U-166

C-Surveyor™ I Rewrites History

The German submarine U-166 sank the passenger freighter Robert E. Lee on July 30, 1942 in the Gulf of Mexico. The freighter’s naval escort, PC-566 spotted the U-boat’s periscope on the surface after the torpedo attack, and rushed to the location sinking the U-166 with depth charges. It would not be confirmed the patrol craft had been successful that day in sinking the U-166 until 59 years later when the U-166 was identified by C & C Technologies, Inc. during an oil and gas pipeline survey.

Between 2001 and 2014 C & C participated in 12 investigations or surveys of the U-166 and 10 of the Robert E. Lee using either an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) or a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV).

The initial AUV survey in 2001 led to the discovery of the U-166 and the first high resolution survey of the Robert E. Lee. The 2001 surveys were conducted under a contract with the oil companies British Petroleum and Shell using C & C’s C-Surveyor I AUV. The sites were ground truthed using an Oceaneering Millennium ROV as part of the oil company investigation and the identity of both sites were confirmed. All of the data collected during the 2001 survey work were donated by the oil companies to the National Military Museum in New Orleans (National D-Day Museum at the time) (Figures 1-5 and 9).

In 2003, C & C conducted a deepwater archaeological mapping project of the U-166 under a NOAA OER grant to C & C’s marine archaeologist Daniel Warren who served as the Chief Scientist for the study (http://128.146.17.149/previous-programs/U166/index.htm). This was the first time that a professional survey Long Base Line (LBL) array was used to map a deepwater wreck site. NOAA’s flagship Ronald H. Brown spent more than a week at the U-166 and Robert E. Lee wreck sites using a Sonsub Innovator ROV. C & C conducted additional AUV surveys with C-Surveyor I in conjunction with the mapping project. The project was also filmed for the History Channel’s Deep Sea Detective series in the show U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico (Figures 6 -8, 10 and 11).

In 2004, C & C led an Archaeological and Biological Analysis of World War II Shipwrecks in the Gulf of Mexico referred to as "The Deepwrecks Project.” The project was sponsored by the Mineral Management Service (MMS), NOAA OER, and the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP). C & C Marine archaeologists Robert Church served as the Chief Scientist for the study. During the 14 day project, two investigations were conducted at the Robert E. Lee and one at the U-166. Public Outreach for the project was conducted by the PAST Foundation. (http://128.146.17.149/previous-programs/U166/index.htm) (Figures 12 and 13).

In 2009, C & C upgraded the side scan sonar on their C-Surveyor III AUV from a standard 120 kHz sonar to 230 kHz dynamically focused system and added a digital still camera. Having excellent previous data at the U-166 site, the area was used to test the new equipment. The AUV camera collected hundreds of geo-referenced images, which were merged into the first photomosaic showing the entire stern and conning tower sections of the U-166. The bow sections were also mosaicked improving on the previous mosaic produced from the 2004 ROV data. The AUV’s consistent altitude, spread, and heading makes producing a mosaic from the photographs quicker and generally more accurate than those previously produced from ROV photos (Figures 14-20).

In 2010, one visit was made to U-166 using the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute’s ROV Jason-II during the Lophelia II: Reefs, Rigs, and Wrecks Project. The project was sponsored the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), NOAA OER, and NOPP. TDI Brooks, Inc. was the primary contractor and C & C was contracted to conduct the archaeological component of the study (Figures 21 and 22). (http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/10lophelia/welcome.html).

In 2013, C & C upgraded the multibeam on their C-Surveyor VI AUV from an EM2000 to an EM2040 and added a 3D scanning laser, magnetometer, and other sensors. The new multibeam and high resolution laser were tested over the Robert E. Lee and U-166. The EM2040 produced spectacular 10cm resolution soundings of the Robert E. Lee and 3D laser produced incredible images of the U-166 at up to 5mm resolution. These images will be used in conjunction with a current BOEM/BSEE deepwrecks study called the "Gulf of Mexico SCHEMA: Shipwreck Corrosion, Hydrocarbon Exposure, Microbiology, and Archaeology Project.” (http://www.boem.gov/GOM-SCHEMA/) This three year study is being conducted by BOEM/BESS in conjunction with the Naval Research Lab and George Mason University (http://mbac.gmu.edu/mbac_wp/gulf_wrecks). C & C was contracted by the BOEM to conduct the archaeological component of the study (Figures 23-26).

C & C’s 2014 participation involves two ROV investigations (in March and July) of up to nine deep wreck sites in the Gulf of Mexico including the U-166 and Robert E. Lee as part of the current Gulf of Mexico SCHEMA Project. Images for this study will be forthcoming.

Multibeam Data of Robert E. Lee and U-166
Figure 2. EM2000 Multibeam Bathymetry Data of Robert E. Lee and U-166 Survey Area by C-Surveyor I in 2001 (Courtesy of BP, Shell, and the National WWII Museum).

Side Scan Sonar Data of U-166
Figure 3. 120 kHz Side Scan Sonar Data of U-166 Site from C-Surveyor I in 2001 (Courtesy of BP, Shell, and the National WWII Museum).

410 kHz Side Scan Sonar Data of U-166

Figure 4. 410 kHz Side Scan Sonar Data of U-166 Stern Section from C-Surveyor i in 2001 (Courtesy of BP, Shell, and the National WWII Museum).


