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1929 Chevrolet Crashes into Lake!

July 1 2014

The Warrens, Blanch and Russell, disappeared on their way home from Port Angeles Washington. They were driving home with their new washing machine and vanished along the sharp twists and turns of US Highway 101. 86 years later, their vehicle remains intact in the deep cold waters of the glacial Lake Crescent. We're going to go survey this wreck site, as well as the 1950's dodge which disappeared around the same curve and lies only a few hundred feet away.

July 1 2014


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Debriefing Stage

I am considering 2 options for illuminating our underlake search zone.

1 - A light module with its own battery pack and buoyancy. It would attach to any Open ROV.
It would attach to any OpenROV...
It wouldn't drain the existing batteries of the ROV.

Cons: More time spent fiddling with construction and balancing buoyancy.

2 - Adding extra lighting to my ROV using some of the spare wires already potted through the end cap. (hooray!)
Quicker and easier to set up.
Connected to the beaglebone so you can turn it on and off. (Might draw too much current since the plan is to be very bright)

Cons: Drains existing batteries. (My rov has extra batteries so this might be okay. It also might not be okay)

I am thinking that one bright light (like a light bulb, but led instead) might be the thing to use. And position it below(ish) the rov.


Three of us played a boardgame. Guess who won?
Hint: It wasn't me and Cecil wants revenge.


I didn't take many pictures on the expedition. Apart from a few after we played board games, this is it. :D Crew returning from Day 1 excursion.

I have been thinking about the expedition and what we could do to increase our chances on the next trip. I feel we did well, finding the area to search and reasonably well at staying above the target. Bill had a suggestion that we use a heavy weight to anchor in deeper water, (like a temporary mooring) Ideally right over (or near by) the target and then follow the line down. At the very least we could use this to hold our position steady in deeper water. Then we could move from deeper water towards the target, reducing the chance of tether catching on rocks/debris on the slope.

The Main issue limiting us is lighting. Normally on my expeditions, I am well served by the lights on my rov, which are the 2.4-2.6 variety. Normally I am looking to see what is down there and not after a specific target, so seeing what is a few feet in front of the rov is all that is needed. But looking around for a car or train or other specific landmark requires a different set up.

We could try brighter lights. Erika's 2.7 rov did have a noticeably better lighting situation, but vision into the distance was still limited. On my first expedition near Passage Island, I had a pair focused beam lights on the rov. They worked quite well lighting up more distant objects, but the brightness of the beam made it difficult to see objects not directly lit by them. They might be better suited for our current searching job.

Another idea is to use both rovs at the same time. One rov could be outfitted with extra, all around, lighting. Then it could move around, lighting the area, while a second rov could watch. There a couple advantages this way.
One is, you can see farther. Not only is back-scatter eliminated, but the light need only travel one way through the water.

Another is that with on rov moving around and lighting up the area, the watching rov can sit still. Not moving will give a perspective that is otherwise missing. You will know that the lit rov has changed direction, and you will know when it has gotten back on track. Then once you decide to move on, the watching rov can approach the lit one to set a new viewing position and then the lit one can continue to move around once again.


Here's our third and final dive in the Lake Searching for the Cars. We did not, unfortunately, find the vehicles, but there are many many sculpin around 60 meters and then we catch a huge stick. Watch and learn as we try many methods to disentangle our ROV.

Great video! I love how you added the video of you operating the ROV as you worked to get it free. A very successful team effort won the battlr in the end.

16:54 Sculpin (!) and friends.

The Boston Whaler made a perfect platform for Darcys awesome TMS.


After sifting through our evidence, we used the curve of the road, the depth of the lakebed and the accounts of everyone involved in the dive to start our search here.


