New England Explorers

Latest update March 30, 2018 Started on October 4, 2014

New England Explorers searches for lost Historic location buried in the forests and waters of New England. Currently we are focusing on the shipwreck graveyards in Narragansett Bay. Narragansett Bay has more shipwrecks per square mile than any other state. Over 2,000 wrecks, including colonial trading ships, ships of war, and luxury passenger vessels from the 19th century, can be found in its waters. For our first wreck to dive on we choose the Harvey F Payton, a schooner that sunk in 1859. Most of its cargo was lost to the ocean floor just of the tip of Beavertail. We hope to find what remains of the wreck and its cargo.

October 4, 2014
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In late 2016 we revisited the blocks with David Robinson, marine archeologist at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography. Together with David and his associates, we did a survey of the area to measure and plot the location of all the block. Using a quadcopter we captured an aerial overview of the blocks, and used the images to build a 3D model.

You can find the model at:

Over the past few years we have been working with Varoujan, a representative from the Lighthouse Museum, to find a vendor that can transport the Fluer-D-Lis block to the side of the museum. Where the blocks are located is very dangerous for ships, so those vendors that Varoujan has spoken to consider the job as too risky, or the price they have offer is far too high. We’ve had a few nibbles from locals, but each have not panned out.

This spring I will be meeting with Varoujan discuss possible alternatives that would not require moving the block but create a living museum people would be safe to visit.

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That’s awesome Michael!

Thanks David, and thanks for all the support in the OpenExplorer community!

As we close off on this project, we have some great ones coming up this year, including exploring now flooded colonial copper mines in New England! Stay Tuned!

Many have been probably wondering where we have been. Well after the brutal winter we had here in the northeast, a lot has happened. In the spring Adrienne and I got married and we were off to England for two weeks. Once we returned, I was pulled into a big project which would allow little time to invest in our OpenExplorer projects. Things are beginning to settle, so we can once again get back to our projects.

For the past eight months, I had been working out of the UMass Dartmouth Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. There I got to know many people who work on some cutting edge technology and was able to see some incredible autonomous ROVs they were testing in the lake behind the building. The contacts I made there were the payoff for the short time I spent there.

Thankfully I made the most of the free time shortly before the wedding and was able to find one of the granite blocks we had been looking for. This block was flipped so you could not see its face, but from features on its side I was sure it was the correct block. It was over two tons and the only way to confirm it was the right block was by lifting it to see the underside. Fortunately, it was accessible at the lowest tide, so I bought a 4-ton porta power hydraulic jack and checked the tide charts.

The next tide low enough to get to the block was the day before my wedding. You could say it was the most unusual bachelor party ever. Just me, a granite block, and the ocean. I arrived as early as possible and began to jack it up. I had limited time before the tide would be too high again, so I had to work fast. I was able to quickly free up some larger rocks trapped under it and get a view. I’m happy to say that I was right; this was the block with the fleur de lis design on it.

Since then I was able to visit the block one more time and jack it up more in preparation for retrieving it. Varoujan, one of the curators from the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum, is trying to find a vendor who can retrieve the block for us. The shoreline it rests on is very dangerous, which is why many ships have sunk there in the past. Because of this, it has been difficult to find a contractor to do the job. When we do get the block retrieved, it will rest beside the lighthouse for all to admire and learn about the story the Shipwreck HF Payton.



Thanks for the update Michael! I know I'm a little behind on my stuff too while I work on my degree. Let us know how the recovery goes!

Thanks Kevin! Recovery will be slow while we wait to find a vendor that can handle the job. While we wait though, we're going to see if we can find others in a better location for recovering.

In The Field

This weekend Richard and I made a few final touches on Proteus. The camera and all the controls are functioning fine, and all the seals are good. Though we have some minor details to follow up on with the depth sensor, I'd say the build is complete!

Next weekend we'll give Proteus a test run in the tub, and then hope to get her out to some open water for a first run. Though the cove where the Bessie Rogers rests seems like a good spot for her first time in the bay, we're taking the time to look at other options. We'd like our first time in the bay to be easy but offer the most return for our time. With the addition of the game pad and headset, we're really excited to get Proteus in the water.

Over the next few months we'll get out to the bay with Proteus as often as possible to look at various wrecks. We want to get some practice time in with the OpenROV in protected coves before we make an attempt to visit our target wreck, H.F Payton.

I want to thank Richard and those following us for their patience while we built the OpenROV. The build was very easy, even for a soldering and Arduino rookie like me . The length of time for the build was only due to how little time I've had available for the past few months.

Our next step will be building the special mount for the GoPro.



It's a good think you're waiting till next weekend for the first test. You're neck of the woods sounds like it's going to get pretty hairy the next couple of days. Good luck to you! P.S. Proteus looks awesome! Great video of all the start up systems tests.

Yes, last I heard we could get up to two or more feet of snow. Next weekend will be chilly, so I hope to find a good launch location where we can operate the ROV from the warm interior of my Jeep.

How's it going? Any wreck sightings recently? :)

Yes and we've made some great finds. My wedding, and a big project I got pulled into made me have to place this on the back burner for a bit, but we're just gearing up to put the focus back on our projects on Open Explorer. Keep your eyes out for an update to be posted soon! :)

This weekend we did a lot of finish up work on the ROV. We programed the electric speed controllers, tested the Xbox controller and added the lasers. We also assembled the IMU/Depth Sensor. We're hoping to have it in the water for testing next weekend.

