33 observations in 3 expeditions
Expeditions Contributed to
Many have been probably wondering where we have been. Well after the brutal winter we had here in the northeast, a lot has happened. In the spring Adrienne and I got married and we were off to England for two weeks. Once we returned, I was pulled into a big project which would allow little time to invest in our OpenExplorer projects. Things are beginning to settle, so we can once again get back to our projects. For the past eight months, I had been working out of the UMass Dartmouth Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. There I got to know many people who work on some cutting edge technology and was able to see some incredible autonomous ROVs they were testing in the lake behind the building. The contacts I made there were the payoff for the short time I spent there. Thankfully I made the most of the free time shortly before the wedding and was able to find one of the granite blocks we had been looking for. This block was flipped so you could not see its face, but from features on its side I was sure it was the correct block. It was over two tons and the only way to confirm it was the right block was by lifting it to see the underside. Fortunately, it was accessible at the lowest tide, so I bought a 4-ton porta power hydraulic jack and checked the tide charts. The next tide low enough to get to the block was the day before my wedding. You could say it was the most unusual bachelor party ever. Just me, a granite block, and the ocean. I arrived as early as possible and began to jack it up. I had limited time before the tide would be too high again, so I had to work fast. I was able to quickly free up some larger rocks trapped under it and get a view. I’m happy to say that I was right; this was the block with the fleur de lis design on it. Since then I was able to visit the block one more time and jack it up more in preparation for retrieving it. Varoujan, one of the curators from the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum, is trying to find a vendor who can retrieve the block for us. The shoreline it rests on is very dangerous, which is why many ships have sunk there in the past. Because of this, it has been difficult to find a contractor to do the job. When we do get the block retrieved, it will rest beside the lighthouse for all to admire and learn about the story the Shipwreck HF Payton. ~Michael
We’ve been reaching out to local authorities on dinoflagellates, jellyfish, fungi, and insects and have gotten a very positive response. All seem very interested in the project and are happy to be able to participate. We were especially pleased by the recent response from the Boston Mycological Club and Cape Cod Mushroom Club. We felt that hunting down the luminescent fungi would be the most difficult task on our list. The location in which these fungi are found is variable. Often, they only glow for a few days after rain, so they can be very difficult to catch. Fortunately the local fungi experts are not only familiar with our quarry, they have also crossed paths with them many times before. They have given us details on the best times of year to find them and which are their favorite trees on which to feed. Still though, it will require many failed attempts of sitting out in some of the darkest parts of the forests in the northeast before we catch them glowing. When we do we have to act fast. What might be a hotspot one day can often be completely dark the next. With the assistance of the local clubs, I’m confident we’ll be able to capture them in action. In preparation for photographing the fungi and dinoflagellates, we will attempt to grow some at the Dirt Lab. We've already created the special terrarium in which to grow the fungus. This will give us a chance to become familiar with how to best capture them in action. Also, we’ll have a chance to get them under the microscope for much closer examination.
This weekend we did a lot of finish up work on the ROV. We programed the electric speed controllers, tested the Xbox controller and added the lasers. We also assembled the IMU/Depth Sensor. We're hoping to have it in the water for testing next weekend. We've been talking about the idea of operating the ROV using the Xbox controller and VR headset. Though it might not add any advantage to operating the ROV, we felt it would be loads of fun for everyone. While we've been shopping for a VR headset, we came up with a fun experiment using my phone and Google cardboard. We pulled up two session of Google Chrome on the laptop and connected them to the ROV. We resized them, putting one on the left and the other on the right, creating a stereo view. We then were able to remote into the laptop through an app on my phone. When we put the phone in the Google cardboard, we were amazed at how well it worked. With very little effort and no extra cost we had found an easy way to create a VR display for the ROV. There is an issue with this method. The software we used requires the phone and the laptop to be connected to the web. From the shore you won't often find an open access point. Though a mobile hotspot can solve this problem, we suspect it wouldn't be cost effective. We're still going shop for a VR headset that can connect directly to the laptop, but will continue experimenting with other options that accomplish the same goal.
