Southern California Coastal Exploration

Latest update March 31, 2016 Started on September 7, 2014

Ever since Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered the existence of California in 1542, countless vessels have navigated and charted its waters, but thorough exploration and documentation of lost shipwrecks has been sporadic and mostly accomplished by scuba divers, who are limited to 200 feet or less. The goal of this expedition is to explore the uncharted portions of the Southern California inner-continental shelf and document any historic sites in the area. Additional Photos of expedition trips can be found here:

September 7, 2014
Expedition's summary cannot exceed 240 characters


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In The Field

On our way back from Catalina Island, we decided to make one last detour and make a quick drop on Site 019-A off Dana Point Head in 75ft of water.

The site isn't the dive bomber we have been looking for, but instead another 25ft motor boat, this time right side up. We used one of BlueRobotics' ROVs to conduct the video documentation.

A few notes:
1. We are getting much more proficient at setting up dives and we went from anchoring to site identification in about 15 minutes.
2. We are nose on with our GPS coordinates (thanks @garyfabian!) and you can see that we dropped the marker buoy less than 10ft away from the wreck.

Although this didn't turn out to be the SBD bomber, we'll keep looking and scouring the area around Dana Point Harbor for other sonar anomalies. There is a bit of a multibeam data gap right off the Head, so it will take some side scan work to finish the imagery for that area. And for that, I've gone ahead and "bit the bullet" and ordered a DeepVision DE680 side scan system that should get us much better imagery at greater depths than the 450kHz Starfish system we had been using.


After a long weekend exploring, I am finally getting caught up on the documentation and putting out videos.

We left Dana Point Harbor at around 0900 Saturday morning and made best speed over to Emerald Bay, Catalina to do some video work and equipment testing. I also had the ulterior motive of looking for shipwrecks.

We anchored in Doctor's Cove in a location that I thought would put us in a good position to locate the wreck of the S/V Extreme Snailing, a known loss in the cove from before 2011.

Video had been shot before by divers in 2011 and 2014, but I was unsure of the wreck's actual location. (2011) (2014)

After deployment, I searched the bottom going in towards the beach, but didn't find anything. It was only when I was coming back out of the cove and past where we anchored that my tether got caught on something. We sent a snorkeler over the side and he confirmed that I had wrapped myself around the mast. After getting the ROV back on deck and the tether disconnected, we got everything untangled and ready to head back down.

I shot the following video with an attached GoPro and the quality came out pretty well. I was careful to stay to one side of the wreck so I didn't get tangled again. One thing to note in comparing the previous videos to the 2016 one, the wreck is now almost entirely covered with seaweed. I didn't get a peek at the cabin, but I imagine it is much the same. I copied down the new coordinates.

We moored overnight in Emerald Bay as we continued our video shoots and that was where we did the 360 video trial. Take a look in the OpenROV forums if you haven't already seen it.

The second video of what we found at site 019-A will be up in a few days.


Nice work Kevin
Interested to hear what you find at site 19
Good luck with it
Ps the water looked ok as well

Excellent. Can't wait to see the site 19 find.

@nswwrecks Thanks! Yes, the water was perfect for a crossing on both days and we were able to do 24 kts. The viz was still a little low, but far better than what would have been along the mainland coast.

Thanks @davidtlang! Working on it!

Side scan imagery of Site 019-A. We have no idea what this one is yet.


Nice looking return mmmmm 2 in 2 days?

I can scan these pretty quick and make 4-5 passes in about 30 minutes.

What is the size of the target?

7.3m (24ft) from end to end.

Kevin, what's the sonar rig you are using?

@jimn, it's a Starfish 452F. It's a little unstable for open ocean use, I got better results in the harbor. I'll be looking at getting a Deepvision when I save up a bit more or my tax rebate comes in.

Side scan sonar imagery of the A.C.E. wreck site.


@Kevin_K it looks like your getting a fair bit of heave in the towfish (where the fish is dragged up and down in the water column - have a look at the jagged edge of the first bottom return the "shaky" object) might be time to look at a wing or a 2 part tow system

@nswwrecks, that's what I'm thinking too. Do they make an aftermarket stabilizer kit for the Starfish 452F? Shark Marine makes one for the Yellowfin. I think there are some users out there with stabilizers, but I haven't been able to see their apparatus.

