Forgive me if this story has been posted somewhere else on this board. I found it very interesting that science and technology has come so far in such
a short time.
This is from the Ny Times Science section.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Nov. 12 - When the 250-foot Odyssey Explorer docked here this week to unload a trove of gold coins and valuable artifacts from the
wreck of the Republic, a 19th-century steamer, the Explorer's deck was a blur of activity, bristling with the modern technology now necessary for the
recovery of sunken treasure.
A seven-ton submersible robot held pride of place. Its flexible arm was equipped with tiny suction cups made of soft flexible plastic for carefully
picking up rare coins that can fetch up to half a million dollars each. The robot is one example of the sophistication and technological precision of
this salvage effort, which leaders say surpasses any previous shipwreck salvage.
Among the treasures brought to land this trip were coins, ceramic pots, 600 glass bottles and some samples of technology from another time - a
telescope and the ship's barometer, which probably fell rapidly as the storm grew in strength.
The recovery has not always been smooth. When the robot gingerly picked up its first gold coin, it fumbled, dropping it back onto the seabed instead
of into the impromptu holding tank, an old chamber pot.
One year and more than 52,000 coins later, the team has set new records in deep recovery. From the disintegrating hulk of the sidewheel steamer that
sank in 1865 about 100 miles off Georgia while battling a hurricane, the robot has plucked gold and silver coins valued at more than $75 million. And
it is pursuing billions more in lost treasure.
"We've gotten really good at picking up coins," said Greg Stemm, director of operations for Odyssey Marine Exploration Inc. of Tampa, Fla.
On Wednesday, PBS will broadcast a National Geographic Special called "Civil War Gold'' on the recovery that shows exactly how good Mr. Stemm's
The Republic lies a third of a mile down in the strong currents of the Gulf Stream. The main wreckage lies scattered over an area nearly the size of a
football field, making its discovery and recovery a challenge.
Finding it took special sonar. Photographing it for archaeological surveys and artifact collection took powerful lights and cameras. Mapping the
position of each artifact took precision gear linked to a network of sonic beacons set up around the wreck. And lifting 52,000 coins and 12,000
artifacts - the haul so far - took the precise control of a tethered robot nearly the size of a tank, its arms dexterous enough to thread a needle.
"It's all about computers and digital technology," Mr. Stemm said. "It adds a whole lot of archaeological capability to the operation."
"We're doing it to an extreme that nobody else has taken it to," said Tom Dettweiler, the project's manager and a deep-sea veteran who helped
discover the Titanic's resting place.
Clad in dark blue overalls, James Andrade, a supervisor of robot operations with a weight lifter's build, showed off a high-tech control room crammed
with panels and video monitors. At sea, the recovery work can go around the clock, day and night, tedious despite the high stakes.
"Most important," he said, "we have satellite radio and an espresso machine."
The Republic sailed from New York on Oct. 18, 1865, bound for New Orleans with families, businessmen and a diverse cargo of trade goods meant to help
the shattered South recover from the Civil War, its passengers brimming with optimism and a sense of opportunity.
The storm hit off Georgia. For two days, the steamship fought wind and wave. Then the engine failed. The crew and passengers threw cargo overboard to
lighten the ship. But the pumps failed and seawater poured in.
Most people made it into lifeboats and a raft. Of 59 passengers and crew, 42 survived. But the cargo of money - $400,000 in coins, as described in
newspapers of the day, including The New York Times - went down with the ship.
Mr. Stemm and his partner, John C. Morris, began looking for the Republic in the early 1990's. Nothing came of the periodic hunt until July 2003,
when, some 100 miles southeast of Savannah, they picked up a tantalizing image on sonar screen. Within a month, the team had positively identified the
decomposing wreck by retrieving the ship's bell.
Experts estimated the current value of its lost coins at up to $150 million. Odyssey, a public company, hopes to make a profit mainly by selling coins
and setting up shipwreck museums and exhibits.
Late last year, team members flew the tethered robot about 15 feet above the wreckage, taking more than 4,600 digital still photographs and turning
them into a detailed photo mosaic.
"We can zoom in on domino stones and see the dots," Gerhard Seiffert, the team's data manager, said as he demonstrated the technique at a computer,
zooming in on an old domino made of wood and ivory.
I really enjoyed Titanic , and this is a simular story without so many deaths.