So the expedition has been wrapped up for now, long drives home from Port Angeles are over, and we have plenty to learn for our next attempt at the Warren car site.
After confirming our train tunnel location, and getting one sub entangled in an outdated phone line that had been very carelessly draped amongst the rocks at about 30 meters, we decided to head back across the lake to "ambulance point" and try our luck with the Warren car now that we had a depth sounder in our arsenal. We began working out our first dive location based on a combination of newspaper descriptions of the scene from the 20s, a firsthand recollection from one of our crew members who was on shore for a dive to the wreck years ago, and a book with detailed but slightly conflicting measurements from the divers who discovered the wreckage in the first place.
It doesnt take long on a project like this, with a wealth of information and accounts putting you in the general area of a target, to appreciate the incredibly daunting task of looking for something never before found, in a large lake, a deep bay, or even a small chunk of the open ocean. Exploration, especially under the water, has to be a very patient and methodic endeavor.
We narrowed our search area down considerably for next, and after a few snags, hoisting up a log entangled in our tether, and running out of sandwiches, we called it a day.


Another amazing picture. So true, too. It's amazing we've found anything in the ocean, really.

Agreed! Just heard about a sub surveying hydrothermal vents in the Sea of Cortez--it took two weeks to find them even though they had a map! So will there be another attempt to find the elusive vehicle?

Yes! There will be.

There's a possibility that the other tunnel, east on the same shore of the lake, could be the site. We jetted over, but that tunnel comes out and clearly the train trail has a shallow enough radius around the bay that a tressel would be unnecessary. So we're heading back to bay #1 where we'll launch Darcy's deep ROV.


We're out this morning at the same bay, matching the photo to the tunnel and doing slow transects with the fish finder.


Yesterday morning we headed straight across the lake to the Old Spruce Railroad trail first. It was built around WWI to harvest spruce trees to make WW I aircraft.

Since then it's been blasted to close it off to hikers


Check for a secret entrance! There is always a secret entrance! (The old beer cans will lead you there...)

Mission Underway

Just pulling out some old articles before we get on the water. Of course there's Blanch and Russell, but we're also on a mission to hit the opposite side of the lake at the entrance to the Spruce Railroad Trail, where a train carrying a flat car and a crane went crashing through a tressel and into the lake.

Can you spot where?


Always intrigued by your hard to solve puzzles! We're following along here at HQ and can't wait for some video feed! :)

I feel like it has something to do with that big hole... :)

The dive vessel has arrived. With Mike from Scuba supplies.


With a bag full of sandwiches and cut veggies, a karafe of coffee and one hot chocolate, one robot, and my iPhone, I'm ready to hit the lake!

I've just arrived at the boat ramp, waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive.

Driving the sharp curves of Hwy 101 around the lake this morning, the fog obscured all but the barest few feet of road in front of me. Giant logging trucks tore past in the opposite direction and steep rocky cliffs and invisible water bordered my little patch of road. I could feel how easy it would be to make one little correction wrong and go straight over the edge into the cold glacial lake.


This photo is amazing.

On my reconnaissance mission to Lake Crescent, scoping out the feasibility of reaching the dive site from shore, I stopped by the Lake Crescent lodge and discovered a dusty old three ring binder with newspaper clippings from the past several decades. Several articles reference the crash of the Warren's, including this 2002 article from the Peninsula Daily News.

In 2002 a crew of scuba divers requested permission from the Superintendent of the National Park to dive down on the cars and recover evidence of human remains.

They collected small fragments of bone and a jeweled clip that was attached to a large piece of matted fabric which was later identified as a dress.

DNA analysis of hair and small bone fragments later positively identified the remains as those of Blanch and Russell, 73 years after they were lost.


Nice! Been following the e-mail updates on this and just found out it was this crew!! How Embarassing!! I am already trying to figure out ways to join you but it is probably too late!!

Preparation Stage

The area between the guard rail and the road is much too narrow and slippery to deploy an ROV safely from shore.

We'll be launching a 14 foot, open design, inflatable dive boat from the Mt. Stormking boat ramp to reach the dive site.

