Ocean Exploration Finds Lost Ship

95 years ago, a ship carrying over fifty crew members vanished, seemingly into thin air. The USS Conestoga was acquired by the Navy in the year 1904, meant to be a mine sweeper and fleet tender. It was used for several years to transport military items, such as ammunition, from one place to another. When not in active duty, it towed disabled ships, and eventually became a fleet tug. In the year 1921, the USS Conestoga left California and never arrived at its destination in Hawaii. Extensive searches were deployed to locate this ship and crew, but they all came back futile. 95 years after the USS Conestoga was lost, ocean explorers have found the remains to this ship.

The remains were discovered near the Great Farallones Islands, located over 56 kilometers deep. A branch of the NOAA that helped discover these remains confirmed they belonged to the USS Conestoga at the end of March. Apparently, the ship’s voyage did not get very far from California. The remains are only a little over 30 kilometers from San Francisco.

It is speculated that the ship encountered a storm on its way and could not make its way to a protective cove. Logs from 1921 show that the wind gusts at sea had reached over 40 MPH when the USS Conestoga went out, and the water was choppy as a result. The protective cove in which it was attempting to take shelter was a nearby lighthouse, but the conditions of the water were too much for the ship to take. None of the crew members made it out alive, and the ship was torn to pieces.

Although the finding of the remains was reported a mere month ago, there has been a lot of speculation surrounding the location of the USS Conestoga. In fact, the speculation has existed for at least seven years. In the summer of 2009, the NOAA was scanning the seafloor with a multibeam sonar when it noticed ship remains near San Francisco. The wreck was uncharted, and investigated with an autonomous underwater vehicle that collected images in the year 2014. It took a couple of years, but a team was finally able to match enough evidence of the wreck to match it to the USS Conestoga.

This discovery, 95 years later, has been very important for history records, not to mention for the descendents of the victims of the wreck. It is truly amazing what ocean exploration brings to light.

Ocean Exploration Furthered by Competition

XPrize is a nonprofit organization known for pushing limits of technology in an attempt to change the world. For years, they have granted large sums of money to winners who can accomplish a technological feat that betters the world. Past examples have included a smartwatch for the visually impaired, and mobile applications that have the ability to increase literacy in adults.

Now, XPrize has launched a new competition with regards to ocean exploration. In order to combat the fact that the ocean is still very much of a mystery, they are offering 7 million dollars to a team who can create efficient, ocean exploring robots. On the 14th of December, XPrize announced this new endeavor at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. Ultimately, they want a technological device that can explore the ocean more quickly, more deeply, more widely, and with more autonomy than any other device out there. This will expand on what we know about the ocean a great deal.

The Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize, as it is being called, will be given to the team who can complete all of the Prize’s given tasks within the next three years. The hope for this new technology is that we will be able to find more resources underwater, and discover more species, which be have the ability to help us treat various illnesses. Whether you are interested in new species, in medicine, or just in sunken ships this will be a very interesting piece of technology to see developed.

The team who wins this competition will have to create a robot with very specific capabilities. In order to be considered a finalist, each team must abide by a certain set of regulations. The robots must be able to map an area of sea floor that spans 2.5 miles deep and 193 square miles, all without a team nearby. These robots need to be able to work on their own.

The NOAA decided to supplement the 7 million dollar prize with 1 million dollars of their own for a team who creates a robot with all of the XPrize guideline capabilities, and the ability to find underwater sources of biological and chemical signals.

The second round of the competition is when robots have to show their ability to map a large area in a matter of hours, all with high resolution pictures.

This is certainly not an easy competition, but it widely expands the possibility of ocean exploration. Within the next three years, we will have a device that could revolutionize our understanding of the ocean overall. This has vast opportunity to help the medical field and the environment. I look forward to seeing what comes out of this competition.

For more information about the Shell Ocean Discovery XPrize, check out this Gizmodo article.

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