The past two weeks have been great. First Richard and I created a kayak mount for the GoPro and were able to capture excellent photos of the shipwreck Bessie Rogers. Our second attempt at SfM/photogrammetry also had great results. After further experimenting, we decided that we were ready to upgrade our software to handle bigger models. Along with working on SfM, we've also been finishing up on the OpenROV build. This past weekend we were finally able to boot it up. Once we connected via a browser, we were able to see the video images on the screen. After some minor adjustment by Richard, soon the motors were also responding. Though we were confident of our work, there is always that moment of worry when you first turn it on. It's a pleasure and somewhat exciting to see it all check out fine. Our next step will be adding a few optional features and then do a test run. Soon the Proteus will be roaming around the waters of New England! The most exciting thing is that it won't be long before we'll be able to take a look at what remains the H.F. Payton and its cargo.
This weekend Richard and I made a few final touches on Proteus. The camera and all the controls are functioning fine, and all the seals are good. Though we have some minor details to follow up on with the depth sensor, I'd say the build is complete! Next weekend we'll give Proteus a test run in the tub, and then hope to get her out to some open water for a first run. Though the cove where the Bessie Rogers rests seems like a good spot for her first time in the bay, we're taking the time to look at other options. We'd like our first time in the bay to be easy but offer the most return for our time. With the addition of the game pad and headset, we're really excited to get Proteus in the water. Over the next few months we'll get out to the bay with Proteus as often as possible to look at various wrecks. We want to get some practice time in with the OpenROV in protected coves before we make an attempt to visit our target wreck, H.F Payton. I want to thank Richard and those following us for their patience while we built the OpenROV. The build was very easy, even for a soldering and Arduino rookie like me . The length of time for the build was only due to how little time I've had available for the past few months. Our next step will be building the special mount for the GoPro. ~Michael
On January 1st, Richard and I fabricated a special rigging for the GoPro using PVC and a rail mount. The new mount would allow us to secure the camera over the side of the kayak, and position it facing in any direction using the two universal joints. With the new camera mount, we went for a second visit to the remains of the 1873 British bark Bessie Rogers on Saturday. With the camera attached to the kayak, facing down and set to take photos every seconds, I paddled over to the wreck. I broke up the area into four lanes. Once a lane was completed, since the camera was mounted on the starboard side, I turned around and repeated the lane. The entire wreck took about a half hour or more to cover. In the end we collected over 2000 photos Once home we reviewed the photos and were very pleased with how well the mount worked. The results were far better than those from our first attempt a week ago. We had many clear images of the remaining skeleton of the bark. We were quickly able to reconstruct many parts of the boat through photogrammetry. Though we made much progress in gathering photos of wrecks for 3D modeling, there are a still a few issues to work out. The issues appear to be in the collecting process; not enough overlap, and some photos appearing too blurry. The speed I paddled over the wreck was probably the cause, since I progressively went faster each pass, and the quality went down with each pass. This will be our last kayak attempt until it warms up again. Though this was meant to get familiar with how to best do the same with the ROV, we're so pleased by the results we plan on doing many of the other wrecks in shallow coves using the same method. Here is a 2nd 3D model of some of its ribs. youtu.be/Lw96tIoHeAE You can see more photos of the wreck on our blog. neexplorers.org
New England Explorers has decided to team up with Mason on his Lake Winnipesaukee Shipwreck Expedition. Being New Englanders, we've all spent many a summer at the lake for vacation. None of us had been aware of the interesting history that sits at the bottom of the lake. Shipwreck of all type and ages can be found all over Lake Winnipesaukee. Since there are so many wreck and little time is available, Mason and I discuss our best options. Eventually we decided we'd attempt to visit the lakes prized steamboat, The Lady of the Lake, in the summer of 2015. The Lady of the Lake is a wood hulled Passenger steamer that was built in 1848 in Lakeport by the Winnipesaukee Steamboat Company. On the prow of the vessel was a figurehead of the Lady of the Lake. Thousands from all over New Hampshire witness it's launching, and four hundred rode with her on her maiden voyage. A proud 125 feet long with a 35 foot beam, it went on to dominate commercial lake traffic until 1872. In 1895 the Lady of the Lake's career came to an end. It was filled with rocks, and planned to be towed to the waters off Rattlesnake Island, and scuttled. Unfortunately while the Lady was being towed it floundered and sunk. She now rests upright in 30 feet of water in the middle of Glendale Cove. The hull and deck of the lady are intact. With visibility of 25 to 35 feet being common for divers of the area, we should be able to get a good look at this famous ship of Lake Winnipesaukee. ~Michael
