This is a condensed version of what happened on the Port Nicholson project. It shows a time line of what happened and the many issues surrounding the progress.
2007 – Searched for and located the Port Nicholson. Greg & John hardy financed $125,000. The M/V Son Worshiper made dozens of trips out to the area of the reported sinking of the Port Nicholson. Using data from multiple sources along with trial and error the vessel searched an area of about 125 sq. miles of ocean. After 3 months of searching a target was located that fit the hull design of the Port Nicholson.
2008 – Formed Sea Hunters LP. Purchased M/V Sea Hunter and Equipment (ROV, crane, winches etc.) 85% refurbish in Louisiana. The M/V Sea Hunter needed lots of repairs and upgrading to become a sea worthy vessel once again. It was decided to do some of those repairs and upgrades by the crew to save money. Several months were spent in Houma La. By the crew doing those repairs.
2009 – June 3rd Returned to Maine with newly acquired 220 ft supply vessel renamed Sea Hunter to finish upgrades. Had major issues with the new hydraulic system that ran the A-frame, winches grapples etc. This repair took about a month to repair. We had an open house for the partners as well as the general public. Discovery had a film crew aboard to document our progress. We had at this time a very inexperienced crew. Time on the job changed this.
July 20th was the first trip to the Port Nicholson wreck site. On the first trip we had to set up a mooring system which consisted of 4- 10,000 lb. anchors with 1500’ to 1800’ of steel cable attached to 4 – 1000 gallon tanks used as buoys. There were lots of issues with the ship and the hydraulic system we had installed to run the A-frame, crane and winches. Testing of the grapples showed that there was not enough hydraulic fluid pressure to operate the grapples as intended. Technical problems with Side scan sonar hardware. Other equipment failures. Long periods of bad weather. Upon return to Portland several repairs were made to address the problems encountered while onsite.
Aug 2nd headed back to the wreck site. Anchors set to hold ship in position after heavy seas kept us off site for a few days. The large grapple was deployed and lowered to the seabed close to the wreck, less than 50’. Closing jaws of grapple and brought to surface found the grapple to contain about 1000 lbs. of clay, mud and debris. It took several hours to pick through this material to see if any artifact were contained within. Pieces of rusty material, wire parts were found but nothing of any importance was recovered. This was continued throughout the day. Hydraulic pump failed. We were lowering a 10,000lb anchor with the grapple when the hydraulic pump failed, the anchor was at about 200’ down and we could not maneuver the ship at all, had to drift. Replaced with spare pump. Got back on station. Deployed anchors and set up to launch Mark 5 ROV. Soon after launch the current caused the ROV umbilical to get wrapped around one of the mooring cables. Divers were deployed to save the ROV. ROV failed. This was a very dangerous mission,
sea conditions were not good. With the help of our support ship Son Worshipper the ROV was freed. Returned to Boston Aug 17th. Repairs made and crew leave. Called ROV Company to report failure. They sent their repair tech but took a few weeks to figure out the problem.
Sept 3rd left Boston to the site. NOAA weather called for 2-4’ seas, upon arrival to site we attached to all 4 mooring buoys. Before morning the weather changed and seas built 8-14’ and it became unsafe for operations. It took several hours to disconnect from the mooring cables because of the rough seas. Very dangerous maneuvers.
Sept 5th returned to Boston. Sept 19th return to site. Had to reposition mooring anchors to better position Sea Hunter over the wreck. The PLC board that runs the hydraulic systems failed. Had to abort trip to replace PLC board on Sept 21st. Sept 26th return to wreck site. When we arrived all but one of our mooring buoys were missing. We believe fisherman in the area shot at the buoys thus sinking them. New equipment will have to be bought to replace the missing equipment. 3 sets of these will cost $30,000 – $50,000. A severe loss. Sept 27th arrive in Boston. Season Ends.
2010 – July 15th headed to site. Heavy fog encountered. Several ROV missions, ROV still a major problem. Alarms sounding.