120 kHz Side Scan Sonar Data of Robert E. Lee
Figure 5. Robert E. Lee from C-Surveyor I in 2001 (Courtesy of BP, Shell, and the National WWII Museum).

Side Scan Sonar or Robert E. Lee
Figure 6. 410 kHz Side Scan Sonar Data of Robert E. Lee from C-Surveyor I collected in conjunction with the 2003 U-166 mapping project.

Multibeam Bathymetry of U-166
Figure 7. EM2000 Multibeam Bathymetry data (0.5 m bin) of U-166 Survey Area collected by AUV C-Surveyor I in conjunction with the 2003 U-166 mapping project.

Multibeam Data of the Robert E. Lee
Figure 8. EM2000 Multibeam Bathymetry data (3 m bin) Robert E. Lee Survey Area, collected by AUV C-Surveyor I in conjunction with the 2003 U-166 mapping project.

2001 Photo of the engine order telephone from Robert E. Lee

Figure 9. 2001 Photo of the engine order telegraph from Robert E. Lee collected with an Oceaneering Millennium ROV (Courtesy of BP, Shell, and the National WWII Museum).


2003 Photo of the engine order telegraph from the Robert E. Lee
Figure 10. 2003 Photo of the engine order telegraph from Robert E. Lee collected with a Sonsub Innovator ROV.

2003 Photo of 37mm antiaircraft deck gun on the U-166

Figure 11. 2003 Photo of 37mm antiaircraft deck gun on the U-166 collected with a Sonsub Innovator ROV.


Video Screen Capture of the Robert E. Lee Signal Light
Figure 12. 2004 Video Screen Capture of the Robert E. Lee Stern Signal Light collected with a Sonsub Triton XL ROV. Sea Anemones, Hydrozoans, and Munidopsis are thriving at the site (Courtesy of the DeepWrecks Project, BOEM, NOAA OER, and NOPP).

2004 Video Screen Capture of the U-166 Conning Tower
Figure 13. 2004 Video Screen Capture of the U-166 Conning Tower collected with a Sonsub Triton XL ROV (Courtesy of the DeepWrecks Project, BOEM, NOAA OER, and NOPP).

Dynamically Focused Side Scan Sonar Data of U-166

Figure 14. 230 kHz Dynamically Focused Side Scan Sonar data of U-166 site collected with C-Surveyor III during 2009 sonar testing.


Side Scan Sonar data of U-166 Stern Section

Figure 15. Side Scan Sonar 410 kHz data of U-166 Stern Section collected with C-Surveyor III during 2009 sonar testing.


Dynamically Focused Side Scan Sonar data or Robert E. Lee

Figure 16. 230 kHz Dynamically Focused Side Scan Sonar data of Robert E. Lee collected with C-Surveyor III during 2009 sonar testing.


Photo Mosaic of U-166 Stern Section

Figure 17. Photo Mosaic of U-166 Stern Section collected with C-Surveyor III during 2009 camera testing.


Photo Mosaic of U-166 Conning Tower

Figure 18. Photo Mosaic of U-166 Conning Tower (close-up) collected with C-Surveyor III during 2009 camera testing.


Photo Mosaic of U-166's Bow Section
Figure 19. Photo Mosaic of U-166’s Bow Section collected with C-Surveyor III during 2009 camera testing.

Subbottom Data of U-166

Figure 20. Subbottom Data of U-166 (Longitudinal Profile) collected with C-Surveyor III during 2009 sonar testing.


2010 Video Screen Capture of the U-166 Antiaircraft Deck Gun

Figure 21. 2010 Video Screen Capture of the U-166’s 37mm Antiaircraft Deck Gun collected with WHOI’s Jason-II ROV (Courtesy of the Lophelia II Project, BOEM, NOAA OER, and NOPP).


2010 Video Screen Capture of the U-166 Conning Tower
Figure 22. U-166 Conning Tower collected with WHOI’s Jason-II ROV (Courtesy of the Lophelia II Project, BOEM, NOAA OER, and NOPP).

Multibeam Bathymetry of Robert E. Lee

Figure 23. EM2040 Multibeam Bathymetry (10 cm resolution point cloud) of Robert E. Lee collected with C-Surveyor VI in 2013 during multibeam and 3D Laser testing.


Multibeam Bathymetry Profile View of Robert E. Lee

Figure 24. EM2040 Multibeam Bathymetry Profile View (10 cm resolution point cloud) of Robert E. Lee collected with C-Surveyor VI in 2013 during multibeam and 3D Laser testing.


Multibeam Bathymetry 3D Perspective of Robert E. Lee

Figure 25. EM2040 Multibeam Bathymetry 3D Perspective (10 cm resolution point cloud) of Robert E. Lee, collected with C-Surveyor VI in 2013 during multibeam and 3D Laser testing.


3D Laser Bathymetry Data Plane View

Figure 26. 3D Laser Bathymetry Data Plane View (5 mm resolution point cloud) of U-166 collected with C-Sruveyor VI in 2013 during multibeam and 3D Laser testing.


3D Laser Bathymetry Data Perspective of U-166

Figure 27. 3D Laser Bathymetry Data Perspective (5 mm resolution point cloud) of U-166 collected with C-Surveyor VI in 2013 during multibeam and Laser testing.




   

 

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