We've been talking about the idea of operating the ROV using the Xbox controller and VR headset. Though it might not add any advantage to operating the ROV, we felt it would be loads of fun for everyone. While we've been shopping for a VR headset, we came up with a fun experiment using my phone and Google cardboard.

We pulled up two session of Google Chrome on the laptop and connected them to the ROV. We resized them, putting one on the left and the other on the right, creating a stereo view. We then were able to remote into the laptop through an app on my phone. When we put the phone in the Google cardboard, we were amazed at how well it worked.

With very little effort and no extra cost we had found an easy way to create a VR display for the ROV. There is an issue with this method. The software we used requires the phone and the laptop to be connected to the web. From the shore you won't often find an open access point. Though a mobile hotspot can solve this problem, we suspect it wouldn't be cost effective.

We're still going shop for a VR headset that can connect directly to the laptop, but will continue experimenting with other options that accomplish the same goal.


Wow interesting concept an problem with the VR. Give it a few months and I bet your software problems will be fixed.

We are working on a possible workarounds, and other idea to accomplish the same goal. If we did use a mobile hotspot, it would provide the ability to control the ROV from a remote location. This would be great when doing a program at a local library.

Kevin, I just found a discussion about using Google Cardboard on the OpenROV forum.

It offers a lot of great idea of how to handle VR with OpenROV. There are several options I think are work experimenting with.

Sweet, I'll be watching it.

Kevin, We tried some of the suggestions from the forum offered by Benoit of and had great success! There were very few issues, but we have hardware on the way that should resolve them.

The past two weeks have been great. First Richard and I created a kayak mount for the GoPro and were able to capture excellent photos of the shipwreck Bessie Rogers. Our second attempt at SfM/photogrammetry also had great results. After further experimenting, we decided that we were ready to upgrade our software to handle bigger models.

Along with working on SfM, we've also been finishing up on the OpenROV build. This past weekend we were finally able to boot it up. Once we connected via a browser, we were able to see the video images on the screen. After some minor adjustment by Richard, soon the motors were also responding. Though we were confident of our work, there is always that moment of worry when you first turn it on. It's a pleasure and somewhat exciting to see it all check out fine.

Our next step will be adding a few optional features and then do a test run. Soon the Proteus will be roaming around the waters of New England! The most exciting thing is that it won't be long before we'll be able to take a look at what remains the H.F. Payton and its cargo.


Nice!!! Can't wait to see the videos! Great update!

Proteus, that is such a great name.

What sfm program are you upgrading to?

Glad you like the name! I think we'll be purchasing Agisoft Photoscan. We've been test driving it and have gotten excellent results. Also several users doing SfM on land had recommended it. We'll probably look at a few more this weekend before we do the purchase.

On January 1st, Richard and I fabricated a special rigging for the GoPro using PVC and a rail mount. The new mount would allow us to secure the camera over the side of the kayak, and position it facing in any direction using the two universal joints.

With the new camera mount, we went for a second visit to the remains of the 1873 British bark Bessie Rogers on Saturday. With the camera attached to the kayak, facing down and set to take photos every seconds, I paddled over to the wreck.

I broke up the area into four lanes. Once a lane was completed, since the camera was mounted on the starboard side, I turned around and repeated the lane. The entire wreck took about a half hour or more to cover. In the end we collected over 2000 photos

Once home we reviewed the photos and were very pleased with how well the mount worked. The results were far better than those from our first attempt a week ago. We had many clear images of the remaining skeleton of the bark. We were quickly able to reconstruct many parts of the boat through photogrammetry.

Though we made much progress in gathering photos of wrecks for 3D modeling, there are a still a few issues to work out. The issues appear to be in the collecting process; not enough overlap, and some photos appearing too blurry. The speed I paddled over the wreck was probably the cause, since I progressively went faster each pass, and the quality went down with each pass.

This will be our last kayak attempt until it warms up again. Though this was meant to get familiar with how to best do the same with the ROV, we're so pleased by the results we plan on doing many of the other wrecks in shallow coves using the same method.

Here is a 2nd 3D model of some of its ribs.

You can see more photos of the wreck on our blog.


Nice work Michael looks like all of the SfM is coming along well

Scott, thanks for all your help with SfM so far!

Looks great Michael! Glad you got some better results with the new mount. I am very impressed with how it is turning out.

Thanks Kevin, I'm excited by how well things have turned out. I can't wait to try it with the ROV. The kayak mount has inspired new ideas too. Though it was meant to be a practice tool, it'll be great for shallow wreck SfM, and scouting new areas. There are some great wrecks lost in shallow water still waiting to be found. The HMS Gaspée, a British customs schooner is a fantastic example.

On Saturday I kayaked out to the Bessie Rogers, an 1873 British bark shipwreck in a shallow cove near Newport. I wanted to try underwater photogrammetry of a shipwreck in preparation for sending the ROV to the 1859 schooner H.F. Payton. Though my first attempts of doing it on dry land using my Fuji have turned out great, I expected some new challenges in the bay.

For the first half hour I was photographing ten feet south of where the shipwreck rests. Unbeknownst to me, a nearby man-made landmark I used as a point of reference had been moved since the last aerial photos of the area were taken. Also, the wind made the surface of the bay choppy, and difficult to see through.

Once I settled on the correct area, I once again setup my GoPro to take photos every few seconds, and began passing over the wreck, moving slightly north after each pass.

