(This blog is about my experiences working and living aboard a 220’ treasure hunting ship, the M/V Sea Hunter)
As a continuing response to the never ending question, “Why is it taking so long?” I spoke in my previous post about the different phases of recovering a ship wreck. The first phase was getting credible data as to the wreck sites location. The second phase is side scanning the area to locate the exact position of the wreck. This phase took Sub Sea Research over three and a half months of side scanning before Greg and the crew felt sure that the images on the monitor were that of the Port Nicholson, however, they needed to verify it 100%. The next phase of the mission would entail getting accurate images or identifiable marks that would identify the wreck as the Port Nicholson, though this wouldn’t be done until the following season.
During the winter months much planning was put into this part of the operation. This phase would require the use of a ROV (remotely operated vehicle). Sub Sea Research purchased a Vector M5, which is a portable high performance ROV system. It was designed to work with simplicity and ease of use in harsh environments. It was also designed so that the person running it (the ROV pilot) could do this with minimum training. With this sophisticated (and very expensive) piece of equipment, Greg and the crew felt confident they would succeed. Practicing whenever possible off the starboard side of the Sea Hunter, Kevin LaChance (ROV pilot) and the ROV team would work on their skills in and around the Boston harbor area. Each time it was put in the water was an opportunity to learn more about how it handles in various conditions. A few times the cord got tangled on something and would require a diver to go in to work it free.
As spring approached there was much anticipation and excitement among the crew. We were ready and determined to get to the site, fly the ROV and to get proof that in fact this was the Port Nicholson. Brian Ryder (chief engineer) worked to fine tune the ROV for this specific mission. Each time the ROV came out of the water during training, it was inspected and tweaked to make adjustments. As I was usually inside the galley making a meal, I would hear bits and pieces of what was going on whenever one of the crew members came inside. It seemed as though there were problems right from the beginning. The ROV was not working to its full capacity. It seemed it was not getting full power to the thrusters. While Brian tried everything he knew to do, it seemed nothing was working. There were numerous emails and calls made to the company we purchased it from. With their help, Brian would try their suggestion, but to no avail. This went on for weeks early in our season. I cannot tell you how frustrating it was for us all. To be ready and eager to complete the next phase, and then to be hit with this. Our only option at that point was to have a representative from the company fly in to work on the ROV. And this my friends….takes valuable time.