The shipwrecks presented on this site lie beyond the capabilities of SCUBA. To work safely in Poseidon’s realm, the pioneering use of robotic technology is employed on wrecks.
Sites are discovered by towing side-scan sonar and magnetometer devices over large distances looking for anomalies in the seabed which can then be inspected further. Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) outfitted with video cameras allow archaeologists on the surface ship to inspect the wreck without getting wet.
Before touching a wreck, its profile is recorded by telepresence. Multibeam sonar reconstruct a ship’s 3D contours. Thousands of photos are taken and digitally stitched together to provide a zoomable bird’s-eye view of a site. Sediments might be cored to assess a wreck’s buried survival or on the Victory warship (1744) sub-bottom imaging mapped the buried wreckage in 3D.
Surveying, recording and recoveries are all built around unmanned ROV’s (Remotely Operated Vehicles), the eyes and hands of archaeologists in the deep. These sophisticated robots are driven by hydraulic thrusters and can travel thousands of feet deep.
Deep-ocean pioneers Odyssey Marine Exploration built a proprietary archaeology ROV named ZEUS. This ROV is equipped with advanced acoustic positioning gear and telemetry, as well as a suite of HMI lights to illuminate pitch-black wreck sites and to enable high-definition still and video cameras to transmit images live from the seabed. ZEUS is remotely piloted by two technicians manipulating joysticks from the recovery ship on the surface above the wreck site. One pilot "flies" ZEUS while the other operates the manipulator arms. These pilots receive instructions from the archaeologist who oversees the entire operation and directs the excavation methodology, including ZEUS’ movements on the seabed. Both archaeologist and pilot watch the same live high-definition video feed on TV monitors aboard the recovery ship.The two manipulator arms on ZEUS are capable of lifting objects comparable to the weight of an average man. Small and delicate artifacts are picked up individually with a silicone or rubber limpet suction device attached to the ROV’s port manipulator arm.
Integrated into ZEUS is Odyssey's proprietary Sediment Removal and Filtration System or SeRF™ for short. This venturi system channels sediments and small artifacts into a collection and filtration chamber to capture very small artifacts, such as buttons, fragments, or seeds, while sediments exhaust through an opening at the rear of the container. The SeRF™ unit may also be configured to retain sediments for sieving. The system has been employed to clear and excavate sections of wreck sites that the archaeologist wishes to examine for the presence of artifacts and ship structures. The venturi system can also be reversed to “dust off,” and gently clean the surface of the site to expose artifacts and structural elements without disturbing the main matrix.
Just like a physical grid on land, on the archaeological projects presented on this site, the team invented a digital grid to accurately log and map the position of every object from a tiny button to a large cannon. After artifacts are recovered, the story of a wreck is forensically reconstructed based on their original locations and contexts.