July 30th Lost anchor and had to head back to Boston to get another. Aug 2nd. Got anchor and rigged chain and cable.
Aug 10th Headed to site. Broke mooring cable and lost anchor. Deployed another anchor and made several trips to ocean floor with grapple. No good results. Needed fuel. Went to Portland to purchase fuel.
Aug 21st Headed to site. Oil leak in main engine, had to shut down for repairs. More grappling done as well as ROV missions. More bad weather. We knew that we could not do a recovery with our ROV so tried to find something outside the wreck. Crew coming together as a team. Tried to find some contractors that had a larger work class ROV, so far no luck. They want one million dollars to work with us….crazy.
Sept 11th Headed to sight to try to recover 5 lost anchors. These anchors are between 10,000 and
12,000lb anchors and would really help us in mooring the ship over the wreck site. Dragged custom grapple hook throughout day to grapple anchor cables, no luck. LaChance was on duty and dragged grapple hook into the wreck. Cable and grapple lost. New grapple hook built. Hydraulic hose burst and no spare.
Oct 11th Headed to site. ROV missions, more grappling. Still seeking outside contractors to help with better equipment. New cable purchased for A-Frame winch and mooring winches. Season ends.
2011 – April 7th headed to site for ROV Ops. Current very strong and ROV is having a hard time moving around on the bottom. A submarine was purchased to better view the bottom close to the PN, with a seven function manipulator attached. When we purchased the sub, it was used and in hundreds of pieces. Our crew rebuilt the sub but could not ready sufficiently for operations. There were no plans on how to put it together so it took most of the season to figure
it out. The sub was not safe enough to send crew to the bottom. Most of this season was spent on this.
June 3rd Headed to site. Lost another anchor, headed to Boston to pick up another anchor we bought from Pirate Joe. Went back to site, bad weather prevented any more operations.
July 1st Headed to site. Rov op’s begin. ROV tether cut. Repairs will take 24 hrs. PN ships compass located by ROV and brought to surface, Flood tide caused heavy currents. Searched around wreck for any artifacts or boxes.
July 26th Headed to site. Rov ops started, thruster problems on ROV. Strong currents. Bad weather stopped operations.
Aug 16th Headed to site. Thick Fog. 6-8’ swells, too rough to launch ROV .
Oct 10th headed to deep site. Dropped anchors. The forward windless motor burned out. This is a major setback. Rov ops. Had to cut anchor chain and attach to buoy. Tried to grapple anchor. Starboard generator blew a piston. Hydraulics down.
Oct 22nd headed to site to try to retrieve lost bow anchor. Major electrical problems aboard. Power keeps shutting down. Cannot run any equipment, mission scrubbed, headed back to Boston. Season ends.
2012- This season had a great start. We purchased a Track-4 system for the ROV to track where the ROV was on bottom, and had the ROV completely rebuilt and new thrusters installed. We thought this would be the “fix” for our ROV but it turned out that it still had problems. With lack of funding once again, a hedge fund group said they would fund operations if we brought in another company, they chose Deep Down Inc. 33 hours in water with ROV but no experience with the Saw system which Deep Down had brought to cut through steel plate and create access. Nothing accomplished. This took a lot of time to plan it out, get their gear up here from Texas etc. The short story is their gear and planning could not do the job. Several months were wasted here.
2013- One trip was planned with extra rented ROV’s to enter the cargo holds. Money was gone, had enough to do this mission. Got to the site and had a fire, lost gen power, fuel pressure etc. Then bad weather moved in and the mission was shortened and then scrubbed. Video Ray into the cargo hold and got some video before the mission was scrubbed. Video Ray did not have DVD recording so only topside recording from screen remains as the record. From this point on we were just in survival mode. Crew laid off etc.