Once home, I reviewed the photos and was disappointed. A little bit of water had gotten between the filter and the lens, making most of the photos distorted and worthless. Also, the sunny day I saw as positive, ended up making things worse. The direction the sun was coming from caused backscatter making visibility poor.

Though in the end I didn't have enough photos for doing a full 3D model of the Bessie Rogers, I was able to salvage enough to be able to model some portions of it. I don't look at my first attempt as a failure. Instead, I see it as a learning experience.

I plan on going back for a second try next weekend.


Frustrating! I know the feeling. That's what made me put my photogrammetry plans on the shelf - too much delay/problems that can't be diagnosed until much later. Keep going though!!

I don't look at them as a problem. I see them as more of a challenge. Figuring out the solutions to the issues will be fun. If I get stuck on a problem, I always have the local divers Mark & John to consult. They've done lots of shipwreck photography under worse conditions.

Hi Michael

Sorry of the belated post (been off bringing the Bali boat back to Sydney the final last leg of 700km but its finally here)

Great to hear of your attempts even if everything didn't run to plan (but what ever does)

Looking at the images above they should have been clear enough to generate SfM (I've done it in much worse vis then that this dive gives an indication of how green the water was but it gave this result I videoed the wreck first then 5 laps taking stills at 1 frame/second)

Generally I would would suggest more shots (say the GoPro firing every second or 0.5 seconds), more lanes/laps and the more down facing the better

Maybe flick me an email and upload the images to Dropbox/Google drive and I can give it a go with Photoscan as I'm guessing you used VisualSfM?? and see if there is any difference



I hope your boat trip to Bali was enjoyable!

Thanks for the tips. I agree the camera should have been face down more. It was better in the beginning of my laps, so I got good shots of sand when I was over the wrong area. I think what spoiled the shots most of all though was the water that leaked into the filter I was using. The backscatter only became an issue when the camera mount started to shift too much and position the camera to face outward instead of down.

I was able to salvage small potions of the images and do a little bit of SfM. Though I didn't have much to show for the day, the results kept me optimistic enough to plan another go this coming weekend. I'll just need make sure the rigging for the camera is secured better. Also, I won't be using the filter this time since it seems to have issues.

I'll send an email once I go thorough my run this weekend. We can compare the results we each get with the same images.



We've had a very productive weekend. We spent a good amount of time on assembling the ROV and we're close to the finish line. We were happy to switch from acrylic welding to assembling the controller board, Beagle bone, lights and camera. Though Richard is far more experienced at soldering, he took the time to school me on tinning the wire and soldering, and had me do the work. In a matter of minutes I felt confident in my newly gained skills.

We see completion so close, we were scrambling to try to figure out when we next could get together. I'm very thankful that RIchard is patient with us, since he could have easily finished the entire assembly on his own many weeks ago. When we started I was unsure of how I would help with the build. Now I feel comfortable with completing any of the steps on my own. Its always rewarding to overcome a lack of confidence in my skills by facing these challenges through DIY/DIT projects. More often than not, I find them much easier than expected!

We're expecting our assembly will be completed for the first week of the year!


This weekend we made some more progress on the ROV we have now named Proteus. Richard and I are excited with every step closer to the first boot up of the ROV. Already we're trying to work out where to put it in the water for the first test run.

Later this week we hope to kayak over the Bessie Rogers, the shipwreck near Newport. We're going to try and capture photos of what remains of its hull. We'll use these photos for our first attempt at underwater photography. Though our trail on land went very well, we're expecting new challenges to overcome once we're underwater.

We've begun trying to hunt down the remaining family of the Captain of the H.F. Payton, Asa Whelden Nickerson. P.J. Perkins, the man who wrote the manuscript on the schooner had said that they lived in New Bedford, MA. So far we've had no luck. We'll keep trying and if needed call in Mr. Perkins for some help.


A big thanks to Scott from NSWwrecks ( Scott connected me with Mark, a very experienced shipwreck diver in my area. He and his friends not only dive wrecks, they are also dedicated to finding new wrecks.

This weekend I met with the Mark and one of his diving partners, John. We chatted about the H.F. Payton, and their experience diving in Narragansett Bay. It was great to have a chance to learn a lot about the the waters in my area. Like me, they enjoy the history hidden below the waves in New England and were happy to offer to help in the H.F. Payton expedition. It will be fantastic to have them as resources to turn to as things develop.

We have decided on a fantastic location for the practice runs once the ROV is completed. In a cove near Newport is the remains of a British Bark from 1872 named the Bessie Rogers. Five to ten feet below the surface, the ribs of the ship can still be seen penetrating the sand. The sheltered cove will make it easy for us to practice maneuvering the ROV, and also allow us a target on which to refine our photogrammetry skills. Across the cove from the wreck is a boat ramp from which we can launch the ROV. Over the winter we can sit comfortably in the Jeep while we explore what remains of the Bessie Rogers!


Yep Marks a great guy to know (it only takes someone from Sydney Australia to introduce you to someone who is basically your neighbour ;-P )

Mark has heaps of great contacts and a lot of background in looking for (and finding) new wrecks and has helped me heaps with getting our side scan up and running and dialled in well

Best of luck with it all

Scott, what makes it even funnier is that Mark introduced me to John, who not only is closer to me, but also lived in my town for 11 years.

We talked a lot about the side scan and the process it took Mark to get it up and running. Really interesting to get a better understanding of the process.

