These compact underwater rovers are giving explorers a first-hand look at some of history’s most renowned shipwrecks.
December 7th, 1941 is a day that will live in infamy. On that Sunday morning, Japanese bombers killed 2,000 American soldiers and sailors and destroyed 20 U.S. naval vessels. Among them was the USS Arizona, which was hit by four separate bombs and sunk after an explosion broke the ship in two. 945 men lost their lives.
Today, explorers are revisiting the USS Arizona using these agile machine divers and rediscovering areas of the ship that have been underwater for 75 years. Using just two thrusters and a rotating outer body, the rovers are able to navigate in all directions. A clear compartment in the middle allows operators to get a 360-degree view of the ocean floor from the onboard camera.
Sam McDonald is President of Deep Trekker, the company that makes the rovers. She went along for the expedition after finding out that one of her customers was using the rovers to make a documentary on the USS Arizona.
“We went into an area where they saw oil leaking out of the boat. The oil tanks were still full in the USS Arizona…they knew where it was coming from, but they didn’t know the extent of the oil that was leaking out of the ship. So we deployed the ROV in there and were able to look up onto the ceiling of some of the decks and see the oil that had accumulated on the top there.”
A special treat for the team was the presence of one of the 6 remaining survivors of the USS Arizona, who for the first time had a chance to explore the the Admiral’s quarters.
“He was talking about how this was the first time he had seen that portion of the ship. He was never allowed into that portion. That’s the officer’s country he called it.”
This isn’t Deep Trekker’s first ship exploration. Last summer, a team in Canada used the rovers to investigate the remains of the HMS Erebus. It’s one of the ships from the infamous Franklin Expedition, which set out in 1845 from England in search of a Northwest Passage across Canada’s arctic.
Two years later, explorers also located the HMS Terror, the second ship in the Franklin Expedition. Sam says, they’ll be exploring the ship this summer.