On Saturday I kayaked out to the Bessie Rogers, an 1873 British bark shipwreck in a shallow cove near Newport. I wanted to try underwater photogrammetry of a shipwreck in preparation for sending the ROV to the 1859 schooner H.F. Payton. Though my first attempts of doing it on dry land using my Fuji have turned out great, I expected some new challenges in the bay. For the first half hour I was photographing ten feet south of where the shipwreck rests. Unbeknownst to me, a nearby man-made landmark I used as a point of reference had been moved since the last aerial photos of the area were taken. Also, the wind made the surface of the bay choppy, and difficult to see through. Once I settled on the correct area, I once again setup my GoPro to take photos every few seconds, and began passing over the wreck, moving slightly north after each pass. Once home, I reviewed the photos and was disappointed. A little bit of water had gotten between the filter and the lens, making most of the photos distorted and worthless. Also, the sunny day I saw as positive, ended up making things worse. The direction the sun was coming from caused backscatter making visibility poor. Though in the end I didn't have enough photos for doing a full 3D model of the Bessie Rogers, I was able to salvage enough to be able to model some portions of it. I don't look at my first attempt as a failure. Instead, I see it as a learning experience. I plan on going back for a second try next weekend.
We've had a very productive weekend. We spent a good amount of time on assembling the ROV and we're close to the finish line. We were happy to switch from acrylic welding to assembling the controller board, Beagle bone, lights and camera. Though Richard is far more experienced at soldering, he took the time to school me on tinning the wire and soldering, and had me do the work. In a matter of minutes I felt confident in my newly gained skills. We see completion so close, we were scrambling to try to figure out when we next could get together. I'm very thankful that RIchard is patient with us, since he could have easily finished the entire assembly on his own many weeks ago. When we started I was unsure of how I would help with the build. Now I feel comfortable with completing any of the steps on my own. Its always rewarding to overcome a lack of confidence in my skills by facing these challenges through DIY/DIT projects. More often than not, I find them much easier than expected! We're expecting our assembly will be completed for the first week of the year!
This weekend we made some more progress on the ROV we have now named Proteus. Richard and I are excited with every step closer to the first boot up of the ROV. Already we're trying to work out where to put it in the water for the first test run. Later this week we hope to kayak over the Bessie Rogers, the shipwreck near Newport. We're going to try and capture photos of what remains of its hull. We'll use these photos for our first attempt at underwater photography. Though our trail on land went very well, we're expecting new challenges to overcome once we're underwater. We've begun trying to hunt down the remaining family of the Captain of the H.F. Payton, Asa Whelden Nickerson. P.J. Perkins, the man who wrote the manuscript on the schooner had said that they lived in New Bedford, MA. So far we've had no luck. We'll keep trying and if needed call in Mr. Perkins for some help.
Before the mid-1800s, most people dwelled in places where the night often brought complete blackness. If a person ventured outside at night, there would be times when they stumbled on a world of luminous organisms living in our forests and bays. Some of these instances could be frightening and have been the origin of local lore. We now live in an age of illumination and have lost touch with the strange world of bioluminescence. The dark conditions needed are now eliminated by the light pollution around us. Because of this, most people are only aware of one of the six members of this microcosm, the firefly. In 2015 we plan to hunt down all of New England creatures that exhibit bioluminosity. Though we will start with the familiar firefly, our journey will take us from the sea to the dark swamps and forests. Using our OpenROV and being patient explorers, we hope to capture photos and images of these amazing organisms in their natural habitats. We’ll share the data, science and the lore we gather along the way. We hope to enable others with the where, when and how they can also see these creatures in their own part of the New England. Something unique for all to enjoy. We’re already aware of where and when we can find several of these luminous creatures, but there are still some that will take a while to find. Another hurdle we have to jump is how to capture the low light of creatures’ glow on video. We already have plans in the works on how to prepare for what is to come. Stay tuned! ~Michael
A big thanks to Scott from NSWwrecks (openexplorer.com/profile/nswwrecks). Scott connected me with Mark, a very experienced shipwreck diver in my area. He and his friends not only dive wrecks, they are also dedicated to finding new wrecks. This weekend I met with the Mark and one of his diving partners, John. We chatted about the H.F. Payton, and their experience diving in Narragansett Bay. It was great to have a chance to learn a lot about the the waters in my area. Like me, they enjoy the history hidden below the waves in New England and were happy to offer to help in the H.F. Payton expedition. It will be fantastic to have them as resources to turn to as things develop. We have decided on a fantastic location for the practice runs once the ROV is completed. In a cove near Newport is the remains of a British Bark from 1872 named the Bessie Rogers. Five to ten feet below the surface, the ribs of the ship can still be seen penetrating the sand. The sheltered cove will make it easy for us to practice maneuvering the ROV, and also allow us a target on which to refine our photogrammetry skills. Across the cove from the wreck is a boat ramp from which we can launch the ROV. Over the winter we can sit comfortably in the Jeep while we explore what remains of the Bessie Rogers!
