Students from Penn State got a chance to apply real-world diving skills to a replica shipwreck on April 21 and 22 at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island. The students, all part of Penn State’s Scientific Diving course, utilized the 1/3 scale replica of the USS Monitor shipwreck in the aquarium’s Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibit to practice survey and measurement techniques, skills that are crucial in mapping real-life underwater archaeological sites.
Over the course of two days, the students dove in the 285,000 gallon tank surrounded by the tank’s regular inhabitants like sheepshead, black drum, tarpon, sandbar sharks and sand tiger sharks. Exercises included trilateration, or the use of three known points to chart the location of a fourth, and taking images that would become part of a photomosaic. Both skills allow computers to recreate high-detail images of underwater structures.
“We need that ability, to come here and do the work, then come up and talk about what we did right and wrong,” said student Cassandra Peters. “I’m super excited to be here, and I know everyone else is too.” The students all hailed from a variety of academic programs.
The team also treated aquarium guests to a presentation about the history and importance of Marine Sanctuaries. The USS Monitor Marine Sanctuary, located off the coast of Cape Hatteras and site of the civil-war era shipwreck, was designated the first such sanctuary in 1975.