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 Final Update Summary, 2006 Bonhomme Richard (BHR) Expedition
  Posted: Sep 13 2006, 12:12 AM

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This years search for the remains of the Bonhomme Richard has now finished and I thought I would summarise this years exploits for forum members, I apologise if it is a lengthy report and hope you find it interesting.

All in all the charter vessel “Ocean Dancer” made 10 trips out from Whitby during June, July and August. With Dirk and the rest of the expedition team now back home they have the winter to disseminate the data they have accumulated. During the weeks they were here I made occasional trips over to the boat and was greeted as a close member of the team, I was invited aboard each time but I was mostly making a quick visit just to drop things off. During the numerous stages the team found many chartered wrecks / obstructions as well as some uncharted ones and a number of man dives were carried out to investigate promising locations. Early in the expedition one of the many interesting finds lent itself to a German U – boat. Dirk asked for my opinion on what u – boats were in a specific area and I was more than happy to provide data so that he could identify it.

This year saw the inclusion of another US financed search team, operating out of Scarborough. Unlike Dr. Cussler’s team they were operating on a day to day basis travelling out on the morning and arriving back in port in the evening. It was a seemingly strange way to work as they would be travelling for sometime, the search area being down off Bridlington / Filey. The time spent travelling was time wasted, as it was effectively time that could be spent searching if they worked like Dr. Cussler’s team during the night as well. Perhaps one of the reasons they had chosen to work like this was that they were working the inshore areas as opposed to Dr. Cussler’s expedition working the offshore ground. Depending on how close inshore they were they would ultimately be restricted to keeping a safe amount of water under the charter vessel.

The charter vessel arrived in Whitby on the 12th June leaving Whitby on the 15th June to begin the first leg of the numerous search stages. Throughout the time the searches were hampered by the weather, at times the weather was glorious but it was also extreme. There was one occasion were the weather at sea seemed fine with little or no swell with a warm and sunny day. The skipper announced they were returning to Whitby in what seemed ideal conditions for the search. During the return to Whitby the conditions did indeed deteriorate and by the time the arrived off Whitby the swell had increased considerably. In order to access the upper harbour the vessel has to negotiate a swingbridge that only opens on request on each half hour and the ‘dancer’ is only given permission to enter the port when a ‘swing’ of the bridge is imminent. This meant the dancer had to manoeuvre up and down the coast until the time approached a bridge opening.

One of the team described his experiences to me saying that whilst waiting for permission to enter the port they “had their backsides kicked steaming up and down the coast” he did however have an amusing little anecdote. It would seem that whilst waiting to get in the crew not on the bridge were down in the saloon watching the world cup on television. Unfortunately the signal to the television was blocked from direct access to the mast when sailing in one direction, this meant that they had to wait until the vessel’s location was such that the picture returned. He said it highly frustrating that whilst there was no signal they were missing part of the match, much to their disgust yikes.gif

If the weather hampered the stages of the searches it would have impacted more on the rival team as conditions inshore would have fared worse. It was so bad on one occasion that even the ‘dancer’ struggled to make any headway. Once back in the safe confines of Whitby harbour the skipper told me that it was the first time that he had experienced one particular wave being high enough to go straight over the bridge!

The intervention of the new team seems to have increased the interest in the expeditions, as there has been a frenzy of e – mails relating to the searches. I have become involved in the e – mails and learnt some interesting information. The new team were intent on a large public relations exercise giving presentations and talks to the public and schools, whilst Dr. Cussler’s team carried on business as usual. The Scarborough team presented themselves as the only team searching for the BHR with new ways of searching and data to help put them in the right area, however such methods are not really new as I can recall my conversations with Dr. Cussler over the last few years and his comments relating to methods that the Scarborough team are now calling ‘new’. I am of course slightly biased but after the time, expense and effort Dr. Cussler has given to finding the remains of the BHR I am just hopeful that it will be his team that find the wreck site!

Going into August the plan was that if conditions were favourable then the expedition would be extended. The long range weather forecast however was poor and the vessel left port on one last stage but the weather was not good enough to warrant staying out and they made a return to port. The 2006 search for the wreck site was therefore terminated on the 9th – 10th August. The charter vessel “Ocean Dancer” left Whitby when conditions settled bound for Hull for dry docking for remedial work to be carried out.

I am aware that expeditions are a costly business but was never really had an inkling just how expensive. One newspaper feature reported that the Scarborough team were asking for donations in an effort to hep extend their expedition. It was quite a surprise to read that the cost of their charter vessel was $6000 per day, even when it was sat in the harbour and that is without all the other expenses they would have, whilst it is feasible they would get some donations I doubt that it would impact that any significant amount would have been raised? They have gone away to go through what data they have and are already talking about a return next year. The team have already commented on the expenses involved and are looking to secure more funding for next year’s expedition. Unlike Dr. Cussler’s expedition they have secured grants and even as they began this years search they had already commented on what costs may be involved in raising the wreckage, that is of course if they find anything and more importantly if it is in such a condition as to make it worthy of being raised?

What costs the other team has incurred are likely to be just a fraction of what Dr. Cussler has put into his own efforts to find the BHR. Before leaving, the skipper of the Ocean Dancer told me that he is pencilled in for next year and will know more when Dr. Cussler has had the opportunity to evaluate the findings from this years search. In his last letter Dr. Cussler indicated that there was a danger that hoped for dive excursions had not materialised and that the skipper of the charter vessel was considering his options. It may just be that next year Dr. Cussler will have a different charter vessel? The sight of the vessel is comforting and I regard the crew members as close friends and would be disappointed if an alternative vessel was charted. I was surprised to see on Dr. Cussler's envelope that he has his own personal stamps, how cool is that, I will have to dig his other letters out to see if I had missed it from the beginning?

That about rounds up this years chapter and I hope you have enjoyed it.


Colin snorkel.gif
Dr. Cusslers Page On My Personal Website.

Note: link above repaired.
Posted: Sep 13 2006, 12:15 AM

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Sorry, I forgot to add a jpeg of the stamp for you to see?

Colin tongue.gif

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Posted: Sep 13 2006, 02:56 AM

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That is so awesome! (The stamp, not the fact that the expedition did not find the BHH). I guess I did know that about the stamps, since I have received a letter as well (more on that some time when I get the chance).

Anyway, too bad about the expedition. Each year I hope it is the one they find the ship. What a shame it would be for some new punk explorers to find it first. Maybe they will give up? Only time will tell.

Here's to next year's search, may it be the one that finds the ship. beersmilie.gif

Thanks for the updates, Colin!
Posted: Sep 13 2006, 04:05 PM

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Thank you for the info!
Posted: Sep 14 2006, 02:15 AM

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As always, thanks for the update Colin! wave.gif
GOSH I want Clive's team to find that dang ship! tongue.gif
Posted: Sep 16 2006, 07:27 AM

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Thanks for the detailed update, Colin! thumbsup.gif

How many people do you know with their own personalized stamps? I now know of one! laugh.gif
Posted: Sep 17 2006, 05:03 AM

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Thank you very much for the info on Dr. C's expedition for the BHR, Colin. Sounds to me that the Scarborough expedition could take a few lessons from him. Let's pray that Dr. C finds it. wave.gif snorkel.gif
Posted: Sep 25 2006, 11:57 AM


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It's to bad Dr. Cussler didn't find theBH-R this year. Like he says. It won't be found until it's ready to be. I hope the have the same ship next year. I just love the name of it. "Ocean Dancer" Great name. Thanks Colin for the update. wave.gif
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