Exploration of the Steamer Tahoe Shipwreck

Latest update June 27, 2016 Started on March 30, 2014
In 1940, the 52m long "Steamer Tahoe" was skuttled in Lake Tahoe, Nevada in 150m of water. Hardly anyone as seen the steamship since. We intend to use OpenROV submarines to record video of the sunken ship and examine her condition.

March 30, 2014
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For the most recent dive on the SS Tahoe, check out the Return to the SS Tahoe expedition:



And here is our first take on a power profile for the dive. Notice how the pink line shows that one of the Battery tubes just quit but later started contributing power again.


Interesting. Is there a high-res version of this available? It's not quite intelligible as it cannot be expanded.

Hi, do you have any hints for how we should deal with the data.json telemetry download? How did you import it into Ploy.ly?

Post dive: Have some of the initial telemetry graphed from the dive. This image shows the rapid dive with the weights and the drop in water temp.


I made a few small modifications to my OpenROV so it could fly deeper:
-A 1/4" tube to replace the 1/8" standard tube
-Thicker endcaps. A 1/2" core replaces the 1/4" standard core. To make room for the thicker cores, I permanently glued one endcap which then did not need the inner portion. I also thinned the e-chassis to make even more room.
-I used a thicker material for the battery tubes and the battery tube endcaps.

Those are all the changes made to increase depth, but I also added lights to the ends of the battery tubes. I wanted to move them further from the camera and outside the e-tube. Unfortunately, as you could see from the video, placing them on the lowest part of the ROV was problematic. They lit the wrong things and in addition, they added buoyancy to the front, which is awkward.

Thanks to the tests and trials this weekend, I now have a new list of modifications to make. Hooray!


Cool! I thought I saw light coming from the battery packs during one of the dives, but I was a little perplexed, and attributed it to a strange reflection. The solid end caps look burly and up to the job!

Last dive of the weekend. Testing the PVC endcaps.

Fantastic. I hope to attend the next expedition! - Jim N.

After 2.5 hours of searching we found the SS Tahoe. The bow was sitting in water that was 112 meters deep. If you watch the last 40 minutes of the video below you can see the ship.


This was an exciting dive with many challenges. We learned a great deal about diving deep. The wieght of the tether, when it is so long, pulls down on the ROV and in all of the dives the various ROVs were riding the bottom. In this dive we were using my ROV, which had its lights on the battery tubes. This tuns out to be a bad place for them, particularly when you are riding on the bottom. A small terrain elevation can block the light and in addition the area directly in from of the LEDs is so bright, it drowns out anything in the background. Add to this all the silt turned up from the ROV driving on the bottom, lag, and questionable motor response, it is truly amazing that Colin, who was flying the ROV, found the Tahoe at all. He employeed amazing patience and skill to find the Tahoe (and a very very Keen eye!). You Rock Colin!

We will be using two ROVs to attempt to find and explore the SS Tahoe. You can watch the live stream of our attempt.

Full Dive Log

ROV #: Darcy and Deep 2

Date: 4-6-14

Operator: Darcy ROV - Colin and Deep 2 - Matt

Depth at surface: see below

Network Layout: Two ROVs deployed from two different boats. ROVs connected to long range wireless bridge -> to network in house -> two laptops -> google hangout

Capture Data:


