After the acquisition of the R/V “7” in 1998, the crew was ready to start anew. However, the capabilities of the “7” wouldn’t allow them to go on journeys too far away. Because of this, its primary purpose became one of training. Most of the crew was new to the Sub Sea Recovery team, and so they began learning how to use the surveying equipment in the waters of New England. This was around the time they first got the Highball, a small inspection class Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV), which is still used in present day aboard the R/V Sea Hunter. Like any new piece of technology, it took a little while to learn all of its features. My dad Greg Brooks is a big technology buff, and so he took it upon himself to learn how to use the Highball. Chris Russon, the new crew member from Scotland, was another ROV operator at this time.
The first wreck they began practicing on was in Southwest Harbor, Maine. This wreck was said to have grindstones on it, so they started testing out their new sidescan imaging technology to locate these grindstones. They were able to locate the wreck, but it was in too deep of water to recover with the equipment they had at the time. However, this was great practice for the crew, and a valuable lesson was learned about locating shipwrecks using the sidescan sonar.
After this, they focused on a wreck off of Cape Elizabeth that was said to have gold aboard it. A Boston company was also working on this wreck, and placed dynamite in the hull of the ship to try to expose the cargo that way. Instead, the ship collapsed on itself and the treasure was completely buried. Sub Sea Recovery decided not to pursue this, as it was now completely covered by the giant ship and it would take more time and money than it was worth to retrieve it. This wreck remains untouched to this day.
The “7” also served as a training vehicle for others outside of the crew. Twice a month, the ship would take out marine biology students from Saint Joseph’s College of Maine alongside Professor Green. The group would take core samples from the bottom of the ocean. The Sub Sea Recovery team enjoyed these excursions, and my dad said that it was a great experience to be able to teach college students things about sonar imaging and recovery of both treasure and natural debris. These trips ended after the crew stopped using the R/V “7” since their next ship was too large for the type of experience the college was looking for.
While the time aboard the “7” wasn’t quite as exotic as some of the ships that would take the crew to Haiti or other tropical spots, it was a great way to become familiar and well-versed in the technology that was going to help them so much down the road.