Hi @Kevin_K
I am not sure what is out there for the Starfish (or even how to mount one on their fish design. But they do make any fish much more stable against heave pitch roll and yawl and improve the images back from the SSS immensely. I have just started making another one (based on our Klein's K Wing) and it shouldn't be too hard. Also a 2 part tow system (eg a say 20kg weight in front of the fish with a line back to it) also takes out a lot of the heave but won't particularly remove any R/P/Y but is still a good easy improvement to the images

After all the excitement from yesterday, today was a bit more relaxed and we took advantage of the good sea state and ran a few passes of the side scan over the A.C.E. and Site 019-A.

I'm still in the process of analyzing and processing, but it was still a great day to be out on the water and a good close to the productive weekend.


Nice smooth looking water would have an excellent day to be out

Below is The GoPro footage from one of the ROV's for the community to analyze. The quality is a bit better.

For the animal lovers, the crab shows up at the 8:00 minute mark.


The boat-based command center set-up with two 1080p displays.


That's great. Love seeing the set up. So a monohull sailboat?

Nice to see that you boat is as messy with all sorts of electrical stuff as ours when we go out (cables and screens and leads everywhere) ;-)

@davidtlang, thanks took me a bit to get the set-up right but its a great little mission control cabin, Eric will be jealous. We're thinking it's a mono-hull powerboat based on the "stringers" that run along the bottom of the hull. Sailboats don't have them and we couldn't find evidence of a skeg.

@nswwrecks, yeah two ROV's in action will do this. Good thing we had the generator at the ready to power all the displays.

We finally got the repairs done on the boat and dove both 019-A and 020-A today.

The bad news is the visibility is terrible right now (~5ft). We couldn't find anything at 019-A for today, but we did, however, find something substantial at 020-A (105ft site).

We put two ROV's on it and right now we are assessing it as a 20ft fiberglass, single stern drive power boat. It is upside down so we don't know what the interior looks like, but we have some decent video of the stern drive and fiberglass hull. We also found what looks like a plastic identification label off to one side of the bow with a "Df" and either an "S" or a "5". The wreck pre-dates 2008, when the sonar imagery was taken.

The video is pretty hazy due to the poor visibility and some fogging inside the electronics tube, but I posted it up for everyone to take a look.

At the end of the day, this is the first uncharted shipwreck our team has found off the multibeam sonar data. I'll be turning over the coordinates and description to the USCG shortly.


wow, man. that in itself merits a congratulations. visibility reminds me of the chesapeake, lol. Were you able to get a number or name off of the boat?

Congregation's @Kevin_K really well done in finding your 1st (?) wreck
As you know it's all about getting out there and searching rather than talking about it, and it's great to see you enthusiastically actively putting your dreams into actions.
Hope this is the first of many more to come

Congratulations not Congregation's grrrrr auto correct thing grrr

@jimn, thank you very much! Yeah, afterwards I checked the visibility reports from the local scuba dive shops and they said it was 5-10ft. Terrible. We'll try diving again when the visibility is at least 20ft.

@nswwrecks, thanks Scott! Yes, this was my first uncharted wreck purely taken from the multibeam sonar. The FOSS last year was a known wreck. Thanks for all the tutoring via e-mail, I told you I'd get my project up and moving, it just took me a few years for the ROV tech to catch up. I was just glad I didn't have to get wet :)

@jimn, and no hull number or name yet. We tried blowing sediment off the bow with one of the ROV's, but we couldn't find anything. We're thinking we need a suction dredge.

After a series of issues with the boat today, we unfortunately decided to call the dive off.

On the way out to side scan the ACE, the starboard engine overheated for some reason and had to be shut down. We turned around and managed to anchor near Site 019-A on one engine, but immediately after, the main DC power bus went out and we decided to pull back into port.

After limping in and getting the boat tied up, I still decided to test the ROV and got the buoyancy balanced out so now the depth hold works perfectly. I managed to do a few dives to the bottom of the murky harbor and got some navigation practice.

We'll try to get the boat repaired this week and head out next weekend.


Bad luck mate
Nothing worse than getting all the gear out and something stuffs up and you cant use it

Better luck next time out

Too bad! Was looking forward to seeing a plane sitting on the seabed. Looking forward to the next dive!

Kevin, DUDE! Been absent for far too long, great to see the expedition. Also great to see you out and about. We've been hampered here on a few trips with similar issues. Best of luck! The ROV looks fantastic.

@nswwrecks, @rax, @jimn,

Thanks for the encouragement, it turns out the starboard engine had a snapped belt going to the attached seawater pump. No further engine damage, but nothing we could do. Repairs should be complete in a few days. We still aren't sure on the electrical issue.

The weather is still holding, it actually got nicer, so we'll try again this weekend. Might be doing two trips. and thanks Jim, the ROV was the only thing that was 100% for once.