We worked on our ROV again this weekend and made some good progress. It's starting to look like an ROV! So far the most difficult part has been getting in those little nuts and bolts for mounting the motors. They're so tiny and my hands seemed so big. I was confident we'd get them in, but I was worried that my butterfingers would lose them to the floor. The interview on WEMF's "The Good American" on Friday was great! Adrienne had accompanied me to the studio, so she was invited to participate too. We had lots of fun with the hosts Charles, Francesca and John. We covered a lot in the time we were there and only wish we had more time to hang out with them. Thankfully Charles suggested having us return in spring for an update on the H.F. Payton, and OpenROV. We look forward to returning! David, I hope you don't mind that I borrowed your quote about democratizing exploration. I felt I couldn't have put it better myself. Here is a link to the MP3 of the interview. Our interview starts at 17:00, has one music break and ends at 54:00. http://bit.ly/11G2o3V
Today I went down to Beavertail to take a look at the blocks in the water close to shore. Though it was about 43 degrees out and windy, with my wet suit on the water wasn't too bad. I waded through the water and examined all the blocks, but did not find any intricate designs carved on them. I then took a look at the blocks that were partly submerged on my last visit, but now high and dry due to a lower tide. One particular block caught my eye. It was upside down so it made it difficult to examine. After about an hour of poking around, I think I might have found the block in the oldest known B&W picture of a block. This was a photo of the block with the Fleur-d-Lis design carved on it. This would be a great candidate to be placed by the lighthouse museum. My mind is spinning trying to find an easy way to lift the block to better see the underside. Hopefully we'll be able to come up with a plan that will be cheap and effective. Also while at the blocks I took a series of photos to build a 3D model from. There were many reasons I felt the photos and subject would cause issue when rendering, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The 3d model came out far better than expected. I posted below an HD animation video from this 3D model. Next we'll see how well we can do with underwater photos. After having such fantastic results every step of the way so far, I'm feeling confident we will once again be pleased by the outcome! Tomorrow we begin working on the ROV. We'll post photos of our progress.
The build is coming along well. Richard, who leads the build, and has much more free time than the rest of us, has been kind enough to wait so that we can all participate and learn something along the way. While Richard did some more soldering, I tried my hand at solvent welding of the acrylic parts. I had never done this before so I was a little nervous. After reviewing a video on the process, I tried my hand at it and found it very easy to do. In no time at all I felt comfortable with the process! Research on the H.F. Payton has turned up some new leads. A representative from the Jamestown Historical Society put me in touch with Paul Perkins, who wrote the manuscript on the schooner and its granite blocks over ten years ago. I spoke with him by phone and he shared some information he had not mentioned in the manuscript. The most important detail was that family members of the captain of the H.F. Payton still lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Last of all, this coming Friday, Nov. 28th at 11am, I will be appearing on WEMF (wemfradio.com) in Boston, Massachusetts for an interview. We'll be speaking about the recent projects and expeditions we've been working on, including our current work on the H.F. Payton and OpenROV!
