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Search for the Bonhomme Richard Using Computer Modeling and Submarine Technologies

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The Ocean Technology Foundation and Naval Historical Center have been searching for the remains of the Bonhomme Richard, which sank in the western North Sea as a casualty of the American Revolution. Historical information about the ship's final resting place is lacking, but its activities up until the sinking are well documented. The results of many years of historical research have been incorporated into computer modeling programs, and a Geographic Information System (GIS) map was created to document all known information on shipwreck locations, seabed geology, and other pertinent information to enable the most effective survey. A recent survey expedition utilized the U.S. Navy's nuclear research submarine NR-1 to search nearly 400 square nautical miles of the North Sea. This paper focuses on the technological tools used in the search for the Bonhomme Richard: computer modeling, GIS, and submarine technologies. It also discusses the benefits and drawbacks of using a submarine to conduct marine archaeological surveys. The expedition yielded insights into the strengths and limitations of computerized drift modeling, especially when used to reconcile empiric environmental data with conflicting eyewitness accounts.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-12-01

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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