Sample Weekly report- By Alexander Bezkorovainy
Describe work performed and approximate hours worked per day
Every day: clean up trash, debris, materials, zip ties, etc from ship
After the cascade tank system on the stbd side of the Son Worshiper was dismantled, helped haul 6 140 cu ft? Air tanks from the son worshiper across the Sea Hunter to the dock. Moved the cascade system aluminum structure to the port side cargo hold and aluminum storage bin
helped move the stainless table on the Son Worshiper into its new position, emptied all of the contents, cleaned and sorted contents, cleaned interior and exterior, used CLR to remove all of the rust marks left on the carpet from the old position, and used some of the few remaining pieces of carpet to and glued the patches to the voids left from the removal of the scuba tank cascade system
Helped relocate the life raft back to the Son Worshiper.
Helped manually open the port cargo hatch. Helped haul gear out of the tool room onto the deck. Discarded waste and broken pieces. Sorted into submarine parts, syntactic, electrical, etc and helped lower sorted tubs into the cargo hold.
Found the vector M5 satellite controller on the ROV filled with water, shook it out and hung it to drain out as much remaining water as possible.
Helped stow the ROV umbilical onto the reel. Helped carry the A frame out of the tent so it could be flipped over and move it back into the tent
Slow day and crew departure started at 2
Morning meeting indicated everyone was painting.
Helped a bit on the bridge roof, clipped zip tie ends on rails, cables antennae, also same in both bridges and deck. Replaced broken hose claps that secured antennas.
Took video for K capturing video error on video ray and forwarded to K and Paul Igo
Constant cleanup of trash and debris from the deck and dock. Collected metals throughout the deck, pad eyes, brackets, fasteners, and random metals, sorted all the metal and sorted into steel and aluminum into tubs
Helped D shore up the tent and cover holes/ doors with plywood to minimize wind for welding on far side helped get the pressure washer running, to wash out the tool room, when the hose was punctured, helped
locate another hose for use, broke down the hose and salvaged remaining parts, disposed of others
Closed hatches once rain started
Hauled man basket to side of deck
Set remaining lines back onto the safety rail
Helped unload the shipment of delivered paint
Helped M move 2 of the medium sized tanks to the Son Worshiper
Helped to try to secure tent, one side had blown open. Helped D secure base of tent frame to cement. Checked out the rotted pipe on the bridge roof which M later cut off and plugged
Base of tent frame to cement.
Checked out the rotted pipe on the bridge roof which M later cut off and plugged
Helped with tether management. C reported a problem in the con-ex box, found the sliding door on the air filling station was jammed, broke up and pulled out particle board that had slid in from of the door, worked the door adn after getting it to move a bit, found a metal wedge jammed in the back behind the counter weight, ultimately able to remove the obstructions.
Worked on upper deck of bridge and above: hammering, chipping and scraping rust deposits from the radar masts, ladders, rails, and deck, swept while others vacuumed the debris. Scraped search lights, horns, pedestals. Mixed primer and primed areas that were recently cleared.
Noticed that the highest Radar head was fractured and informed G. At 2:45 found out that the day had been called. Helped Z & N clear the bridge roof of supplies, Moved tools back to storage.
Searched for and found a couple of usable tank caps for transport. Helped N carry the acetylene and oxygen tanks from the deck to the dock so they could be refilled and once they were, helped carry them back to the dock and secured them in the welding cart, secured the backup set of tanks against the con- ex and secured them with the ratchet strap
Put lifting straps back into paint locker
Piloted the video ray around the shafts and props and managed the tether while others did the same
Straightened materials on the deck, wrapped and stored lines
Collected the shackles and relocated them to the storage near the crane pedestal
After lunch, not much action or activity,, lubricated and worked a set of vice grips back into working order, put tools away, gear back into lockers, picked up trash and straighten materials on deck and dock. Helped D shore up the tent and cover holes/ doors with plywood to minimize wind for welding on near side. Put away all of the paint supplies that were left out to dry. Sorted the rest of the parts/materials that were
pulled from the tool room and left on the deck. By 2:30 all crew had departed besides weekend shift, locked ROV trailer and cleaned up0.
Con-ex and secured them with the ratchet strap.