(Ocracoke, North Carolina - August 19, 2016) Project Baseline, a global conservation nonprofit, and its corporate sponsor GlobalSubDive are supplying a research vessel and two manned submersibles to visit the remains of two World War II ships that were involved in a convoy battle off the coast of North Carolina during the Battle of the Atlantic campaign. The ships, Bluefields and U-576, lie more than 30 miles off the coast of North Carolina outside Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.
GlobalSubDive (GSD) is a US company with the primary mission of supporting and promoting the diving organization Global Underwater Explorers (GUE) and its Project Baseline initiative by deploying exploration assets to conduct research projects around the globe. Assets include the 146’ research vessel and customizable mobile diving platform Baseline Explorer, human-occupied submersibles that are rated to 1,000ft, and technical dive teams.
“We are excited to partner on this expedition and to have the opportunity to provide the platform that will enable researchers to have the first look at these two World War II vessels,” said Todd Kincaid, director and operations coordinator for Project Baseline.
This week, NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, working with several public and private partners, will use the manned submersibles and dive teams to inspect the shipwrecks and collect data that will be used to visualize and recreate an underwater battlefield that has remained undisturbed for 74 years.
“This will be the first time any person has laid eyes on this wreck since they were sunk in 1942,” said William Hoffman, maritime archaeologist with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “We have an opportunity to make some exciting discoveries and learn more about the Battle of the Atlantic on the East Coast.”
The 2016 Battle of the Atlantic Expedition is scheduled to take place from August 22 to September 6, and builds on previous work by NOAA and its partners to document nationally significant shipwrecks in the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” off North Carolina’s Outer Banks. NOAA is currently considering an expansion of Monitor National Marine Sanctuary’s boundaries to protect the Bluefields and U-576 as well as other historic shipwrecks off the North Carolina coast.
The technical dive teams aboard Baseline Explorer are made up of volunteers from GUE’s 64-country network. Each diver is trained in globally standardized skill and safety protocols to ensure the unique exploration requirements of Bluefields, U-576, and nearby shipwrecks are met. The divers provide increased exploration options including customizable image, video, and sample collection and strong potential for wreck penetration. Where appropriate, the divers will team with submersibles to explore and document shipwrecks to depths of up to 425’, often staying underwater for up to 7 hours at a time.
Project Baseline supports more than 70 volunteer-run projects across 27 countries and invites divers and water lovers alike to join in the systematic documentation of marine and freshwater environments. To date, Baseline Explorer has conducted hundreds of successful mission-oriented submersible and scuba dives throughout the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, enabling collaborative entities access to underwater environments that are often out of reach while promoting Project Baseline’s overall mission. The documentation of U-576 and Bluefields is a pilot mission created in part to assess the utility and effectiveness of this collaboration for future missions in the United States’ 13 National Marine Sanctuaries and two Marine National Monuments.