We have a busy weekend. Today I'm reviewing my materials on Caving in New England for a presentation I'm doing at the library in Coventry Rhode Island Monday night. Each time I do these presentations they require updating to include details of our latest exploration we've participated in and tools and technology we've used. I also bring along a variety of the equipment we use for people to view and handle after the presentation. My favorite part though its the Q&A at the end. The presentation is free to the public and it's always fun to do them. My goal is to not only educate & entertain those who attend, but also inspire new explores. We're in a new era of exploration. Many of the tools and information previously difficult for nonacademics to access are now easily available for all. Expensive technologies are now affordable for the citizen scientist or explorer. http://bit.ly/1zZGtTT. Our audience is filled with many armchair adventurer, curious New Englanders & fellow explorers. At the conclusion of my presentation I'll be sharing information on our other projects including the H.F. Payton expedition. I'll invite the public to follow along as we see beneath the waves with our ROV. On Sunday we'll once again meet to work on the ROV. Our acrylic cement has arrived so we'll begin to assemble those parts. I'll post an update of our progress later this week.
Our weekend started off great when found what we believe might be the original Granite Monster. We met with my brother Steve and discussed the issue of the block being upside down. When we hit problems like this Steve always seems to be able to pull a solution out of his hat, and as usual he did. We have made plans to lift up the corner of the granite block using special tools suited for difficult jobs. With the block tightly seat of a bed on small rocks, difficult is an understatement. If ll goes well we'll soon be able to see if we found the correct granite block. We updated the rep from the Lighthouse museum on what we found. We also shared our recent 3D model we did of the blocks on the rocky shoreline. He liked the model so much he is interested in using them on a touch screen kiosk they have at the museum. We're now shopping around for a tool that will host and display the models for the museum visitors interact with and enjoy. You can interact with the recent 3d models we created at this website. Cluster of granite blocks - skfb.ly/BMNHThe Granite Monster? - skfb.ly/BMMF (Best to be viewed using Firefox) Sunday we finally were able to get started on building the ROV. Richard is the member of our expedition who is leading the build. We didn't have our the acrylic cement yet, so we jumped right into doing some soldering. The online directions were great, and easy to follow. We made some good progress, and after our first day, feel it shouldn't take long to complete. We'll be sure to post more photos of our progress after our next build meet.
The OpenROV arrived today (#1517)! This kit was provided by David Lang and Eric Stackpole at OpenROV (http://www.openrov.com), and made possible by a sponsorship from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (http://www.moore.org). I'd like to thank them again for supporting our expedition! We called our crew in for a meeting over coffee and donuts tonight. We saved opening the box until everyone arrived, and had a great time pulling out each piece to give them the once over. We're excited and looking forward to the build and getting it into the water. Already we're seeing where we can fit working on it into our current schedule. This weekend we'll be clearing off our workspace and will start digging into the build. We'll post our progress along the way.
The H.F. Payton expedition is moving along well. We should be getting the ROV any day now. Construction should begin next weekend and we have a very skilled technician who will supervise our work. Mr. Varoujan is excited by the support we’ve gotten from the Rhode Island historic preservation commission, for the retrieval of one of the granite blocks, and we’re hoping to be able to scout on a few candidates before the spring thaw. We recently contacted Ron from Sea Wolf Diving Expedition (SWD) (openexplorer.com/expedition/rovdesignbuildoperation). We thought it would be good to open a conversation with an expedition that has some common goals. Doing so paid off. Reviewing some logs on SWD’s FB page reminded me of a project that I put aside a year or so ago. It concerned photogrammetry of caves. I thought it would be good to give it a try on shipwrecks. I quickly got to where I had left off, and made some big leaps forward. I was pretty sure we could pull it off with the equipment we already had. Soon Scott from NSWwrecks (openexplorer.com/expedition/xxxx91) chimed in and shared his experience and some helpful leads that provided much help in shoring up our plans. Scott had already accomplished what we were hoping to do, and had done an excellent post on the subject at OpenROV (http://bit.ly/1pflRna) Now less than a week since the conversation started between Ron, we have had some very successful trail runs of photogrammerty of everyday objects. We’ve been experimenting with free and open source software, trying to find the one that would best serve our needs. I now not only look forward to providing Mr. Varoujan and the Beavertail museum with a candidate for retrieval, but also a map of what blocks, and other portions of the ship and its cargo still remains off the shores of the Lighthouse. I think this experience is a great example of what makes the DIY/DIT community so great. Great ideas can be born from a something simple as a conversation. Once you begin acting on these ideas, it’s not long before others will reach out and lend a helping hand to assure your success!
