Update by Della Scott-Ireton, FPAN, and David Ball, Minerals Management Service
Day two and Port Fourchon is 40 miles behind us. All equipment was loaded and we left port at 9:30am, arriving on-site around 7:00 in the evening. While en route the Texas A&M conservation crew set up the on-deck conservation lab to handle the artifacts as they are brought up by the ROV. An area of the bridge called the bull pen has been set up as the center of operations with networked computers to show real-time video from the ROVs. Two archaeologists, one to coordinate artifact recovery and one to record data into the Site Recorder program, will be stationed in the bull pen. An additional archaeologist will be with the ROV pilots in their shack.
The crew shift roster was posted today: Dave and I, along with Ashley Rose Gould and Alexis Catsambis from TAMU, are on the midnight to 8am “graveyard” shift; Jack Irion, Ben Ford, Cesar Arias, and Amy Borgens are on the 8am to 4pm shift; and Chris Horrell, Laura Landry, Sam Koepnick, and John Hamilton are on the 4pm to midnight shift. Peter Hitchcock, Donny Hamilton, and Bill Bryant are “floaters,” working whenever and wherever needed. We’ll work around the clock since the site is pitch-black at 4,000 feet deep anyway and daylight or dark do not make a difference in operating the ROVs.
Currently it’s 2:00 in the morning as I write this and the survey crew is busy calibrating the positioning transponders, called compats. Five compats were placed on the ocean floor by the ROV earlier and will take approximately 12 hours to calibrate. The compats communicate with each other and the ROV to accurately record the position of each artifact. This careful recording is critical to understanding the lay-out of the site and the relationship of artifacts to one another. This relationship, called context, is the key to unraveling the story of the shipwreck and will help us to better understand the archaeology of the site. Ideally, we’ll begin the excavation tomorrow!