The ocean has finally calmed enough to permit major search operations and over the next few weeks we will be investigating a couple of sites on the list including a return to the A.C.E. next weekend.

However, this weekend we will be going out to look for a lost WWII USMC dive bomber. The aircraft, an SBD-5 Dauntless Dive Bomber (Serial #10963) was lost on 24 May 1944 after suffering an engine control system failure. From the loss report we have, the pilot made a water landing offshore Dana Point and both the pilot and gunner were picked up by a nearby fishing boat.

Gary Fabian and I reviewed the sonar data we have of the area and determined two possible site locations, code-named Sites 019-A and 020-A. Gary actually had the loss records for quite some time, but never had the chance to investigate with his other projects going on.

Although 2,965 SBD-5's were built during WWII, only a handful survive, and this happens to be one of the missing ones.

We'll be going out around 10:00am tomorrow and I'll try and update as much as I can throughout the day.


Nice! Excited to see how it goes!

Good luck to the pair of you with the search

Thanks Scott, had some issue with the boat today we'll try and fix for next weekend. ROV works great and is nice and stable though.

Due to the recent winter storms in the area, the ocean is a bit rough this time of year, however when we took the boat out to do some maintenance, we did do some trial runs with the Starfish sonar towed behind the boat about 20 feet back. After I got home, I post-processed the imagery, corrected the layback and exported it to Google Earth using SonarTRX.

Below are a portion of my results. I'm not sure what the big square thing is in the middle of the channel.


Nice scan Kevin
A little hard to say with the resolution of the upload but it is a good hard surface giving a strong return, but by the look of it there is not much shadow (height off the bottom) behind it. Any idea how deep the fish was? (deeper the better)
Also near wharfs and places like that, there is always a lot of junk (from both the construction and upkeep of the wharf and jetties and also people chucking stuff in to the water)

Thanks @NSWwrecks!
I agree, there was some shadow, but not much. The fish was about 1m below the surface and between 4-5m off the bottom, according to the boat sounder. The boat does a pretty constant 3kts in the engine setting just above idle, so have to adjust from there. I thought the fish was going to be pretty unstable, but its pretty decent at short ranges.

The target probably was just junk, but still a good image for me during trials. It's in a busy channel, so I have no intention to return. I have other things to go look for.

Also while I was up in San Francisco, @walt was generous enough to let me borrow his Starfish 452F for a few months to take a closer look at some shallow water targets that have previously identified on multibeam sonar. The side scan won't get down to the deeper targets, we'll need another sonar for that, but it should be good for targets in the 60-100 ft range.

Thanks Walt!


Spent the last 2 weeks getting the large ROV working, but as of 07JAN16, it has reached IOC (Initial Operating Capability). Special thanks to OpenROV HQ where I spent the last week getting everything working.

All 6 thrusters work, the new lights have been installed, and we have the horizontal strafing capability working via a new thruster configuration in the software. Pool tests were conducted and it looks like everything is ready for the 2016 season.


Nice! Do you have a picture of the ESCs crammed into your E-tube? Was it difficult to get them all hooked up?

@darcy Walt had a posting of the modified 2.7 control board here:

They aren't that badly crammed but the wiring harness covers them all in the tube, so you wouldn't see much. Hooking them up wasn't terrible, just something to keep in mind is that all the thrusters need to be going in the right direction, so I had to manually reverse 4 out of the 6. Bit of a pain doing rework.

Today was a bit of a page from , I'll summarize:

We made it out to the A.C.E. by around 1300 and dropped the marker buoy straight on the wreck. The sounder confirmed the wreck's location.

We moved upwind to anchor and ended up dragging and moved off the site. Pulled up, and had a go at attempt #2 and this time we caught and had the marker buoy around 100-200 feet parallel to us off the starboard beam. Perfect.

We deployed the ROV and with the GoPro slung underneath it seemed weighted and balanced perfectly. After about 20 feet away from the boat, I lost connection to the ROV. Interesting.

I tried a few resets and nothing. No leaks in the ROV so I began tracing the connection and then I found the culprit on the tether reel. As you can see from the picture, what ended up happening was the slip ring seized up and severed the wire connection to the topside adapter. Well at least the ROV wasn't the issue, my own poor choice for a slip ring was. so now it's back to searching the internet for a suitable replacement.

In the very least we established we could mark a wreck in 114ft of water and successfully anchor in as much water, so not a total waste.


Working on it now!

Thanks for the fix @davidtlang! Got my pictures up! Hopefully get my expedition back in gear when I get some new parts.

Now that I got the kinks worked out of OpenROV #1790, it's time to start exploring a bit deeper.

