NOAA Approves Grant to Aid Search for John Paul Jones' Flagship

Thursday, February 09, 2006
From Naval Historical Center Public Affairs The Naval Historical Center’s (NHC) search for Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones' ship Bonhomme Richard received further support in early February, when it was recommended for funding through the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Office of Ocean Exploration's competitive grant process. The NHC and Ocean Technology Foundation (OTF) plan to launch a search for Bonhomme Richard off the coast of England in July. "You cannot find an underwater archaeological site more important to the U.S. Navy than that of John Paul Jones' Bonhomme Richard," said Dr. Robert Neyland, head of the NHC's Underwater Archaeology Branch. "Locating and identifying the remains of this great ship would validate Jones' accomplishments, do great service for U.S. Naval history, and rekindle public enthusiasm for America's naval heritage." "We appreciate NOAA's support on this project," added Capt. John Ringelberg, president of the OTF, "but more importantly, we're pleased that they recognize the value of this expedition to maritime history." The team has already conducted extensive historical and archival research, and is using the latest computer technology to simulate how the ship may have drifted during a 36-hour period after the battle. During the July search, they will conduct surveys of the ocean floor using a magnetometer, which can detect large amounts of metal ballast underwater, and high-tech sonar systems that can identify anomalies on the ocean bottom. "NOAA feels this project involves a technically sound approach to search for the wreck, and it will be led by a professional and competent team of researchers," said Lt. Jeremy Weirich, the Office of Ocean Exploration's Maritime Archeology program manager.

Another important component of the project will involve teachers, students and the public, who can share the search through the Internet. Lesson plans, an online teacher workshop, and an interactive website will help raise awareness in the public and the education community of one of the most fierce and pivotal battles in U.S. Naval history. Other Bonhomme Richard project collaborators include the University of New Hampshire Center for Coastal Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center, the College of Exploration, and the Bridlington Regeneration Partnership in Bridlington, U.K. Since 2002, NOAA's Ocean Exploration Office has supported about two dozen multidisciplinary expeditions of discovery each year, of which, about eight projects focus on marine archaeology. One of the program's objectives is to support maritime archaeology projects which aim to map, identify and discover historically significant sites holding a unique place in American history. The U.S. Naval Historical Center is the official history program of the Department of the Navy. Its Underwater Archaeology Branch advises the Navy in matters related to historic preservation of U.S. Navy ship and aircraft wrecks. The Ocean Technology Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Groton, Conn., on the University of Connecticut's Avery Point campus. Its mission is to foster excellence in ocean exploration, marine research and education. NOAA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events, and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources.

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