10:52 - Launch of boats to wreck site
10:53 - Darcy ROV online
10:59 - Battery voltage Darcy ROV 11.7v
10:59 - Depth at surface -2.07 Darcy ROV
11:04 - Hangout went live
11:11 - Arrive on station 15 meters NW of wreck coordinates
11:13 - Eric has map upside down
11:19 - System test, motors are spinning really slowly
11:20 - Lost video
11:20 - Clicked the “zero depth” to bring back video
11:21 - Full system test of motors and lights
11:25 - ROV pointing west to figure out heading West = -50
11:26 - Dropping ROV upslope (north) of wreck
11:26 - Moving boat to within 10 meters of the wreck, north
11:27 - Calibration of compass
11:28 - ROV in water 8:34 in dive log time voltage of 11.4v
11:29 - Pulling ROV up a little to put float on the tether
11:30 - lost video feed and zeroing depth to bring back video
11:32 - Lost all communications and are resetting the ROV
11:34 - Communications are back and working at depth of 18 meters
11:36 - 40 meters
11:37 - Tether is not pulling may have lost weight at 50 meters
11:38 - Visual confirmation that weights are still attached
11:39 - Lost IMU data
11:39 - 60 meters boat is west of the wreck drifting east
11:40 - 70 meters
11:41 - Temperature 5.4 C
11:42 - 75 meters and then appear to be rising
11:43 - Thrusting down at a slower rate
11:44 - Tether was wrapped around boat outboard motor
11:44 - Holding tether and lowering because nearing bottom of 90 meters
11:45 - 92 meters and then now lowering ROV from surface
11:45 - 97 meters
11:46 - 100 meters
11:46 - Hit bottom at 105 meters
11:47 - Seeing lights on the screen
11:48 - Lights off and can still see things
11:50 - waiting for lifesaver to dissolve. Found a rock
11:51 - New GPS coordinates sent
11:55 - Appear to be on a slope
11:56 - Average ping times of around 15 ms
11:56 - Appear to have lost weight
11:57 - Should be free to drive around
11:58 - Thrusters are not being responsive, lights are ok
11:58 - About a .25s delay
12:04 - Due to video lag, the lag is due to the javascript not catching up in the browser. Refreshed the browser window and the lag was reduced
12:04 - Deep 2 is being turned on and have three lights on
12:05 - Darcy is flying down the slope 108 meters
12:06 - Lag spikes are picking up on Darcy and refreshing the browser
12:08 - Deep 2 is being turned off because of possible tether interference
12:09 - Loss of communications
12:10 - Deep 2 is off waiting to see if communications will be reestablished
12:10 - Power cycle Darcy ROV
12:10 - Darcy ROV is being turned back on and waiting for power up
12:11 - Pings are coming back with Darcy ROV
12:11 - Cockpit is back up
12:12 - Still no IMU data but have depth
12:12 - Going to drop down in depth to 115 and then do transverse crossing to try to find the boat
12:13 - 108.5 meters
12:14 - More tether is being spooled out
12:14 - 109 meters and just pass mark from dive from last night
12:16 - 110 meters
12:17 - popcorn arrives in cabin
12:18 - Slope arrears to be greater
12:21 - Lifting up and then setting back down over 112 meters
12:25 - ROV at 113 meters and are beginning transects to the starboard
12:27 - Arduino froze but are back
12:31 - Lost communications 115 meters
12:32 - Have three lights on topside
12:34 - Restarting ROV
12:35 - Communications has been restablished
12:40 - ROV has been reset because of communication loss
12:40 - We have been looking at a possible rock
12:41 - Walt falls asleep on bear rug
12:41 - ROV is back up and communication has been reestablished 115 meters
12:42 - IMU has been restablished
12:43 - Speedboat going by the boats
12:46 - Lost battery tube 1
12:49 - Will pull tether from the top and pull in slack
12:50 - Battery tube 1 is back up but looks like batteries are starting to die and the circuit protection is cutting off the motors
12:53 - Boat 60 meters NE of the wreck
13:00 - ROV is lifted from bottom by tether and boats will be repositioned
13:10 - Arrive on site to new location
13:10 - Found a stick
13:14 - Lost communications and power cycled the ROV
13:16 - See a black blob
13:18 - Black blob looks pretty big
13:21 - We have found the SS Tahoe
13:23 - Can see the wreck more clearly. Bow of the ship 111.88 meters
13:23-13:45 - On station looking at the wreck of the SS Tahoe
13:45 - ROV died and is being power cycled
13:48 - Topside lights are on, no connection
13:51 - 117 meters in depth
13:52 - With live video tether is being pulled up
13:55 - Out of sight of the wreck (105 meters) and are pulling the ROV up
14:00 - ROV out of the water Voltage 10.5v, no condensation, battery tubes are clear.
14:01 - Power down ROV
14:01 - Google hangout stopped
14:02 - After closer inspection a little water appears to be in the electronics tube

Link to the video stream: youtube.com/watch?v=dKJ_0KgCTaI&feature=youtu.be4

Starting a night dive on the SS Tahoe. We are live streaming the video from the ROV.