Today the plan is to head out to the A.C.E., a 58 foot long drum seiner that sunk in in a storm in 2005. More information can be found here:

The wreck lies at 114ft, so this will be a bit more of a challenge on my equipment and anchoring skills than the FOSS 125. Although the wreck has been an active dive spot since it was found in 2011, the coordinates have been closely guarded and as far as I know, no ROVs have been on the wreck.


Nice! Excited to follow along!

Got my Safe-T-Puller Light Commercial model in the mail today. It has a 300lb lifting capacity and should be ample for gear hauling and towed side scan operations. I still have to build up an A-Frame and do all the wiring to the main batteries on the boat, but I should get something together in a month or two.

Thanks @garyfabian for the great idea of using this piece of tech. I'm glad I won't have to haul anything in by hand anymore!


Nice! We've been looking at a number of different tether reels lately. Excited to hear what you think of that one.

Kevin you Just showing off now ;-P
We are still pulling in the 200m of side scan cable by hand -uuurrggg
Only thing is to watch your bend radius from damaging the cables

Thanks @davidtlang, it's rock solid piece of equipment, but it's probably a bit overkill for a tether reel. Shoot me an e-mail if you have your requirements and I can make a pretty good recommendation based on my research.

@nswwrecks Haha, I'm just trying to play catch up to you and Gary. I still have a long way to go, but I'm getting there.

Yeah there is no way I'm pulling in 200m of side scan or magnetometer cable by hand. This is a pretty good solution without having a deck mounted winch.

I've been reviewing the minimum bend radius issue and I think I'm going to copy what Gary has done with this unit. You see the two smaller pulley guides? He only used the forward one for the cable coming off the deck and did not use the aft guide, it went straight off the back of the main pulley into the water. The entire grove in the main pulley is coated in hard rubber providing plenty of friction, so much so, I could probably run it without either of the guides.

Work continues this month on equipment procurement and integration.

Those that have been following my work on the OpenROV forums know that I have been working on a much larger ROV based on OpenROV electronics, BlueRobotics thrusters, and an aluminum MakerBeam frame.

Several items came out this week that significantly contribute to this project including readily available General Plastics R-3300 Foam and neutrally buoyant tether. I have purchased quantities of both and I hope to have them integrated and tested by the end of the month.

In the search equipment realm, I have also purchased a cable winch with a 300lb lifting capability. This is the critical component for mounting a towed side scan sonar on the boat.


I've uploaded the dive video from the ROV camera and you can watch it below. No sound on this one.

A few notes:
1. I made a hook for the ROV to follow the marker buoy line down to the wreck so it didn't get thrown around in its way down. It worked perfectly and I ended up right in the middle of the wreck.
2. Although the wreck is heavily deteriorated, you can still see some of the frames and knees.
3. I terminated the dive earlier than I wanted because I was getting concerned about my negatively buoyant tether getting caught on the wreck. I was able to get the ROV back on deck, but I'll have to do something about making the tether neutrally buoyant.
4. I also had a GoPro attached to the underside of the ROV that shot some very good video when it was in the water column, but once it was on the bottom, it was pretty useless. I'll probably keep it removed from this ROV.
5. The BlueRobotics thusters worked great, but as you can see in the video, the ROV is just a bit too small for open water use and got banged around quite a bit in the surge.

I've also added some more pictures from today on my Facebook page: Endurance Marine Exploration Facebook Page

More parts are coming for the larger ROV this week, so I'll get some progress shots as it comes along.


Nice dive Kevin
Not sure was the IMU working at the start of the dive and then stopped?
Just another thought if the hook was at the top of the ROV and you descended with the camera looking up and you then ran the camera pointing down a bit when you got to the bottom the hook mightn't be in the screen the whole dive and maybe a bit less camera flare from the surface light - just a thought
Well done

Great Kevin! I would say your first dive was a success!

Thanks Scott @NSWwrecks!
The IMU was working for about the first 7 minutes of the dive, and then as you saw, it went haywire and froze up on me. Surprisingly, I didn't have depth working either. It was working in the ocean on Wednesday so I don't know.
And mounting the hook on the top part of the ROV is exactly what I was thinking next. I'm not quite sure how to place it, but I've put enough holes in the top part that I'll figure it out. It's a good concept for getting me on a point at depth, it just needs to be refined.

Thanks @garyfabian!
It was a great dive and these multibeam coordinates are perfect. My dad and I were laughing when we saw the black mushroom anchor I was using as a position marker right in the middle of the wreck. This is definitely the way to do this even with a small ROV.

