Saturday, May 10, 2014

Amazing Things Recovered From the Ocean

Apollo 11 Engines

What do billionaires spend their money on? In the case of Amazon's Jeff Bezos -- finding and recovering the F-1 engines that launched Apollo 11 into space! The historic 1969 spaceflight landed the first humans -- Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin -- on the moon. Since then, the engines sat in their resting spot on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean for nearly 44 years before being found and hauled to the surface by the Bezos-funded expedition team in 2013.

Blackbeard's Cannons

The legendary Blackbeard once sailed the seas as a real pirate of the Caribbean. But after his ship Queen Anne's Revenge sank off the coast of North Carolina in 1718, its wreck lay undisturbed on the ocean floor for nearly three centuries. Since the ship's discovery in 1996, thousands of artifacts have been brought to the surface -- including 5 of Blackbeard's cannons. The cast-iron guns weighed between 2,000 and 3,000 pounds each. It's believed they once fired 6 pound cannonballs as far as 2 miles through the air!

Camera Lost for 6 Years

When an American tourist lost her camera during a night time scuba dive in Hawaii in 2007 she thought she'd kissed her precious vacation pics goodbye. But 6 years later her camera was returned to her after it washed up on a beach in Taiwan -- covered in barnacles, but with the batteries and memory card still working! She said "I just was floored that it was my camera and it was all my old pictures and it was amazing. I just couldn't believe it had floated so far, so long ago and the memory card was still intact." Even better, China Airlines offered her a free round trip flight to go get her camera back!

Ancient Greek Computer

Computers have been around much longer than we once thought! Divers recovered this particular Ancient Greek piece of technology from the sea floor near the tiny island of Antikythera between 1900 and 1901. It was one of the stolen Greek treasures recovered from a 2,000 year old Roman shipwreck. Other items included bronze and marble statues, weapons, jewelry, and furniture. The Antikythera mechanism once calculated and displayed all kinds of useful information, including:

  • Sun, moon, and planet positions
  • Predictions of eclipses
  • An Olympic Games timetable
  • A star calendar

Lost Ancient Egyptian City

Greek treasure isn't the only ancient ocean find. Around 1,200 years ago the ancient Egyptian city of Heracleion -- once visited by Helen of Troy -- was submerged beneath the Mediterranean Sea, probably as a result of flooding due to rising sea levels and the collapse of unstable sediment. The port city -- also known as Thonis -- was rediscovered by a French underwater archaeologist in 2000. Major finds include:
  • The remains of over 65 ships
  • Gold coins
  • Bronze and stone weights
  • 16 foot statues
  • Slabs of stone with Ancient Greek and Ancient Egyptian inscriptions
  • Limestone sarcophogi believed to have once held mummified animals
According to the excavation leader, "We are just at the beginning of our research. We will probably have to continue working for the next 200 years for Thonis-Heracleion to be fully revealed and understood."

48 Tons of Shipwrecked Silver

When the SS Gairsoppa was torpedoed by a German U-boat in World War 2, a whole lot of silver went down with the British cargo ship. It went a long way down -- sinking 3 miles beneath the surface of the North Atlantic. Which made its retrieval by the Florida-based company Odyssey Marine Exploration a tricky process. The firm eventually recovered 48 tons of silver bullion from the ship -- now worth millions of dollars. 

$300,000 in Gold off the Coast of Florida

A Florida treasure-hunting family made a big find in September 2013 -- when they discovered $300,000 worth of Spanish gold coins and chains. The sunken treasure was found in the wreckage of a convoy of 11 ships that went down in a hurricane off the coast of Florida in 1715. The family will split the gold with the state of Florida and Brent Brisben, who owns the rights to the wreckage. Brisben said, "What's really neat about them is they are a family, they spend family time together out there, and the most amazing part about them is they always believed this day would come."

Oldest Message in a Bottle

A message in a brown beer bottle that was pulled out of the Baltic Sea by a fisherman in March 2014 has become the oldest verified message in a bottle. It was tossed into the sea by a 20 year old German baker's son while he was on a nature hike in May 1913. The 100 year old bottle and its message have since been shown to the man's granddaughter. She's now 62 and lives in Berlin. She said, "That was a pretty moving moment. Tears rolled down my cheeks."

Goblin Shark

Goblin sharks are strange looking deep-sea creatures that are rarely seen. So a Georgia commercial shrimp fisherman was surprised to find one in his catch of royal red shrimp in April 2014. Carl Moore said "First thing I told them boys was, 'Man, he's ugly! Looks prehistoric to me.' I was going to take the tape measure, then he flashed around again. I said, 'Forget the measurement. That thing'll eat me up!.'" After photographing his unusual find, Moore released it back into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, south of Key West, Florida. "Anything that's alive we try to put back in the ocean." NOAA scientists believe the shark was a 15 foot female. 

Fisherman Found After 13 Months Lost at Sea

A fisherman on a shark fishing expedition off the coast of Mexico in December 2012 ended up becoming a castaway adrift at sea for 13 months after his boat got lost in a storm. The man, who is originally from El Salvador, eventually washed ashore on an isolated coral atoll in the Marshall Islands. He'd managed to survive by eating uncooked birds, sea turtles, and fish... as well as by drinking his own urine. 
What did he dream about during those long months? "My dream for over a year is to eat a tortilla, chicken, and so many other types of food. I would imagine and dream a lot about my family -- my mother and my father... But then I woke up and all I see is the sun, sky, and the sea."

King Henry VIII's Ship Mary Rose

King Henry VIII's battle ship the Mary Rose sank off the southern coast of England in 1545 while on its way to fight the French. Between 400 to 500 men are believed to have lost their lives when the Tudor navy ship went down. Then, 437 years later, the ship was raised to the surface in a tricky lifting operation that involved a floating cradle. At one point, a steel line snapped, causing part of the frame to smash onto the hull. Prince Charles -- who had dived at the wreck and is President of the Mary Rose Trust -- said at the time, "I was slightly horrified, but thought the best thing to do was to be British and not panic."

Cancun Coral Reef Human Sculptures

Artist Jason deCaires Taylor is attempting to recover a precious part of the ocean that is under threat -- the coral reef. He's doing so by adding art to the sea! The human sculptures he has placed in The National Marine Park of Cancun, Mexico are forming new artificial reefs. He also adds to them by replanting coral damaged by storms or humans onto his sculptures.

Colossal Squid

It's colossal, alright! Also known as the Antarctic squid or giant cranch squid, the colossal squid is the largest species of squid in the world -- and also the biggest invertebrate. It lives in the Southern Ocean and is an important part of the diet of Antarctic sperm whales -- which often have scars on their backs from hooks of colossal squid. These gigantic squid are rarely captured -- but the biggest one to have been caught was around 33 feet long and weighed over 1,000 pounds. It's believed these creatures may actually reach sizes of up to 60 feet. They also have the largest eye in the animal kingdom -- it can be 12 to 16 inches wide!

An Extinct Fish

The coelacanth is a fish that was once believed to have been extinct for 66 million years -- until one was caught off the east coast of South Africa in 1938! The fish was discovered in an angler's catch by museum curator Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer. Professor JLB Smith confirmed the importance of her finding with his dramatic cable "MOST IMPORTANT PRESERVE SKELETON AND GILLS = FISH DESCRIBED."

Jurassic Microbes

A study pubished in the May 2012 issue of Science magazine revealed that researchers have found microbes which "can subsist at depth in marine sediments without fresh supply of organic matter for millions of years." The 86 million year old mid-Jurassic deep sea microbes hadn't had a decent meal for 86 million years, and were short on oxygen -- but were still hanging on to life -- though only barely!

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