Maritime museum tests new shipwreck viewing technology

FERRISBURGH — Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s Maritime Research Institute is exploring an exciting new way to study historic shipwrecks and to share them with the public. Vermont Public Television on Sunday, Feb. 3, aired an on-water tour and interview with LCMM Executive Co-Director Adam Kane on the show “Out and About.”
The Maritime Museum’s archaeological dive team visited a Lake Champlain shipwreck to test new mechanical scanning sonar technology supplied by Teledyne BlueView of Seattle, Wash. The operation took place during the summer of 2012, thanks to a grant from the National Center for Preservation Training and Technology of the National Park Service, and the VPT crew followed up with a visit to the Museum’s Maritime Research Institute in January.
The Teledyne BlueView BV 5000-2250 is a tripod-mounted device that takes millions of individual sonar readings and displays the results as a three-dimensional (3D) point cloud. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum used this technology to make a detailed examination of the Sloop Island Canal Boat which sank off Charlotte during the first quarter of the 20th century. 
Using equipment supplied by Teledyne BlueView, LCMM archaeologists deployed the BlueView to more than 40 locations around, on and within the wreck site. At each of these positions the sonar was able to capture accurate 3D images of the shipwreck, which were then assembled into a detailed 3D model of the entire wreck. This composite image, consisting of 35 million data points, allows the remains of the Sloop Island Canal Boat to be examined in a completely innovative way.
Detailed archaeological drawings of the shipwreck site were originally created by LCMM archaeologists after more than 300 dives in 2002 and 2003, employing traditional manual documentation techniques. In contrast, data gathering with the new technology in 2012 took only three days. This new technology offers the ability to efficiently record submerged cultural resources in great detail in only a fraction of the time it would take for archaeologists to document them using traditional recording techniques of measuring and drawing.
Maritime Museum archaeologists will continue post-processing the newly captured data and making comparisons with their original findings this winter. The museum plans to exhibit images captured by this technology in their Nautical Archaeology Center during the 2013 season. The museum will also produce a manual outlining best practices for the use of this technology by other archaeologists in the spring of 2013.

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