The ACE is next, but that's a different animal.

we're casting it on the big screen at HQ right now! this is great. Have you talked to @andrewthaler about his similar device?

@erikabergman Great, I'm glad you guys got to see it on the big screen! I haven't talked to Andrew yet, but we'll have to see if we can come up with something that can detach from a line while underwater. He is way more professional about this and I'll have to see about getting a 3D printer for custom parts.

Great success! Video(s) to come this afternoon.


Good to hear it went well
and nice to see your doing it in luxury on a great looking support platform ;-)

Thank's Scott, we had a great day! The video is currently uploading and I'll get it out once it's done. I'm very lucky to have the "research vessel" that I do!

Looks like a perfect day Kevin! Look forward to your video.

Additional multibeam image of the Foss 125 wreck site courtesy of @garyfabian.


Big things are happening today as I move this project from the preparation stage into the underway stage. Although I am not 100% where I want to be with equipment, I have enough to start diving on shallow wrecks.

The first wreck we will be heading out to today is the Foss 125.

Here is the vessels history from the California Wreck Diver's page:

"Built in 1919 in Chicago, Ill as the USN YC-470 (YC: open lighter), the barge came a long way through the Great Lakes and the Panama Canal, eventually ending up with Foss company of Seattle, WA. On November 17, 1958 the Foss 125 was moored at Laguna, with a deck load of gravel for the Griswold Construction Co, who are installing a new out fall sewer line for the City of Laguna. A violent wind storm came up out of the South East, before the barge could be taken off the mooring and towed to a port of safety, she swamped and foundered at her mooring at Laguna Beach Calif."

The barge does have some naval history too as she was in Pearl Harbor, HI on December 7th, 1941.

I don't know how much I can live post, but I will try and do what I can off a cell phone.

I have attached the vessel's site listing for additional information on the site conditions.


looks like it is a nice little test dive site Kevin hope it goes well

After a lengthy wait and some moderate hacking, OpenROV #1790 is complete and had its first dive this afternoon. As far as I know, it is the first v2.7 to utilize the BlueRobotics thrusters and performed very well on its first dive.

#1790 Is only intended to be a "quick look" platform or something I can easily throw over the side and investigate a site of interest to determine if it is a wreck...or a rock pile. The larger "work class" documentation ROV is next in development.


Excited to see video!

Yesterday, @garyfabian let me know the missing Southern California GIS data became available. After some processing, the data was rendered into Google Earth completing the previously identified gaps.

The data can be found here:

Over the next few months we'll go through the data and identify any interesting sites and add them to the list to check out in the 2015 search season.

For the ROV, according to the latest update from BlueRobotics, the new thrusters for the v2.7 should be shipped by January 23rd.

After that, we plan on heading out to the A.C.E. shipwreck and two sites code-named "019-A" and "020-A".


It overlays nicely. Do you know if this kind of public data is available for other states?

Try this link:

From what I've seen for other states, it's sporadic at best. Usually the surveys are state sponsored. The California data is a bit all over the place between NOAA, the USGS, Fugro, and the CSUMB. It's taken nearly 2 years for me to ask around and piece everything together into a continuous data set.

What state/area do you have in mind? We'll take a look and see what's out there.

Its fantastic that you have data on that mysterious area now, looking back on your conversation with @garyfabian in September, I'm struck by how perfectly on time the data became available. He said it'd be ready by the end of the year and boom! Jan 1st. You've got it, Impressive!

@erikabergman I know, right? Gary is a GIS ninja and I don't question his contacts. He's been doing this for far longer than I have. He was also quick to correct me when I originally generated this data...thousands of miles off and in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

I think maybe Kevin flatters me a little bit too much. The reality is I'm constantly learning. The exciting part about viewing the seafloor is the tools are available for anyone to do it. I think multibeam sonar is the perfect companion for OpenROV and OpenExplorer. If you want to pinpoint areas to explorer underwater multibeam sonar is the way to do it.

For anyone interested, my advice would be to go to NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center. This is the national repository for multibeam sonar surveys. There you will find a bathymetric data viewer. Be sure to turn on the two BAG layers, "Surveys with BAGs" and "BAG Color Shaded Relief Imagery". You can view the data directly in your browser or you can download the survey data for use in a GIS. Many of the seafloor surveys you see here have been incorporated into the Google Earth globe.

@BenoitDuverneuil if your area of interest is Miami and Fort Lauderdale, FL, then you're in luck. These areas have been extensively surveyed with multibeam sonar and airborne LIDAR. Hundreds of wrecks, rocks and reefs are easily visible.


