The primary focus of this mission is to completely characterize the remains of a WWII Naval Battlefield. For years, NOAA’s Monitor National Marine Sanctuary has been conducting a series of comprehensive surveys of WWII shipwrecks off North Carolina associated with the Battle of the Atlantic.
The sloping seafloor and mixing Gulf Stream currents likewise leave little trace of shipwrecks for the observer. An alternative means, beyond the naked eye, is necessary to capture complex variables on the seafloor into useful visual tool—a visualization—which battlefield researchers can then use as a starting point for assessing the actions that took place.
Seafaring and warfare are two of humankind’s oldest activities. Just as past cultures traversed great distances over water for commerce, trade, and exploration, so too did they use maritime transport for the purposes of warfare and conquest.
The Battle of the Atlantic began mere hours after Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, and would last until Germany’s surrender in May 1945. This extensive naval engagement between Allied, Axis, and neutral forces constituted the longest single operation of WWII and was the longest, largest, and most complex naval battle in history.
On July 14, 1942, the convoy KS-520, with 19 merchant ships and five escorts, set sail from Lynnhaven Roads, Virginia. The convoy code ‘KS’ that identified the group indicated that they were moving south along the eastern seaboard with Key West, Florida, as their final destination after a seven-day sail through U-boat infested waters.
The R/V Baseline Explorer is 45 meters long and travels at a maximum speed of 11 knots, or 12.5 miles per hour. She operates primarily in the Atlantic Ocean and its bordering seas. The ship’s crew transports, deploys, and recovers submersible and scuba dive teams in nearshore and remote marine environments.
This project will benefit greatly from the diverse collection of expertise and the collaborative nature of the expedition. Each participating institution and individual brings together a unique skill or asset that combine to put this expedition on the cutting edge of technology and capability while remaining economical through cost and asset sharing.