The same charter vessel boat entered the port on the 14th June at 0330 hours although dirk and the team didn't arrive for a couple of days, giving the boats crew time to get some equipment and supplies aboard.
The boat left Whitby on the 17th for the first of the search legs coming back on the 24th. After a short break and re-victualling the 'dancer' left Whitby for the second leg and over the course of six weeks the boat would make six trips out. It is still staggering that despite successive expeditions the remains of the ill fated Bonhomme Richard lie undiscovered. Although this expedition did not seem hampered by poor weather like the previous year.
Clive was taking some well earned rest and recuperation and had visited Ireland, in doing so he was within easy travel of Whitby and he was able to call off for a short visit. I was fortunate to have met him once again and feel quite honoured to call Clive a friend and have a man of his standing as one I have met on numerous occasions. Although the wreck site remained illusive the team as ever gathered yet more detailed information to go over during the winter period. At that time it was not known if they would be returning to mount another expedition.
There is no denying that the aim of these expeditions is very important to Clive, it is without doubt costing a small fortune to mount successive expeditions. As such one can only guess at how long the expeditions might continue. I do of course get many opportunities to mix with the team and feel quite privileged to be able to do so. Dirk is certainly a very approachable man and I find him quite pleasant. I have added the side scan sonar image of a German u-boat here with express permission from Clive. The wreck sits almost upright and looks quite intact, it would undoubtedly make a nice dive.
During the winter months Dirk confirmed the team would be back again this year with the charter vessel Ocean Dancer expected around the 28th June. The charter vessel Ocean Dancer, was once again the chosen vessel and in many ways it would seem strange to see a different vessel. I was as enthusiastic as I usually was and woke each morning to see if there was any sign of 'the dancer'. I received an e-mail from Dirk outlining that they were starting this years expedition working south of Whitby using Grimsby Port as its base. I was pleased to see the green shaped charter vessel in Whitby at the end of July, with a lack of space on the wharf the ship had to stay in the upper harbour and although I could not see it from our home I could see it by checking a number of accessible web cams that cover the harbour.
After its first leg from Whitby the boat arrived back in port on the 6th August staying once again in the upper harbour. I went down to the boat the following morning to see the team, being greeted by the boats skipper John. The boat was only making a stop over and was expected to be leaving later that evening, the forecast was not really good news and we were in the grip of some strong northerly winds. The boat was unfortunately forced back into port the next day, but the team departed as soon as is safe to do so.
Working out of Grimsby the team made eight separate search legs whilst making just a single trip out of Whitby , even so they covering an enormous amount of the seabed.
Ocean Technology Foundation
I was aware that the Ocean Technology was once again conducting its own expedition and surprisingly they were also working down off the Humber. I had been told about the presence of a submersible and marvelled at this new aspect to the search for the Bonhomme Richard, I followed the OT expeditions via its press releases and its own website. Carl Racey a diving colleague gave me the name of a large support vessel the Caroline Chouest and an internet search soon revealed it as more than up to the task.
The OT website gave more detailed information about the vessels connection to the NR 1 a nuclear submarine, which is the the U.S. Navy's only nuclear-powered research submarine, is in the North Sea using powerful sonar and underwater cameras to search for the Bonhomme Richard. The importance of finding the wreck site is underlined by the willingness of the US Navy to lend the 145 foot long sub, manned by a Navy crew, to the expedition, which has spent the last three summers hunting for the remains of the Bonhomme Richard.
The NR 1, is capable of diving thousands of feet yet will be operating at relatively shallow depths of about 175 feet in the North Sea known for its strong currents and extremely poor underwater visibility. The sub is equipped with thick glass view ports and banks of underwater lights allowing its occupants to view potential submerged objects. It is equipped with 16 low light TV cameras, as well as advanced electronics and computers that may aid locating objects.
The team has reportedly identified several wrecks that might be the Bonhomme Richard since its first expedition in 2006. However, the team has been unable to positively identify its target. The Ocean Technology Foundation has reputedly spent more than $100,000 since the expeditions began in 2006, with researchers implying they are close to figuring out where the ship lies by sifting through sonar data and zeroing in on the probable wreck site through process of elimination. The hunt for the Bonhomme Richard may yet be one of the NR 1's last missions as it is expected to be deactivated later this year after nearly 40 years of underwater work for the US Navy. The NR 1's reactor core has enough power to last until 2012, but budget constraints have compelled the Navy to take the sub out of service.
With this years expedition now completed I have just uploaded another page in this small series. I have also increased my pages dedicated to the charter vessel Ocean Dancer with new gallery photographs and news of it being for sale?
© Colin Brittain 1999 - 2016