Hi Kevin and Gary
Great work I too would recommend using other peoples survey work whenever they can (Its cheaper and easier than doing it yourself ;-P )

You also have to remember that when the data is collected it is typically only used for mapping large scale geological features and (many if not most) of the small bumps and pimples on the sea bed are never really explored and it is the small objects (say sub 50meters long) that can quite easily be undiscovered shipwrecks.

Kevin In addition to Bathymetry data if it is available also look into Backscatter data as using it as an overlay can add "information" about any targets (eg if a lump has a strong backscatter response it "solid" so even more likely to be of interest whist is no change in backscatter it may just be a mound of sand)

mmmm maybe it's time that Kevin, Gary and myself posted something on the Openrov forum as a sort of How To Reinterpret multibeam for signs of shipwrecks?

Hey Scott @NSWwrecks,
The Backscatter data is there for most of the data and shows really well for some of the sites. I still add it to the data review listings when it is available.
I agree that we've proved this is a good tool for shallow water exploration and generated enough interest in its potential. You and Gary were always better at explaining the process, but I would be glad to provide input. At least most of our steps are the same and we all use the same programs.

Hey Kevin
I'll see what I can do about throwing together a word document "as a sort of How To Reinterpret multibeam for signs of shipwrecks" and flick it through to you and Gary offline as a frame work for a How To post. It might take me up to a fortnight as I'm off for the next 9 days (nowhere near water)

Wow, great work Kevin! I look forward to see what kind of interesting sites you dig up from the data. More importantly, I can't wait to see what you find at those sites in 2015!

Gary, Thanks for the link to NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center. I took a look at my area and was excited to see all the info it can provide. I'm going to add this resource to my tools box, and will enjoy digging through it over the winter.

In continuing with our preparation for dive operations, we have been working on upgrading OpenROV #763 to more of a Work Class ROV.
You can see my original topic and thoughts here:

The idea is to take the stock v2.6 and put it on a new frame with improved thrusters (BlueRobotics T-100's) and add both forward and downward looking GoPros for high resolution imagery of sites. Later, when the additional servo channels are programmed, we plan on adding a 3 axis manipulator.

Below is the initial build of the new frame. It is composed of MakerBeam components. When I was tossing around the idea of what material to make the frame out of, I originally went with plastic, then brass, but then I stumbled across MakerBeam (aluminum), another Kickstarter project. Frankly, I think the product is great and is completely in line with OpenROV as anyone can duplicate our frame with no machining or custom parts. Also once it is screwed together, it is a rock solid platform.

It is still very much a work in progress, and I need to buy more beams, but you can at least get a size comparison to a stock OpenROV. Accessories will be designed to be interchangeable and easily mounted anywhere on the frame.


I'm exited by the idea of converting the ROV. I imagined doing something like this once I had gotten more familiar with the build and operation the ROV in the bay. Watching your progress will be give me a chance to understand the the process and things needed to be considered that I never thought of.

Thanks Michael! I'm trying to make the results repeatable for anyone who needs a larger ROV with more functionality and attachment points. Does it meet everyone's requirements? Not a chance, its bigger and heavier, but I have a feeling this will do great operating off a boat in deeper water.

The availability of data from the California Seafloor Mapping Project has contributed much to our understanding of the Inner-Continental Shelf and offshore Channel Islands. Using this data to hunt for wrecks and obstructions is daunting without Geographic Information System (GIS) software.

Initially, I used GIS software to process and export multibeam and sidescan data into Google Earth. This helped me identify a few sites and known wrecks, but was difficult to visualize and I had multiple layers of information to turn on and off. It was also difficult to show others the sites I was looking at.

Over the past few weeks, I have been working with Scott @NSWwrecks on how best to display data and we've come up with our own "data review" reports. These are not final detailed reports, but something intended to be taken out on the support vessels as a quick way to visualize what we are looking for. Along with this, we both maintain Google Earth files for respective search areas to give us a better idea where the sites are geographically.

Below is an example of one of my sites that has been through the data review. The site code-named "323-D" is located off Avalon, Catalina Island in what I have named the Western Search Area. It was discovered in July 1987 when the guided missile cruiser USS VINCENNES (CG-49) attempted to weigh anchor, was fouled and after backing down to free the anchor, brought up a 4 x 8 ft piece of 1/2" steel ripped from an underwater obstruction. As far as I know, the wreck has never been identified or removed.

In other news, Gary Fabian, who found the UB88, let me know that the missing multibeam data from the gap off Oceanside had been surveyed and the data would be available by the end of the year. We'll have to go see what's down there!


