to determine if it is a wreck...or a rock pile. The larger "work class" documentation ROV is next in development.

In continuing with our preparation for dive operations, we have been working on upgrading OpenROV #763 to more of a Work Class ROV. You can see my original topic and thoughts here: The idea is to take the stock v2.6 and put it on a new frame with improved thrusters (BlueRobotics T-100's) and add both forward and downward looking GoPros for high resolution imagery of sites. Later, when the additional servo channels are programmed, we plan on adding a 3 axis manipulator. Below is the initial build of the new frame. It is composed of MakerBeam components. When I was tossing around the idea of what material to make the frame out of, I originally went with plastic, then brass, but then I stumbled across MakerBeam (aluminum), another Kickstarter project. Frankly, I think the product is great and is completely in line with OpenROV as anyone can duplicate our frame with no machining or custom parts. Also once it is screwed together, it is a rock solid platform. It is still very much a work in progress, and I need to buy more beams, but you can at least get a size comparison to a stock OpenROV. Accessories will be designed to be interchangeable and easily mounted anywhere on the frame.

The availability of data from the California Seafloor Mapping Project has contributed much to our understanding of the Inner-Continental Shelf and offshore Channel Islands. Using this data to hunt for wrecks and obstructions is daunting without Geographic Information System (GIS) software. Initially, I used GIS software to process and export multibeam and sidescan data into Google Earth. This helped me identify a few sites and known wrecks, but was difficult to visualize and I had multiple layers of information to turn on and off. It was also difficult to show others the sites I was looking at. Over the past few weeks, I have been working with Scott @NSWwrecks on how best to display data and we've come up with our own "data review" reports. These are not final detailed reports, but something intended to be taken out on the support vessels as a quick way to visualize what we are looking for. Along with this, we both maintain Google Earth files for respective search areas to give us a better idea where the sites are geographically. Below is an example of one of my sites that has been through the data review. The site code-named "323-D" is located off Avalon, Catalina Island in what I have named the Western Search Area. It was discovered in July 1987 when the guided missile cruiser USS VINCENNES (CG-49) attempted to weigh anchor, was fouled and after backing down to free the anchor, brought up a 4 x 8 ft piece of 1/2" steel ripped from an underwater obstruction. As far as I know, the wreck has never been identified or removed. In other news, Gary Fabian, who found the UB88, let me know that the missing multibeam data from the gap off Oceanside had been surveyed and the data would be available by the end of the year. We'll have to go see what's down there!

If you're planning on doing anything related to ocean exploration, chances are, you're going to need a vessel of some kind. This one is ours. She is a 2004 Pursuit 3000 Offshore. Here are some of her specifications: Length: 33'0" w/ attached swim step Beam: 12'0" Draft: 3'0" Displacement: 11,500 lbs Fuel Capacity: 250 U.S. gal Range: 300nm Max Speed: 28+ kts Cruising Speed: 15 kts Propulsion: 2x Volvo Penta KAMD-300A Diesel Engines Electronic Navigation: Northstar 6000i Navigation Suite Sleeping Capacity: 4 Over the course of the next several months she will be in for her mid-life refit and is receiving an entirely new electronics suite with a Furuno NavNet TZ Touch 14 MFD. More on that when the upgrades are installed. Also being added in steps is her survey equipment consisting of a powered winch for towed equipment, the magnetometer, side scan and ROV. It is a large project, but the winter is the perfect time to get the upgrades done and commence sea trials.

From 2007 to 2013 an ambitious program was conducted off the coast of California. The program was called the California Seafloor Mapping Project ( The end goal being the creation of a high-resolution 1:24,000 scale geologic and habitat base map series covering all of California's 14,500 km2 state waters out to the 3 mile limit, and support of the state's Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPA) goal to create a statewide network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Multi-beam Echo Soundings (MBES) and side scan data for the Southern California nearshore region were acquired using a combination of several sonars (400KHz Reson 7125, 240 KHz Reson 8101, 100 KHz Reson 8111) and collected aboard a series of Fugro Pelagos, Inc. (FPI) directed vessels. After the conclusion of the survey sessions, raw high resolution multi-beam and side scan sonar data was uploaded and available for free online. From here, we took the data and combined the different survey sessions into one large bathymetric chart of Southern California in an attempt to discover previously undiscovered sites. (the neon green area) What we uncovered was a large area of "no data" starting from San Clemente and ending near Oceanside. Searching for the missing data, we uncovered bathymetric data from an earlier 2002 survey conducted by SANDAG ( This is the grey area on the Google Earth rendering. Noticeable is still a large area of "no data". This area is roughly 30 square miles of uncharted seabed. This is the area we will be conducting our first magnetometer and side scan sonar survey.

Endurance Marine Exploration was created in the summer of 2013 with the aim of exploring the Southern California coastline that is inaccessible to scuba divers from the 100-300 foot depth range. Hundreds of ships and aircraft still remain lost at sea with only general coordinates being recorded. With the exception of some wrecks in the Channel Islands, and some around San Pedro Bay, there have been no serious attempts to locate or document these lost wrecks. Over the previous decade, numerous advances in marine technology put equipment and data in the hands of amateur enthusiasts. Although the technology has been in use for many years, it was not until recently that towed magnetometers, side scan sonar, and ROVs have become affordable. Unlike ocean exploration on the East Coast of the United States and elsewhere, California waters are cold and deep. Due to these conditions, scuba divers are mostly confined to Wreck Alley in San Diego, the coves in Laguna Beach and the vast kelp forests of Catalina Island. One of the first organizations to explore the known wrecks in Southern California was the California Wreck Divers founded in 1971. ( CWD maintains an active list of all wrecks in diveable waters and are one of the few organizations that routinely conduct technical diving on known wrecks deeper than 200 feet. The second organization is the UB88 crew who in July 2003 successfully located the wreck of the UB88, the only WWI U-boat on the West Coast. Since then, the team has gone on to document other military shipwrecks and aircraft as documented on their website ( Recently, there has been little to no shipwreck exploration in the area. Endurance Marine Exploration is seeking to change this through the use of a five tiered approach. 1. Utilize 3D bathymetric and side scan data from the recently completed California Seafloor Mapping Project to identify sites of interest. 2. Run a towed side scan sonar combined with a magnetometer and single beam sonar over sites of interest or areas where "no data" exists. 3. Process data in Geographic Information Systems to obtain accurate GPS coordinates and examine site characteristics. 4. Send down an ROV on any interesting sites from the obtained data. 5. If a historical site is found, then a complete photomosaic will be made and able to be viewed openly for further study. There is much out there that has not been thoroughly explored, we would like to change that. Large research vessels do not operate in this area as they do elsewhere. It is up to the enthusiasts to document these sites before they are lost to time.

Expeditions Following