Follow dives on Stellwagen wrecks


Follow dives on Stellwagen wrecks

Portland Peabody Essex Museum

The Portland. (Picture: Peabody Essex Museum)

Livestreaming provides a rare opportunity for any scuba diver to participate in deep wreck-exploration in real time. This week brings the chance to follow the underwater action as ROVs dive on and around the tragic passenger steamer Portland and a “mystery schooner” off the USA’s east coast.

The two wrecks lie on the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Boston. The underwater plateau brings cold, nutrient-rich water together with warm surface water to create a biological hotspot.

Regarded as one of the best places in the world to see whales, it has also been the cause of many shipwrecks. Prominent among these was the 86m Portland, an ocean-going side-wheel paddle-steamer.

Running between Boston and Portland, she sank in a storm in 1898 with the loss of almost 200 people aboard, and now rests at a depth of 140m. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed the identity of the wreck in 2002, and five technical divers succeeded in carrying out three dives on the artefact-strewn site in 2008.

Leading the 2020 mission to explore both the undersea life and maritime heritage of the sanctuary is the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), working with NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, the University of Rhode Island’s Inner Space Centre (which is providing the live feed) and Marine Imaging Technologies.

Building on a similar project carried out last summer, the expedition is set to feature live, high-resolution video with commentaries by scientists.

23 August 2020

Maritime archaeologists want to document changes that have occurred since the Portland’s discovery and to learn more about why the vessel sank, while also hoping to obtain clues to the identity of the other wreck, a coal-carrying schooner.

Marine biologists will be documenting and comparing the diversity and abundance of species living on the wrecks with those in the surrounding area.

The 45-minute broadcasts from the Portland start on Tuesday, 25 August at 7.30 and 11.30pm BST.

The following days cover exploration of the mystery wreck, at the same times on Wednesday and 7.30pm only on Thursday.

There are also live classroom broadcasts at 4.30pm on each day.

Find out how to join in here.


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