Though the kinds of things Mark, John and I pursued over our lives is very different, the motivation is exactly the same. It was great to find others doing the same thing for another part of New England's history that's still so new to me.

Thanks again,

We worked on our ROV again this weekend and made some good progress. It's starting to look like an ROV!

So far the most difficult part has been getting in those little nuts and bolts for mounting the motors. They're so tiny and my hands seemed so big. I was confident we'd get them in, but I was worried that my butterfingers would lose them to the floor.

The interview on WEMF's "The Good American" on Friday was great! Adrienne had accompanied me to the studio, so she was invited to participate too. We had lots of fun with the hosts Charles, Francesca and John. We covered a lot in the time we were there and only wish we had more time to hang out with them. Thankfully Charles suggested having us return in spring for an update on the H.F. Payton, and OpenROV. We look forward to returning!

David, I hope you don't mind that I borrowed your quote about democratizing exploration. I felt I couldn't have put it better myself.

Here is a link to the MP3 of the interview. Our interview starts at 17:00, has one music break and ends at 54:00.


Listening to it right now. This is so wonderful that you are sharing your adventures with so many folks around! I love your story about hearing people's stories and getting the hunger to dive into researching and exploring them.

Thanks Erika, I enjoy sharing the stories. I'm always hoping to inspire new explorers too.

I think the stories the real treasure that I get to take home. I wish I would have communicated that when asked about the most interesting thing I've dug up.

Congrats Michael! Great interview, very inspiring!

Thanks! Encouraging other to explore is always one of our main goals.

The build is coming along well. Richard, who leads the build, and has much more free time than the rest of us, has been kind enough to wait so that we can all participate and learn something along the way.

While Richard did some more soldering, I tried my hand at solvent welding of the acrylic parts. I had never done this before so I was a little nervous. After reviewing a video on the process, I tried my hand at it and found it very easy to do. In no time at all I felt comfortable with the process!

Research on the H.F. Payton has turned up some new leads. A representative from the Jamestown Historical Society put me in touch with Paul Perkins, who wrote the manuscript on the schooner and its granite blocks over ten years ago. I spoke with him by phone and he shared some information he had not mentioned in the manuscript. The most important detail was that family members of the captain of the H.F. Payton still lived in New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Last of all, this coming Friday, Nov. 28th at 11am, I will be appearing on WEMF ( in Boston, Massachusetts for an interview. We'll be speaking about the recent projects and expeditions we've been working on, including our current work on the H.F. Payton and OpenROV!


Looking great so far! It'll be interesting what your leads turn up.

Nice montage! Glad the build is getting rolling well for you! Can't wait to see this puppy in the water.

Thanks Kevin, I'm excited about hunting down the family and speaking to them. The story is just as important as the wreck and it cargo.

Erik, I look forward to getting it in the bay and see the video feed for the first time. It will open up a whole new world for us to explore!

Looking good! Please post a link to the interview if it makes it online!

David, they do post the shows online. I'll provide a link here in an update as soon as its posted.

We have a busy weekend. Today I'm reviewing my materials on Caving in New England for a presentation I'm doing at the library in Coventry Rhode Island Monday night. Each time I do these presentations they require updating to include details of our latest exploration we've participated in and tools and technology we've used. I also bring along a variety of the equipment we use for people to view and handle after the presentation. My favorite part though its the Q&A at the end.

The presentation is free to the public and it's always fun to do them. My goal is to not only educate & entertain those who attend, but also inspire new explores. We're in a new era of exploration. Many of the tools and information previously difficult for nonacademics to access are now easily available for all. Expensive technologies are now affordable for the citizen scientist or explorer.

Our audience is filled with many armchair adventurer, curious New Englanders & fellow explorers. At the conclusion of my presentation I'll be sharing information on our other projects including the H.F. Payton expedition. I'll invite the public to follow along as we see beneath the waves with our ROV.

On Sunday we'll once again meet to work on the ROV. Our acrylic cement has arrived so we'll begin to assemble those parts. I'll post an update of our progress later this week.


Hi Michael

Most likely more of a comment on your last post and the one before that, I’m really impressed with what you have done up on Sketchfab and the video you made using Blender.

As a thought is it worth you adding a bit more to the blog post on Structure from Motion (SfM)/photogrammetry at the OpenROV community on how you did these two steps so we have a bit of a how to guide of getting SfM  Blender 3D Animation of the site  Sketchfab 3D Model at a guess there would be a number of people interested in each of the steps for documenting various projects coming out of OpenROV (sorry mate not trying to pressure you into it but I know I’m interested in the downstream processing post SfM)

Anyway Good luck with your talk at the Coventry Public Library on the November 17 at 6:30 pm


Hi Scott,

Thanks, your help is one of the reasons for my success with SFM so far.

No pressure at all Scott. I was planning on putting together a step by step How-To guide for others interested in trying SFM with and ROV or on dry land. I'd like to see SFM become a standard tool available to the OpenROV community that is easy to do. I've already had people asking me for help, so the interest is out there.

I'll get started on documenting the details.

Thanks again for all you help. Have fun on your trip to Bali!


Thanks Michael sounds great

Our weekend started off great when found what we believe might be the original Granite Monster. We met with my brother Steve and discussed the issue of the block being upside down. When we hit problems like this Steve always seems to be able to pull a solution out of his hat, and as usual he did. We have made plans to lift up the corner of the granite block using special tools suited for difficult jobs. With the block tightly seat of a bed on small rocks, difficult is an understatement. If ll goes well we'll soon be able to see if we found the correct granite block.