I'm going to outfit my expedition Pelican case from The Arctic Expedition to hold my laptop and my OpenROV which will hopefully keep everything dry and contained as we deploy.


The electrical issue with my truck is fixed now. So I could bring my boat if needed.
It is only 3.5m long though.
On the plus side, it does have a top. :D

That's a pretty long drive with a trailer, I'd say we're ok with Mike's dive boat, but if you are anxious to get yours back out on the water, we could probably find a use for two!

It's finally back on!

I am a little stunned by how many months have passed since my last post to this expedition. I made plans over the holidays in December to try again to get out to the cars, but our boat plans fell through. That being said, I drove out to the dive site with my family/expedition team and scoped things out a little more closely.

The car plummeted off the road at "Ambulance Point" near mile marker 223.

Talking with the local Dive Master Mike, I learned that this particular corner has a long and tragic history. Every fews years a car goes off the road. In the 50's, an old Dodge, in the 60's, 70's and 80's, many logging trucks coming down from the Olympic Mountains. Most of these wrecks were salvaged within a few weeks by Mike and his crew, the lumber and steel are very valuable and worth pulling up right away.


These amazing families showed up and together we piloted Phantom to 30 meters!

I'm trying to decide if I want to risk going as deep as the model a right before I need these ROVs functional in the Arctic See Arctic Expedition

I might shoot for 50 meters on Sunday and come back to the Model A the first week of August.



That picture is TOPS!

Okay. You are back from the arctic. Go find that car! :D

Hey Darcy. Wanna collaborate?! When I get back from Cuba lets go find it!

Okay! Sounds like a plan.

Last night we put on the adventure music and headed back to Lake Crescent with Phantom and Matt (the ROVs).

My goals were:

a) Test drivability of Matt (known errants: drives to the right, outdated operating system)

b) Depth Test Phantom

It was pretty clear that Matt will not drive in a straight line, but with some creative handling I made it down the slope to 16 meters. Then the telemetry cut out, and the camera stopped...

Uh Oh.

I waited a bit, then restarted cockpit, then decided to pull the ROV in.

By this point the dock was full of eager onlookers and my parents and I were busy explaining ROV systems and the ideas behind exploration to them.

So once Matt was back on the surface, I took a quick glance in the electronics housing. No water, no smoking gun. Instead of troubleshooting it right then and there, I put it aside to pull out my shiny new Phantom.

That's when the clouds opened up and the sun shone down and the angels started to sing. Ok maybe not, but we put it in the water and the kids drove it!

There were logs and a huge mooring block (or piece of a dock with some scary metal features) and trout!


Nice! We've got to get that video capture figured out! I'm on it!

Phantom scoots across the crystal clear waters of the lake, piloted by some very capable young explorers.


A group of young kids cooling off at Lake Crescent peer over the edge of the dock to watch Phantom's progress.....


This picture is so wonderful.

I felt a little bit like the Pied Piper yesterday.

I headed to Lake Crescent to do Phantom's first depth test and hadn't even made it to the dock yet when a group of kids, decked out in their beachy swimwear, flocked together behind me.

"What's That?"

"It's an underwater robot, wanna fly it?"

I never even had to touch the controls, they jumped in and figured it out like it was nothing.

We made it down to a whopping 14 feet, Phantom's deepest dive yet!

The water was crystal clear, and even though the kids had been swimming off the same dock all afternoon, there were a lot of excited oo's and ah's.

Robots are like magnets.


This picture is great! Future OpenROVers:))

This is awesome! I can't wait until we get easy video recording built into the software. It would be great to come along on the adventure!

Expedition Background

Near mile marker 223, a Chevrolet driven by Russell Warren went off a sharp curve into the 200 meter deep Lake Crescent. The disappearance of Russell and his wife was a mystery for 7 decades.

In 2002 a number of curious scuba divers donned cold water gear and searched for the wreckage. They found the car intact and lying on its left side in 250 feet of water. Let's go check it out.