Shipwreck Central

May 2, 2008

Shipwreck Central is a website and online video channel for shipwreck enthusiasts (also the home of the TV documentary The Sea Hunters). The site releases the latest shipwreck news, has a “live dive blog,” and a  user contributed map of shipwrecks around the world (which also serves as an interface to viewing underwater video clips).

The site also pitches itself as an base for the shipwreck enthusiast community. There is an active message board with everything from people looking for research help to news about recently found shipwrecks, and there are educational modules for teachers.

Overall, the most compelling part of the site is the underwater video of the shipwrecks.  Like the narrative of the treasure hunt these videos follow, the viewer is guided down into the depths to see sites that rarely surface.  Some of these videos focus on the divers, who emphasize the beauty of the ships and the difficulties in getting to them, or the initial accident – many of the times this is part of an underwater archaeological expedition, intended to help reconstruct history. Other videos simply showcase the underwater wrecks themselves.


Underwater Forensics: Coral Reef CSI

April 18, 2008

There is an emerging field of underwater forensics and investigation. It stretches from the more traditional underwater investigation of sunken ships, to the retrieval of bodies and evidence from lakes and rivers, to (most recently) the investigation of coral reefs. A series of workshops (called Coral Reef CSI) have been established to train marine biology invetigations (among a variety of other people) in techniques of crime scene investigation. The International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) has established a Committee on Coral Reef Enforcement in order to develop protocols for this practice.

What is interesting about this practice, in terms of underwater media, is that evidence can never really be seen in itself. It’s collected by divers who have to look through goggles, through water, with the help from an extensive technical apparatus. They can only stay underwater for an hour and often (in the case of reefs) have to be careful not to further damage the living object they are examining. In this way it parallels a medical examination.

In addition, water is a medium itself – sometimes it washes away critical pieces and at other times works to preserve the objects/bodies/incidents.

Some links:

ICRAN (International Coral Reef Action Network) page on Coral Reef CSI
ICRI (International Coral Reef Initiative).

Also, FYI, 2008 is International Year of the Reef.


Bonaire ReefCam

March 13, 2008

In 2000, an underwater ReefCam was installed in Bonaire, an island in the Netherland Antilles. According to the Bonaire webcam site, as of 2005 the ReefCam has been the longest running open-water (and underwater) webcam.

Here is the account of the process from the site:

“The planning of the Bonaire WebCams project started during the summer of 1999, when Dan Senie and Jake Richter, long time friends and graduates of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute were talking about the new leased line Internet connection Dan had just helped Jake install in his office on the Caribbean island of Bonaire. The idea came about as a result of Dan wanting to relive his visits to Bonaire, combined with the great weather and excellent diving Bonaire is known for.

Dan and Jake concluded that a WebCam would be the best way to tame Bonaire-envy, but that a typical WebCam installation, where you have a single, low-resolution camera mounted inside a window, was not the way to go. Putting their know how together with their diving experience (Jake is a certified dive instructor and Dan an avid advanced diver), they set about trying to design a system which could be installed above the reef slope behind Jake’s office/house, in open water.”

Interesting here is that the cams are installed in order to generate a sort of tele-presence, to quell “Bonaire-envy.” And they are approved because of the benefits to tourism. Who watches these cams? What sort of media practices are these images used in (e.g. postings in Bonaire Talk; or the ReefCam Critter Gallery).

reefcam

More info on the project history page.