We updated the rep from the Lighthouse museum on what we found. We also shared our recent 3D model we did of the blocks on the rocky shoreline. He liked the model so much he is interested in using them on a touch screen kiosk they have at the museum. We're now shopping around for a tool that will host and display the models for the museum visitors interact with and enjoy.

You can interact with the recent 3d models we created at this website.
Cluster of granite blocks -
The Granite Monster? -
(Best to be viewed using Firefox)

Sunday we finally were able to get started on building the ROV. Richard is the member of our expedition who is leading the build. We didn't have our the acrylic cement yet, so we jumped right into doing some soldering. The online directions were great, and easy to follow. We made some good progress, and after our first day, feel it shouldn't take long to complete.

We'll be sure to post more photos of our progress after our next build meet.


Those 3d models are quite impressive, how do you go about making one? Is this done with a laser scan?

Thanks Tony! It's done completely through photographs and free software for photogrammetry. For the granite blocks, I used my Fuji digital camera and I'm currently doing cloud processing with 123D Catch, since it's very easy to use. There is much better open source softwares that I'm hoping to transition to once I learn better how to use them.

We're going to be doing it with a GoPro camera once we get the ROV assembled.

Here is a link to a post on Structure from Motion (SfM)/photogrammetry at the OpenROV community

There are many videos and documents online about photogrammetry. I recommend starting with 123D Catch to get familiar with it, and then you can experiment with other software.

If you have any problems getting started or have any questions please feel free to ask. I'm more than happy to help you out.

Today I went down to Beavertail to take a look at the blocks in the water close to shore. Though it was about 43 degrees out and windy, with my wet suit on the water wasn't too bad. I waded through the water and examined all the blocks, but did not find any intricate designs carved on them.

I then took a look at the blocks that were partly submerged on my last visit, but now high and dry due to a lower tide. One particular block caught my eye. It was upside down so it made it difficult to examine. After about an hour of poking around, I think I might have found the block in the oldest known B&W picture of a block. This was a photo of the block with the Fleur-d-Lis design carved on it. This would be a great candidate to be placed by the lighthouse museum.

My mind is spinning trying to find an easy way to lift the block to better see the underside. Hopefully we'll be able to come up with a plan that will be cheap and effective.

Also while at the blocks I took a series of photos to build a 3D model from. There were many reasons I felt the photos and subject would cause issue when rendering, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results. The 3d model came out far better than expected. I posted below an HD animation video from this 3D model.

Next we'll see how well we can do with underwater photos. After having such fantastic results every step of the way so far, I'm feeling confident we will once again be pleased by the outcome!

Tomorrow we begin working on the ROV. We'll post photos of our progress.


The Video looks great (2 questions) what software did you end up using for the SfM and how did you get it to spit out the movie rather than a still image (I would love to learn that trick)

Thanks Scott, I thought it was going to be a mess, so I was so happy to see the results we got.

First I want to mention that since these were above water I used my regular camera for this, not the gopro.

Right now I'm using the free version of 123D Catch. The up sides are that it requires very little work from the user, does all the work in the cloud and has an easy tool to build animations. The bad side is the limits they set on the free version, and that it can sometimes crash or get hung up during processing,

I found several open source tools that require more work so there is a bit of a learning curve. They are not as limited as 123D Catch, have many more export options, and can produce greater results, so I'll probably move onto using these tools once I have mastered them.

I have Blender, a professional free and open-source 3D computer graphics tool, so I'll be able to still do the 3D animation with it. It's been a while since I've used Blender, so it's another thing I'll need to learn again.

For now I'll go with what's easy to use while trying to master getting the photographing skills, and doing it underwater.

Thanks Michael downloaded Blender (urrggg another large complex piece of software to learn) and will give a try and see what I can do with it

Good to see the outcome from 123D Catch if I was looking at open source solutions I would mainly look at VisualSFM or SFMToolkit

Hey guys,
Just saw that Autodesk released Momento for beta testers:

Hi David,

Thanks for the tip and link. I signed up and will check out what it has to offer!



My first test of Memento I got great results! I used the same images of the granite blocks and the wire mesh and image details were a lot better. Looks like it has some new fun tools too. I'll continue testing it through the rest of the week and report the results.


The OpenROV arrived today (#1517)! This kit was provided by David Lang and Eric Stackpole at OpenROV (, and made possible by a sponsorship from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation ( I'd like to thank them again for supporting our expedition!

We called our crew in for a meeting over coffee and donuts tonight. We saved opening the box until everyone arrived, and had a great time pulling out each piece to give them the once over. We're excited and looking forward to the build and getting it into the water. Already we're seeing where we can fit working on it into our current schedule.

This weekend we'll be clearing off our workspace and will start digging into the build. We'll post our progress along the way.


Awesome! Good luck with the build!

Thanks! We're excited and feel like we're about to be building a spaceship that will soon be sent off to explore a strange planet out in the great unknown.

This is so exciting! I can't wait to see what you discover deep in InnerSpace! P.S. It's wonderful to see the DIT spirit you are fostering.