We just got back from a week of cave exploring on the western side of New England. Most of the week was cold and rainy, but that didn't stop of from getting out and visiting some new caves and old favorites. While in the area we met with our caver/digger friends to discuss about using the OpenRov for exploring some of the impenetrable sumps in the future. Always good to start laying the ground work for the next project ahead of time. On our downtime we called Charlotte Taylor, the Senior Archaeologist for the RI Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission. We discuss ROV diving guideline and recommended wrecks to next visit once we've completed our work with the H.F. Payton. She recommended that we contact Senior Marine Research Specialist at University of Rhode Island. She thought he might be more qualified to recommend a wreck, and he also might be interested in teaming up with us for a new project he'll soon be starting in the upper bay. Though we had a chilly & wet week of caving, we had a great time and were able to lay out the road work for several future OpenRov Expeditions! Below is a picture of a natural bowl over four feet deep and six feet wide in my favorite marble cave!
Just got great news from Varoujan Karentz a historian at the Beavertail Lighthouse museum. "Since your visit to Beavertail, we have renewed our interest in the Harvey Payton Stones and are considering moving one of them to a location on the lighthouse grounds for exhibit purposes. We have received permission from the state historic preservation commission, since it is considered an historic archeological site. All the visable tidal stones have over the past 150 years been exposed to wave action and erosion. There may be one or more in better physical shape underwater." Mr. Karentz had also mentioned that he would be interested in working with us to find the best block. We have responded to his email, and hope to be able to have the OpenRov in the water by February at the earliest. With any luck we'll be able to find an excellent block with some of the more elaborate carvings in time.
We've been hard at work plotting where the wrecks are hidden in the Narragansett bay. We're very grateful for the lead from kevin_k of Southern California Coastal Exploration openexplorer.com/expedition/southerncalifornia that gave us a KML for all the wreck the NOAA are aware of In bay. With those out of the way, We can now focus on plotting the location of the leaser known and more interesting historical wrecks. There are loads of them out there waiting for us to plot and explore them. We received good news recently and it looks like we might be able to get our hands on the OpenRov sooner than planned. We've already found several colonial wreck we can use as our testing/practice area. They rest in a protected coves where visibility and access will be fantastic. This week we'll also be visiting local cavers we often work with, known as Diggers. These are caver that dig up entrances to caves never explored by man before. We'll be discussing a few new caves they recently discovered that contain sumps, passage in a cave that is submerged under water, that are blocking any progress. We're looking into the possibility of using the OpenRov sometime next summer to help them out. 2015 looks like it will be an exciting year!
We've been trying to dig up more information on the H.F. Payton with no luck. We did dig up a wealth of resources concerning over 2000 other ship wrecks in the harbor. Per square mile, Rhode Island has more shipwrecks than any other state. In the bay there are many wreck that are in wonderful condition for diving. There are some areas where so many British Warships and Transports were scuttled & burned in 1778 that diving there you'll be certain to stumble on a wreck. We've found some great shipwrecks in safe harbors that will be good for doing a test run of the ROV at. This is great since the area where the H.F. Payton sunk at time has very rough and dangerous conditions. Having time to practice before venturing in dangerous waters will be very helpful. I've begun plotting those we can get the coordinates or general location of. Its going to take us along time to plot them all, but here is an image showing what we've gotten done already. The red markers are those you can see from google earth.
We returned on Sunday to take a better look at all the blocks, especially the one with the step cut. We were anxious to find see if the block with the step cut was in fact the one with the flower design on it. After close examination we concluded it wasn’t. We did find that it and one other had button like reliefs on it much like the block with the carved flower. While examining the blocks we noticed a scuba diver about to jump in. We asked if he had ever seen the granite block off the shores, to which he quickly responded with a yes. He also pointed where they would be found underwater. What he described sounded like a debris trail of the H.F. Payton. We explained to the diver why we were curious. He said that he never knew what they were, but now that he knows, he was eager to take a closer look at them. We said our goodbyes and the diver picked up his equipment and moved down the coast to where he just mentioned the blocks were. Imagining what it will be like for him to look at the blocks now that he is aware of their history, made me eager to get down there myself. We must have patients, but we’ll really be looking forward to what we can find early next year!