Great work! I can't wait to see what you find down there.

Wow! How far offshore is the wreckage? The sonar scans are fantastic, it's really hard to ID what you are going to find. I'm looking forward to finding out when you do!

The wreckage is less than 1/4 of a nautical mile from the mouth of Avalon Harbor and about 30 miles from Dana Point Harbor. The multibeam isn't so great at identification as it is letting you know that there is something with relief out there other than just sand and mud. Side scan sonar gives much better imagery, but the 150 kHz is too low of resolution to make an ID. I plan on rescanning the area with a higher resolution side scan before I send down the ROV for a visual ID.

Keeping the support vessel above the site is another problem I will have to overcome. I can safely anchor in about 100 ft of water, but I have sites down to 300 ft. I'll have to look into a dynamic positioning system for the boat...and I haven't figured that part out yet.

Hi Kevin
First off thanks for the shout out, but remember this is your work, all I did was help you with ways search through and recording the data you’re the one who got of his bum and started the work and is doing the hours of trawling through raw data the real grunt work of the project, really well done and congrats for the effort so far.
Mmmmmm 210 feet (63m) I’d drop a shot line and just dive it rather than drag out the side scan (but that’s just me) as you always get a better feel for the object in the person rather than SSS or with the ROV
Either way I hope it turns out to be a wreck for you
PS if you “can safely anchor in about 100 ft of water” a bit of longer rope can fix that pretty easily over here we anchor up on wrecks up to about 80-90meters and over that to say 130m we then use a shot line and live boat around it(usually with some sort of detachable simplified deco station)

If you're planning on doing anything related to ocean exploration, chances are, you're going to need a vessel of some kind. This one is ours.

She is a 2004 Pursuit 3000 Offshore.

Here are some of her specifications:

Length: 33'0" w/ attached swim step
Beam: 12'0"
Draft: 3'0"
Displacement: 11,500 lbs
Fuel Capacity: 250 U.S. gal
Range: 300nm
Max Speed: 28+ kts
Cruising Speed: 15 kts
Propulsion: 2x Volvo Penta KAMD-300A Diesel Engines
Electronic Navigation: Northstar 6000i Navigation Suite
Sleeping Capacity: 4

Over the course of the next several months she will be in for her mid-life refit and is receiving an entirely new electronics suite with a Furuno NavNet TZ Touch 14 MFD. More on that when the upgrades are installed.

Also being added in steps is her survey equipment consisting of a powered winch for towed equipment, the magnetometer, side scan and ROV.

It is a large project, but the winter is the perfect time to get the upgrades done and commence sea trials.


I like what your doing. We've been doing the same for locations on land for many years years, but just recently decided to do the same for the shores of New England.

Though most of the work is done here is by recreational scuba divers, the organization RIMAP ( is doing scholarly work on the wrecks in Narragansett bay.

Since we're new to exploring the oceans, we'll be sure to keep an eye on your project and learn a bit as we take our first steps into this exciting world. I look forward to seeing what you uncover during your expedition.

@neexplorers Thanks for following! I'm glad you share the mentality that there are a lot of very interesting things on the bottom of the sea and all it takes is a little know how and some work.
I've been to RI a few times and it's my favorite state on the East Coast. You guys certainly have your work cut out for you with all those wrecks, but I'm glad there is an interest over there!
I'm still a ways off from going out and running lines as I finish building/buying equipment, but I'll be sure to post everything I do. I know a lot of people are interested in this technology.

From 2007 to 2013 an ambitious program was conducted off the coast of California. The program was called the California Seafloor Mapping Project ( The end goal being the creation of a high-resolution 1:24,000 scale geologic and habitat base map series covering all of California's 14,500 km2 state waters out to the 3 mile limit, and support of the state's Marine Life Protection Act Initiative (MLPA) goal to create a statewide network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Multi-beam Echo Soundings (MBES) and side scan data for the Southern California nearshore region were acquired using a combination of several sonars (400KHz Reson 7125, 240 KHz Reson 8101, 100 KHz Reson 8111) and collected aboard a series of Fugro Pelagos, Inc. (FPI) directed vessels.

After the conclusion of the survey sessions, raw high resolution multi-beam and side scan sonar data was uploaded and available for free online.

From here, we took the data and combined the different survey sessions into one large bathymetric chart of Southern California in an attempt to discover previously undiscovered sites. (the neon green area) What we uncovered was a large area of "no data" starting from San Clemente and ending near Oceanside. Searching for the missing data, we uncovered bathymetric data from an earlier 2002 survey conducted by SANDAG ( This is the grey area on the Google Earth rendering. Noticeable is still a large area of "no data". This area is roughly 30 square miles of uncharted seabed.