The H.F. Payton expedition is moving along well. We should be getting the ROV any day now. Construction should begin next weekend and we have a very skilled technician who will supervise our work. Mr. Varoujan is excited by the support we’ve gotten from the Rhode Island historic preservation commission, for the retrieval of one of the granite blocks, and we’re hoping to be able to scout on a few candidates before the spring thaw.

We recently contacted Ron from Sea Wolf Diving Expedition (SWD) ( We thought it would be good to open a conversation with an expedition that has some common goals. Doing so paid off. Reviewing some logs on SWD’s FB page reminded me of a project that I put aside a year or so ago. It concerned photogrammetry of caves. I thought it would be good to give it a try on shipwrecks. I quickly got to where I had left off, and made some big leaps forward. I was pretty sure we could pull it off with the equipment we already had. Soon Scott from NSWwrecks ( chimed in and shared his experience and some helpful leads that provided much help in shoring up our plans. Scott had already accomplished what we were hoping to do, and had done an excellent post on the subject at OpenROV (

Now less than a week since the conversation started between Ron, we have had some very successful trail runs of photogrammerty of everyday objects. We’ve been experimenting with free and open source software, trying to find the one that would best serve our needs. I now not only look forward to providing Mr. Varoujan and the Beavertail museum with a candidate for retrieval, but also a map of what blocks, and other portions of the ship and its cargo still remains off the shores of the Lighthouse.

I think this experience is a great example of what makes the DIY/DIT community so great. Great ideas can be born from a something simple as a conversation. Once you begin acting on these ideas, it’s not long before others will reach out and lend a helping hand to assure your success!


We just got back from a week of cave exploring on the western side of New England. Most of the week was cold and rainy, but that didn't stop of from getting out and visiting some new caves and old favorites.

While in the area we met with our caver/digger friends to discuss about using the OpenRov for exploring some of the impenetrable sumps in the future. Always good to start laying the ground work for the next project ahead of time.

On our downtime we called Charlotte Taylor, the Senior Archaeologist for the RI Historic Preservation and Heritage Commission. We discuss ROV diving guideline and recommended wrecks to next visit once we've completed our work with the H.F. Payton. She recommended that we contact Senior Marine Research Specialist at University of Rhode Island. She thought he might be more qualified to recommend a wreck, and he also might be interested in teaming up with us for a new project he'll soon be starting in the upper bay.

Though we had a chilly & wet week of caving, we had a great time and were able to lay out the road work for several future OpenRov Expeditions!

Below is a picture of a natural bowl over four feet deep and six feet wide in my favorite marble cave!


That's awesome!
We've also had a lot of luck talking to marine archeologists. They're usually quite excited to hear about low-cost underwater robots.

So far the response from everyone we have contact has been fantastic! I think our work on the H.F. Payton will help to strengthen their confidence in us, and help to build a partnership that will be mutually beneficial.

Just got great news from Varoujan Karentz a historian at the Beavertail Lighthouse museum.

"Since your visit to Beavertail, we have renewed our interest in the
Harvey Payton Stones and are considering moving one of them to a location
on the lighthouse grounds for exhibit purposes. We have received
permission from the state historic preservation commission, since it is
considered an historic archeological site.

All the visable tidal stones have over the past 150 years been exposed to
wave action and erosion. There may be one or more in better physical
shape underwater."

Mr. Karentz had also mentioned that he would be interested in working with us to find the best block. We have responded to his email, and hope to be able to have the OpenRov in the water by February at the earliest. With any luck we'll be able to find an excellent block with some of the more elaborate carvings in time.


That's awesome! Very cool to hear they've taken interest. Excited to see what the ROV turns up.

We're excited about this. We toyed with the same idea, but felt it would be difficult to accomplish. With support from the historical commission, and local community, I'm sure Mr. Karentz can make it happen.

We've been hard at work plotting where the wrecks are hidden in the Narragansett bay. We're very grateful for the lead from kevin_k of Southern California Coastal Exploration that gave us a KML for all the wreck the NOAA are aware of In bay. With those out of the way, We can now focus on plotting the location of the leaser known and more interesting historical wrecks. There are loads of them out there waiting for us to plot and explore them.

We received good news recently and it looks like we might be able to get our hands on the OpenRov sooner than planned. We've already found several colonial wreck we can use as our testing/practice area. They rest in a protected coves where visibility and access will be fantastic.

This week we'll also be visiting local cavers we often work with, known as Diggers. These are caver that dig up entrances to caves never explored by man before. We'll be discussing a few new caves they recently discovered that contain sumps, passage in a cave that is submerged under water, that are blocking any progress. We're looking into the possibility of using the OpenRov sometime next summer to help them out.

2015 looks like it will be an exciting year!


We've been trying to dig up more information on the H.F. Payton with no luck. We did dig up a wealth of resources concerning over 2000 other ship wrecks in the harbor. Per square mile, Rhode Island has more shipwrecks than any other state.

In the bay there are many wreck that are in wonderful condition for diving. There are some areas where so many British Warships and Transports were scuttled & burned in 1778 that diving there you'll be certain to stumble on a wreck.

We've found some great shipwrecks in safe harbors that will be good for doing a test run of the ROV at. This is great since the area where the H.F. Payton sunk at time has very rough and dangerous conditions. Having time to practice before venturing in dangerous waters will be very helpful.

I've begun plotting those we can get the coordinates or general location of. Its going to take us along time to plot them all, but here is an image showing what we've gotten done already. The red markers are those you can see from google earth.