Today was a good day. We were able to look at a manuscript concerning the schooner H.F. Payton and its demise. Following our visit to the historical society library we headed down to the southern point to once again walk the shore during low time. With the new information in hand we felt confident we'd find the block. As we waited for low tide to arrive, we reexamined the areas we had already searched. We also took the time to test a new underwater filer we had just gotten for the GoPro. At the peak of low tide we began where we had started a week ago and proceeded south this time. About a quarter mile into our quest, we found the blocks. On some of the blocks you could still see the stylized edges. Others you could see the transition between the rough stone cut and smoothed edging that would be visible. In total we found 20 definite blocks in various positions of the tide zone and three other possible block still submerged. The best find of all was one we could tell was on upside-down. When we viewed a photo of its side, we could see what appeared to be the step like cut much like the B&W photo we shared below. Could this be that same block, now flipped due to later storms? Seeing the excellent condition of the blocks in the tide zone, we are now confident that those below the waves should be in great shape. excited by such a successful day, we need to sit, take a breath and begin discussing what are next move is.
I spoke to the contact we were given during our visit to Conanicut Island last weekend. She confirmed that last she was aware the block is still on the rocky shore of the south end of the island. We'll be visited her at the historical society's museum this Saturday to view a manuscript called Beavertail Stones and the Wrecked Schooner H.F. Payton . The man who wrote this spent much time researching the Schooner H.F. Payton and is horrible demise. We were also give a lead on a contact at the lighthouse at that end of the island. Though I doubt we'll see the block this weekend, I expect we'll be leaving with much information on the Schooner and where it rest off the shores of the island. Over the past week we discussed if it was time to purchase the ROV and it was a unanimous YES! We have always been aware of the many ships that rest in the bay, and other things lost to the depths of our bay. We felt that since we live in the ocean state, it was about time we start exploring the ocean too. We've already got a long list of place to visit that we collect over the years. It'll be interesting to explore another side of NEw England. We hope to get the ROV before the year is over, and build it before spring.
Luck was not with us today. We searched up and down the coast where the H F Payton had sunk and did not find any signs of the granite blocks. The information we had said some could be seen at low tide, but I believe the tide was not very low today. Also, the sea was a bit rough today and it minimized any visibility for anything that might lie in the shallow waters off shore. We'll have to make a follow up trip at the lowest tide for the area. We did stop by the local historical society and was able to get contact information for someone who might have more information about the ship and its granite blocks. We'll be following up this week. We had brought along our GoPro and it waterproof case, so we were disappointed to not be able to put it to use. To make the most of our day, we headed over to a protected cove where we know a variety of crabs and tropical fish can be found. Luck was with us, and a concentration of small red jelly fish of all shapes and sizes had filled the cove. We lashed a piece of chicken to a cage we mounted the camera in and lowered it into a shallow portion of the cove. Once below the jelly fish, it wasn't long before the fish began to show up to feed on the chicken. We're going to see if we can identify the hungry fish that showed up. Though our original goal was not met today, we still had fun. With the help of our new information from out contact, we hope to have a bit more luck on our next try. Update: I identified the most common jellyfish in the video. Its a Mnemiopsis leidyi, but also known as a warty comb jelly or sea walnut. It consumes zooplankton including crustaceans, but is also known to eat smaller individuals of its own kind at times. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mnemiopsis
Tomorrow we're heading down to Conanicut Island to inspect the shore where the schooner H F Payton sank in 1859. It had been carrying 140 cut granite stones with unique Fleur-d-Lis design carved into them. Some thought the design resembled a squid, and referred to them as the granite monsters. The H F Payton had been headed for Washington D.C. and the stones were thought to be intended to be used for a mausoleum. The 1938 hurricane hurled some of the granite monsters up on the shore, and in the past you could find a few at low tide. We're going to try and locate what remains of them. If we can confirm the location of these blocks, we'll then start working on acquiring an OpenRov. With the ROV we hope to find where the rest of the blocks and the other cargo of the H F Payton now rests below the waves.