This is the area we will be conducting our first magnetometer and side scan sonar survey.


Interesting! Was this area outside the scope of the mapping project? Or just came back inconclusive?

I've asked the same question to people "in the know" and the response has always been that it was simply "not conducted". The metadata that accompanies each of the survey areas does not reveal why it was incomplete, but it does give specific dates when the area was run. I also have the tracklines of the survey vessel as it "mowed the lawn". It looks as though it was confined to this narrow swath. State and federal agencies spent over $26 million to map the entire coastline and if you look at any of the other survey areas you will see that they go to within a couple hundred feet of the shore. This one is miles off.

My theory is that because this area is directly off Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, the survey vessels were barred from surveying for whatever reason. There's probably a lot of lost equipment down there because the place has been in use since the 40's for amphibious assault rehearsals. The boats don't always make it to the beach...

There are also numerous reports of lost private aircraft lost off shore due to the proximity of Palomar Airport.

I've already found some interesting features on the SANDAG data that beg for a closer look.

Hey Kevin. I just wanted to comment about the multibeam data gap off Oceanside. Back in April I spoke to the Seafloor Mapping Program Manager at the Ocean Protection Council. He advised me that they recently secured a contract with the California State University Monterey Bay Seafloor Mapping Lab to address the remaining data gaps along Southern California coast. I've been in contact with CSUMB about the project and the mapping has been completed. They are still cleaning and processing the data. It should be available by the end of the year.

Wow @garyfabian, thanks for the info and looking into this one for me! I was going to go out there and do it myself with a single beam sonar and a side scan, but this makes it so much easier for the "long range" analysis and interpretation. Let me know when you hear the data is available and we'll take a look together. I've also got my search report started and I'll send you a copy after I get a few more sites in.

Expedition Background

Endurance Marine Exploration was created in the summer of 2013 with the aim of exploring the Southern California coastline that is inaccessible to scuba divers from the 100-300 foot depth range. Hundreds of ships and aircraft still remain lost at sea with only general coordinates being recorded. With the exception of some wrecks in the Channel Islands, and some around San Pedro Bay, there have been no serious attempts to locate or document these lost wrecks.

Over the previous decade, numerous advances in marine technology put equipment and data in the hands of amateur enthusiasts. Although the technology has been in use for many years, it was not until recently that towed magnetometers, side scan sonar, and ROVs have become affordable.
Unlike ocean exploration on the East Coast of the United States and elsewhere, California waters are cold and deep. Due to these conditions, scuba divers are mostly confined to Wreck Alley in San Diego, the coves in Laguna Beach and the vast kelp forests of Catalina Island.
One of the first organizations to explore the known wrecks in Southern California was the California Wreck Divers founded in 1971. ( CWD maintains an active list of all wrecks in diveable waters and are one of the few organizations that routinely conduct technical diving on known wrecks deeper than 200 feet.
The second organization is the UB88 crew who in July 2003 successfully located the wreck of the UB88, the only WWI U-boat on the West Coast. Since then, the team has gone on to document other military shipwrecks and aircraft as documented on their website (
Recently, there has been little to no shipwreck exploration in the area.

Endurance Marine Exploration is seeking to change this through the use of a five tiered approach.
1. Utilize 3D bathymetric and side scan data from the recently completed California Seafloor Mapping Project to identify sites of interest.
2. Run a towed side scan sonar combined with a magnetometer and single beam sonar over sites of interest or areas where "no data" exists.
3. Process data in Geographic Information Systems to obtain accurate GPS coordinates and examine site characteristics.
4. Send down an ROV on any interesting sites from the obtained data.
5. If a historical site is found, then a complete photomosaic will be made and able to be viewed openly for further study.

There is much out there that has not been thoroughly explored, we would like to change that. Large research vessels do not operate in this area as they do elsewhere. It is up to the enthusiasts to document these sites before they are lost to time.


Very cool! Our project has some similarities. While we are first targeting identified shiprwrecks, we are planning to search for unidentifiable targets using a magnetometer and a side-scan sonar.
Good luck with your project.

Thanks! I have been following your project as well. I'm jealous that your waters are warmer and clearer than mine! I'll be interested to see what you guys use for a mag and side scan, because finding something decent has been very difficult, but I am content with what I've found.
Keep posting updates on your project! I'm still waiting for parts and equipment so I might be a bit slower, but I'm sure anything we find will be interesting.
Also consider making a web based TV show if you have the time, I know it will generate some interest!

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