I have a similar Google Earth database for the wrecks in Southern California. If you really want to get into some heavy stuff, be sure to load up NOAA's KML/KMZ files for their Automated Wreck and Obstruction Information System and Electronic Navigational Charts. These have every charted wreck and/or weird obstruction in 3 easy to use files. Some have some pretty good stories attached.

Thanks for the link Kevin! I had done a search for a KML file for wrecks, but I guess I didn't try hard enough. We've used USGS overlays for our work on land in the past, and its been very helpful.

The NOAA information takes care of most of the wrecks in the bay. All that is left are those currently not a hazard due to age or location. This is great since that means I can now focus on plotting the more interesting ships we'll visit, such as the many many British warships not covered by NOAA.

I'll probably revise our collection, and use a unique symbol for those not in the NOAA file.

We returned on Sunday to take a better look at all the blocks, especially the one with the step cut. We were anxious to find see if the block with the step cut was in fact the one with the flower design on it. After close examination we concluded it wasn’t. We did find that it and one other had button like reliefs on it much like the block with the carved flower.

While examining the blocks we noticed a scuba diver about to jump in. We asked if he had ever seen the granite block off the shores, to which he quickly responded with a yes. He also pointed where they would be found underwater. What he described sounded like a debris trail of the H.F. Payton.

We explained to the diver why we were curious. He said that he never knew what they were, but now that he knows, he was eager to take a closer look at them. We said our goodbyes and the diver picked up his equipment and moved down the coast to where he just mentioned the blocks were. Imagining what it will be like for him to look at the blocks now that he is aware of their history, made me eager to get down there myself. We must have patients, but we’ll really be looking forward to what we can find early next year!


Today was a good day. We were able to look at a manuscript concerning the schooner H.F. Payton and its demise. Following our visit to the historical society library we headed down to the southern point to once again walk the shore during low time. With the new information in hand we felt confident we'd find the block.

As we waited for low tide to arrive, we reexamined the areas we had already searched. We also took the time to test a new underwater filer we had just gotten for the GoPro.

At the peak of low tide we began where we had started a week ago and proceeded south this time. About a quarter mile into our quest, we found the blocks.

On some of the blocks you could still see the stylized edges. Others you could see the transition between the rough stone cut and smoothed edging that would be visible. In total we found 20 definite blocks in various positions of the tide zone and three other possible block still submerged. The best find of all was one we could tell was on upside-down. When we viewed a photo of its side, we could see what appeared to be the step like cut much like the B&W photo we shared below. Could this be that same block, now flipped due to later storms?

Seeing the excellent condition of the blocks in the tide zone, we are now confident that those below the waves should be in great shape. excited by such a successful day, we need to sit, take a breath and begin discussing what are next move is.


I spoke to the contact we were given during our visit to Conanicut Island last weekend. She confirmed that last she was aware the block is still on the rocky shore of the south end of the island. We'll be visited her at the historical society's museum this Saturday to view a manuscript called Beavertail Stones and the Wrecked Schooner H.F. Payton . The man who wrote this spent much time researching the Schooner H.F. Payton and is horrible demise.

We were also give a lead on a contact at the lighthouse at that end of the island. Though I doubt we'll see the block this weekend, I expect we'll be leaving with much information on the Schooner and where it rest off the shores of the island.

Over the past week we discussed if it was time to purchase the ROV and it was a unanimous YES! We have always been aware of the many ships that rest in the bay, and other things lost to the depths of our bay. We felt that since we live in the ocean state, it was about time we start exploring the ocean too. We've already got a long list of place to visit that we collect over the years. It'll be interesting to explore another side of NEw England.

We hope to get the ROV before the year is over, and build it before spring.


Luck was not with us today. We searched up and down the coast where the H F Payton had sunk and did not find any signs of the granite blocks. The information we had said some could be seen at low tide, but I believe the tide was not very low today. Also, the sea was a bit rough today and it minimized any visibility for anything that might lie in the shallow waters off shore. We'll have to make a follow up trip at the lowest tide for the area.

We did stop by the local historical society and was able to get contact information for someone who might have more information about the ship and its granite blocks. We'll be following up this week.

We had brought along our GoPro and it waterproof case, so we were disappointed to not be able to put it to use. To make the most of our day, we headed over to a protected cove where we know a variety of crabs and tropical fish can be found. Luck was with us, and a concentration of small red jelly fish of all shapes and sizes had filled the cove. We lashed a piece of chicken to a cage we mounted the camera in and lowered it into a shallow portion of the cove. Once below the jelly fish, it wasn't long before the fish began to show up to feed on the chicken. We're going to see if we can identify the hungry fish that showed up.

Though our original goal was not met today, we still had fun. With the help of our new information from out contact, we hope to have a bit more luck on our next try.


I identified the most common jellyfish in the video. Its a Mnemiopsis leidyi, but also known as a warty comb jelly or sea walnut. It consumes zooplankton including crustaceans, but is also known to eat smaller individuals of its own kind at times.


Wow, that's a beautiful photo. Thanks for sharing. I think it's important to share the times when things don't go as planned (which is most of the time) because there's still lots to learn.

It's great that you still put the camera in the water. Cool Jellyfish! I'm looking forward to seeing the next attempt at those ornate granite blocks.

David, that shoreline is treacherous. Many have lost their lives in that water. Its rare to find the waters that most of the blocks live below calm. We'll defiantly try again at a lower tide to find the block on the shoreline. I think this is a project that will take many attempts to work out all the issues before we'll be ready to drop an ROV in.