In the back of Dragon's Hole we found names and dates of the previous brave explorers. In the middle right you can see the earliest date of 1812 inscribed into the stone.
Dragon’s Hole New England has many Wildlife Management Areas. Though they highlight great sights, often there are long forgotten landmarks and geological curios hidden in their dark recesses. Over time the trails to them and mention on the maps fades away, and they are lost into history. Late winter we visited one of these landmarks hidden in the forests of Connecticut. We had first heard of this cave in a book about places to visit that was published in the 1930s by the state planning board. We then stumbled on an 1800's map of the area that pin pointed the location of Dragon's Hole along the south side a prominent hill. Since the 1700s it was referred to as Dragon’s Hole but eventually was also referred to as Devil’s Den. Though it was a popular feature in the 1800s, now it was once again absorbed back into the wild. Devil’s Den was a common name used by colonial settlers concerning caves that gave the reason to suspect activity of a dark force. Dragon’s hole was said to be one of those cave. It was said that strange noise and lights would be seen coming from the grotto it lives within. Some believed that these tales were just folklore created by mothers trying to protect their children from the hazards of this wild terrain. Dragon’s Hole is made of several small passages and chambers totaling about 40 feet. It is the largest of many caves that can be found in the talus. It is located about half way up a ravine created by a brook. I appeared that the cave was formed due to at 300 foot wide and one mile long unit of quartzite. As the water carved its way through the schist, the 300 feet of its path with a concentration of the much less soluble quartzite collapsed into the ravine to create the talus. Our climb to Dragon’s Hole was steep yet short. As we got close to the cave we found remnants of the old red markers from the old trail to it. At the bottom of the grotto we could hear the brook running underneath the talus, but still hidden from sight. When we entered the cave the first thing we noticed was the distinct red coloring covering some of its wall. It was obvious to us that this was dues to the high iron content in the schist, but to people of the past this might have been the first hint to the mark of the devil. The next thing we noticed was how the architecture of the cave and grotto magnified our voice. If the cave had been a den to a wolf or other predatory animal, its growl would have been a frighteningly devilish sound to those approaching. Though we saw reasons locals might be frightened by Dragon’s Hole, in its back chamber we found dates as early as 1812 carved into it walls. Curiosity is often the elixir of the brave, or foolish who trespass into the dark chambers of the unknown. Like those reckless explorers of the past, at the end of the day we were able to retreat from the Dragon’s Hole unscathed. A thanks to my friend Jim for digging into his files and sharing documentation on Dragon’s Hole from 1967, previous to our visiting it. ~Michael
In 2013 Ms. Dreadful and I visited a cave dig fellow explorers had been working on. This cave was named Skeleton Cave because of all the animal skeletons they found as they dug it out. It had been a few years since we last had seen it and were curious to see how the progress was going. We also thought this was a good time to try out our new video camera. Here is a short compilation of the footage we got. We'll be soon heading out to the same area to attempt to find some lost caves, and see what new stuff the diggers have found.
We've been busy working on our entry for National Geographic's Expedition Granted. We hope you'll go to our project page and show some support. If we win the grant it will help propel our project into high gear. Please go to our project page and use the links on the right side of the video to share it on Facebook, G+,Twitter or Email. http://bit.ly/1xF0T4g In October we have a trip book to hunt down some lost caves in the northeast and hopefully visit with some of the digger we know and see what fantastic new caves they've discovered. We'll start posting details as we warm up to the trip in late October!
Many believe that all of America has been explored, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are still many hidden landscape waiting to yield up their secrets and locations lost to history ready to be rediscovers. Over the past 30 years Fellow explorers and I have been able to dig up many historical and natural treasures buried in our forests in the northeast. In the past year we uncovered a long lost counterfeiters den and revealed a cave never seen by man before. We spend many hours reviewing maps, journals and historical literature to continue to add to our growing list of places to bring out of hiding. Currently we publish some of our findings in journals and even fewer on blogs. Beginning this year we'd like to make more of our work public. We hope to educate and entertain the curious adventurers and armchair explorers, Most of all we want to excite and inspire peoples inner explorers and show them the value of protecting our historical and natural resources. neexplorers.org