Ocean Technology Foundation

Bonhomme Richard Project

 August 31, 2010

 Contact:  Melissa Ryan, Project Manager
Ocean Technology Foundation
(860) 536-3500 
melissa.oceantechnology@gmail.com (best contact)

Undersea Search Is On for Famous Revolutionary War Ship

             MYSTIC, CT –  One of history’s greatest maritime mysteries may soon be solved when a search team led by the Ocean Technology Foundation (OTF) heads to the North Sea on an expedition in search of the remains of one of America’s first warships.   The Bonhomme Richard was commanded by U.S. naval hero John Paul Jones during the American Revolution in 1779, and was lost at sea during a decisive battle off the coast of England.  Jones’ famous words, “I have not yet begun to fight!” were shouted during a ferocious, point-blank battle with the British ship Serapis.  Although Jones emerged victorious, 36 hours later he watched his beloved ship sink into the unforgiving North Sea.   

            The OTF has been searching for the remains of Bonhomme Richard for five years. “The American public deserves some uplifting maritime news,” said Melissa Ryan, the expedition’s Project Manager, “and we hope to be able to tell them that we’ve found this significant piece of U.S. History.”

Joining in the expedition are the U.S. and French navies, with whom OTF has fostered good relationships.  While both navies have participated in some of the previous searches, this is the first year they are lending simultaneous support.  A representative from the United Kingdom will also be participating.

"This year’s survey is a fantastic international partnership on the high seas,” Ryan said. “The search has become a powerful tool for diplomacy and public relations among the countries involved.”   The U.S. Navy is lending significant support to the search by providing the Military Sealift Command’s oceanographic survey ship USNS HENSON (T-AGS 63) with oceanographers from the Naval Oceanographic Office and state-of-the-art underwater survey technology.  Sonar will be used to map the ocean floor, and a free-swimming underwater vehicle will be launched from the ship to survey on its own.  “It’s very motivating to have people believe this strongly in what we’re doing,” said Ryan.   A French Navy mine hunter with embarked divers will eventually join the U.S. vessel to dive on any objects that need close investigation. The Naval History and Heritage Command will lend archaeological expertise as it has done for previous expeditions.

“The Bonhomme Richard is like the proverbial needle in a haystack,” Ryan said.  “But the good news is that the haystack is considerably smaller than it was five years ago when our surveying began.” 

The survey team determined its search area with the help of U.S. Naval Academy faculty, who designed a computer program that integrated all existing data on weather, winds, tides, ship speed, heading and crew actions up until the time Bonhomme Richard sank.  The program simulated how far and in which direction the ship may have drifted after the battle.

            "This has been OTF's cornerstone project as it has embodied all facets of ocean science, from basic historical research, engineering and oceanographic analysis, to sophisticated undersea search technology," said Captain Jack Ringelberg, OTF President. "This year's mission will be an outstanding effort by one of the most experienced, knowledgeable teams we’ve ever had.”

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