Fifteen talented Erie area high school students in the Minority College Experience / Women in Science and Engineering (MCE/WISE) program through Penn State Erie, participated in the Bayfront Center for Maritime Studies' (BCMS) first expedition of the Shipwreck Science Program on June 12, 2009. BCMS is an eleven year old non-profit community based organization in Erie, Pennsylvania that uses hands-on projects including sailing, boatbuilding, navigation and environmental science to teach and reinforce traditional subjects. The students learned not only about some of the shipwrecks in our local waters, but also about navigation, boat handling, history and technology. Using sophisticated engineering equipment including a Side Scan Sonar and an Underwater Remote Operating Vehicle (ROV), the students were introduced to some of the skills and instruments used in today's underwater exploration technologies.
Using the Bayfront Center's Side Scan Sonar, which was towed behind the Canadian Sailor, the students got a first hand look at modern underwater surveying equipment as they locate not only shipwrecks and their associated artifacts, but also geological formations and underwater debris.
The Remote Operating Vehicle was then maneuvered from on deck the research vessel to get a close up look at the shipwreck. The same kind of equipment was famously used to take the first pictures of the wreck of the Titantic, and the technology is used in any multitude of underwater work. In this trip, the ROV was used to explore the Philip P. Armour, which sank off of Erie on November 13, 1915 in a gale which caused 20-25 foot waves in the lake. All ten crew members were saved by the United States Coast Guard. The Armour was a 264 foot vessel that was carrying a load of coal from Ashtabula to Welland, Ontario.
Besides getting a chance to see and use equipment engineered for underwater exploration, the students learned about some of the history surrounding Erie's maritime heritage, navigated to and from the site using GPS and navigational charts, and took turns at the helm of the Canadian Sailor in Lake Erie while going around Presque Isle State Park. Call BCMS at 814-456-4077 to schedule your school or company trip. Some grant money is available to help fund this science and technology excursion for youth groups.