23:40 - Arrive on Site
23:43 - Testing of ROVs and calibrating thrusters
23:44 - ROV in the water
23:44 - ROV out of water to attach weight
23:50 - ROV in water
23:53 - ROV descending but no working depth sensor so flying blind
23:59 - Hit bottom of the lake
00:02 - Figuring out controls because some are backwards
00:03 - Lots of sediments being stirred up
00:04 - Weight seems to still be attached
00:08 - Pulling on tether to try to release weight
00:10 - New GPS 39.09277509,-119.95576635 (88 meter drift)
00:12 - Weighting for the lifesaver to dissolve
00:20 - Seem to have maneuverability
00:27 - Time difference between live steam and youtube is 34 seconds
00:29 - Begin dead vehicle recovery
00:30 - ROV is back to life but it is being pulled up
00:39 - ROV out of water

-Brian Grau

After bringing the ROV up from a depth of 93 meters (over 300 ft) we believe we have determined the cause of the failure. The endcaps on this ROV are similar to the traditional endcaps but there is one layer that is aluminum instead of plastic. As the ROV descended and the pressure increased, these layers delaminated (seen on the right side of the image) causing water to flood into the electronics tube. We believe that this happened at a depth of just over 50 meters after analyzing the video and the rate of decent. With the endcaps failed, there was a tremendous amount of pressure on the electronics chassis and the shock of hitting the bottom of the lake caused the chassis, including the electronics board, to snap (as seen in the middle of the image). Once the electronics board snapped communication with the ROV was lost.


Test dive live on Youtube right now.

Wonderful... I love what you guys are doing. Its great to be able watch you live. :)


16:20 - Boat launch
16:31 - Release photo boat from tow
16:35 - Bad joke
16:39 - Boat arrived on station
16:39 - Attached the drop weight to ROV
16:44 - System check, thrusters, lights, camera, lasers all operational
16:45 - ROV in the water
16:49 - Appeared to pass some object in the water between 40-68m (52 meters uncorrected)
16:51 - Hit bottom and lost communications at 93 meters
16:51 - Attempt to restart ROV
16:52 - Begin dead vehicle recovery
16:56 - ROV out of water, one endcap had delaminated, flooding the electronics tube
17:00 - Examine youtube video at control station and the event at 16:49 appears to be the main electronics tube filling with water

The Long Range Wireless system worked so well all through the expedition, that we started to take it for granted. Every once in a while some one would remember how we were connecting. We would then talk about how great it was for a few seconds before carrying on taking it for granted. Sometimes things do just work. Well done guys!

First test of the cabin control. Bob Ballard has pioneered this approach with the Inner Space Station. We've recreated that experience using and OpenROV and a Google Hangout.

Dive coming later this afternoon.

Hope y'all get the link working! Would love to see the ship live!

View of the lake from the cabin. The view we woke up to this morning.

Preparing the boats and getting ready to test the wireless system. Stay tuned.


First night dive to test equipment.

Time in water: 12:05am-12:32am


Great progress, is there any noticeable delay in controlling the ROV, now that it uses a wireless bridge inbetween?

that was actually me. Is there any way to change my profile picture here?

Here's my dive log for this evening's deployment:

Dive 1
OpenROV# ***
(Matt's ROV)

Entered water at 12:05AM
Exited water at 12:32AM
E. Stackpole Piloting
M. Valency and B. Grau managing tether

Moved along bottom
Looked at wooden pilings
Tested acoustic homing device
Looked at underwater pipe near shore
May have seen crawdad near rocks and pipe
Pulled ROV in with tether back to shore since tether was suspected to be fouled in props

Problems with video freezing- we suspect the issue is due to too many instances of the OpenROV video stream running on other computers around the house (after the stream on other computers was closed, the instances of video freezing greatly improved). Software architecture to take load off of Beaglebone is suggested.