I agree that its important to share when you hit obstacle along the way. Often finding where things are is only half the battle. Figuring out how to overcome the obstacle to actually get to them is often the most fun, and where you learn so much.

Erik, There will be more to come before winter is upon us!

Tomorrow we're heading down to Conanicut Island to inspect the shore where the schooner H F Payton sank in 1859. It had been carrying 140 cut granite stones with unique Fleur-d-Lis design carved into them. Some thought the design resembled a squid, and referred to them as the granite monsters. The H F Payton had been headed for Washington D.C. and the stones were thought to be intended to be used for a mausoleum.

The 1938 hurricane hurled some of the granite monsters up on the shore, and in the past you could find a few at low tide. We're going to try and locate what remains of them. If we can confirm the location of these blocks, we'll then start working on acquiring an OpenRov. With the ROV we hope to find where the rest of the blocks and the other cargo of the H F Payton now rests below the waves.


In the back of Dragon's Hole we found names and dates of the previous brave explorers. In the middle right you can see the earliest date of 1812 inscribed into the stone.


Dragon’s Hole

New England has many Wildlife Management Areas. Though they highlight great sights, often there are long forgotten landmarks and geological curios hidden in their dark recesses. Over time the trails to them and mention on the maps fades away, and they are lost into history.

Late winter we visited one of these landmarks hidden in the forests of Connecticut. We had first heard of this cave in a book about places to visit that was published in the 1930s by the state planning board. We then stumbled on an 1800's map of the area that pin pointed the location of Dragon's Hole along the south side a prominent hill. Since the 1700s it was referred to as Dragon’s Hole but eventually was also referred to as Devil’s Den. Though it was a popular feature in the 1800s, now it was once again absorbed back into the wild.

Devil’s Den was a common name used by colonial settlers concerning caves that gave the reason to suspect activity of a dark force. Dragon’s hole was said to be one of those cave. It was said that strange noise and lights would be seen coming from the grotto it lives within. Some believed that these tales were just folklore created by mothers trying to protect their children from the hazards of this wild terrain.

Dragon’s Hole is made of several small passages and chambers totaling about 40 feet. It is the largest of many caves that can be found in the talus. It is located about half way up a ravine created by a brook. I appeared that the cave was formed due to at 300 foot wide and one mile long unit of quartzite. As the water carved its way through the schist, the 300 feet of its path with a concentration of the much less soluble quartzite collapsed into the ravine to create the talus.

Our climb to Dragon’s Hole was steep yet short. As we got close to the cave we found remnants of the old red markers from the old trail to it. At the bottom of the grotto we could hear the brook running underneath the talus, but still hidden from sight. When we entered the cave the first thing we noticed was the distinct red coloring covering some of its wall. It was obvious to us that this was dues to the high iron content in the schist, but to people of the past this might have been the first hint to the mark of the devil. The next thing we noticed was how the architecture of the cave and grotto magnified our voice. If the cave had been a den to a wolf or other predatory animal, its growl would have been a frighteningly devilish sound to those approaching. Though we saw reasons locals might be frightened by Dragon’s Hole, in its back chamber we found dates as early as 1812 carved into it walls. Curiosity is often the elixir of the brave, or foolish who trespass into the dark chambers of the unknown. Like those reckless explorers of the past, at the end of the day we were able to retreat from the Dragon’s Hole unscathed.

A thanks to my friend Jim for digging into his files and sharing documentation on Dragon’s Hole from 1967, previous to our visiting it.



This is SO COOL, Michael!

In 2013 Ms. Dreadful and I visited a cave dig fellow explorers had been working on. This cave was named Skeleton Cave because of all the animal skeletons they found as they dug it out. It had been a few years since we last had seen it and were curious to see how the progress was going. We also thought this was a good time to try out our new video camera. Here is a short compilation of the footage we got.

We'll be soon heading out to the same area to attempt to find some lost caves, and see what new stuff the diggers have found.

We've been busy working on our entry for National Geographic's Expedition Granted. We hope you'll go to our project page and show some support. If we win the grant it will help propel our project into high gear. Please go to our project page and use the links on the right side of the video to share it on Facebook, G+,Twitter or Email.

In October we have a trip book to hunt down some lost caves in the northeast and hopefully visit with some of the digger we know and see what fantastic new caves they've discovered.

We'll start posting details as we warm up to the trip in late October!

Expedition Background

Many believe that all of America has been explored, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are still many hidden landscape waiting to yield up their secrets and locations lost to history ready to be rediscovers.

Over the past 30 years Fellow explorers and I have been able to dig up many historical and natural treasures buried in our forests in the northeast. In the past year we uncovered a long lost counterfeiters den and revealed a cave never seen by man before. We spend many hours reviewing maps, journals and historical literature to continue to add to our growing list of places to bring out of hiding.

Currently we publish some of our findings in journals and even fewer on blogs. Beginning this year we'd like to make more of our work public. We hope to educate and entertain the curious adventurers and armchair explorers, Most of all we want to excite and inspire peoples inner explorers and show them the value of protecting our historical and natural resources.


Agreed! This is awesome! I'm so excited to follow along!

Thanks for the enthusiastic support David.

We've got a lot of work we've already done and I'll start posting some of the best this week. Meanwhile, there is already a few new finds we're working on that will excite and inspire the inner explorer in all of us!

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