ROV seemed to "stick" to lake bottom when trying to thrust up, but when the ROV was popped off the bottom by thrusting aft, it could then ascend freely.

ROV wanted to spin out during a turn (it was easy over-turn). A control loop that achieves rate-of-heading change based on joystick input would be ideal.

We didn't use the wireless last night, we threw a long ethernet cable off the balcony. I don't expect any extra lag with the wireless though based on our test and Eric's research. -Matt

I beliebe the profile pics come from gravatar.com or whatever github uses to associate pic with email.

Setting up the control station at the cabin in Tahoe.


This is so cool!

I'm getting really excited to try out this new long-range wireless system. We got a (very fancy) house right on the shoreline of Glenbrook Bay, just over 1km away from the wreck of the SS Tahoe. Our plan is to deploy the ROV from a small inflatable boat but have it be commanded from a control station in the house on shore. Here's a diagram...


I'm bringing a 50ft Ethernet cable (Sharpie is for scale) just in case it's needed.


Sounds great. I have a spool of cat6 and crimps as a backup backup!


Here's a great post about the history of the SS Tahoe: "The Captains of the Lake's "Queen Steamer"



We just bought all the communication equipment for this weekend's deployment! Because the cabin we're considering is up on a hill, we may be able to make a straight shot to a boat above the Tahoe in Glenbrook Bay some 5.4km away. If this works, we could control the ROV in extreme comfort!


We've actually decided on a different cabin. It's much closer to the wreck site. ~1km.

Eric and me tested out the equipment last night and it works great. This should be really fun. So we have 3 of the 5ghz ubiquity units, 2 x 5ghz/2.4ghz EnGenius units that may also work with ubiquity, a nice outdoor wifi access point, a 16 port gigabit switch, and a smaller switch to go on the boat. Along with an assortment of antennas we have backups for the backups and this should be a lot of fun.

Our dive next week is in the middle of Lake Tahoe's "off" season. Because snow storms and cold temperatures are still common in April, most of the large boats around Tahoe are still winterized and won't be on the water until May. Since more then 15 people are likely to be participating in this preliminary expedition, we'll need some way to do the dive from shore.

The SS Tahoe is more then a kilometer off shore, so we've come up with a deployment plan that utilizes a long-range wireless Ethernet bridge to communicate from shore to a small inflatable boat that could be stationed above the wreck. With only two or three people in the boat (to manage tether, communicate with the shore, and keep the boat on station) the rest of the party should be able to command the ROV from a station set up on the shore or even the cabin we're all planning to stay at.

Here's the system architecture we're considering:


Do comments work if I post here?

They do!

Next weekend, we plan to do a preliminary dive on the SS Tahoe in order to gather information about the wreck, experiment with deployment methods, and test equipment.

Because the SS Tahoe lies at a depth well beyond what the OpenROV submarine was designed for (the deepest part of the wreck is more then 150m underwater), we'll need to a thicker main tube and reinforced endcaps to withstand the pressure.

Using a waterjet at TechShop in San Jose, I've crafted some special endcap flanges out of 1/4" aluminium which should make the them much stronger. Using the pressure chamber at OpenROV HQ, we were able to test the endcaps to a depth of about 130m, but the only way we'll know if they can handle the full depth of the ship will be to dive there!


Nice work. my hobby rov made off diving-tube 15Liter made off iron not aleminium
becuse i can weld in iron.iff you conekt more tubes you can have truster in difrent tubes
BR... from Norway "TOTFIX"

Expedition Background

In 1940, the 50m long "Steamer Tahoe" was skuttled in Glenbrook Bay on the east side of Lake Tahoe in Nevada. The owners of the steamship intended for it to sink in shallow enough water for tourists to see it from a glass-bottom boat, but the ship was sunk too far from shore and ended landing on a slope and sliding do a depth between 110 and 150m. Because of its great depth in a high-altitude lake, very few divers have ever been able to see the sunken ship, and no footage has been recorded of the ships interior. Our mission is to find the SS Tahoe using OpenROV submarines and record video of its hull and interior.


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