By Earl Kelly - hometownannapolis.com
A research team including a Naval Academy professor and four midshipmen recently identified more than 70 features on the North Sea floor that could be part of John Paul Jones' famous Revolutionary War ship, Bonhomme Richard.
Professor Peter Guth and the four mids discussed their findings at a meeting of the Naval Academy Oceanography Club yesterday. They said that while last month's expedition did not provide conclusive evidence of Jones' ship, it did reveal what may turn out to be parts of Bonhomme Richard buried under the sea floor.
The next step in the search for the ship will be for the Navy, possibly using divers and collecting higher resolution pictures, to conduct another mission looking at specific targets, Guth said.
"That's going to happen, we just don't know when," he said. "We are confident we have some nice targets, but it is going to need a lot more work before we can say that it is John Paul Jones' ship."
Guth said the two-week-long expedition last month identified 920 sites. Of these, 76 scored a grade of A, about half of which scored a rating of "unique A."
Another 100 or so findings were given a B, Guth said.
Last month's exploration was the fifth attempt to locate Bonhomme Richard, which sank following a point-blank battle with HMS Serapis on Sept. 23, 1779.
Jones won the battle and captured Serapis, but Bonhomme Richard sank about 36 hours after fighting stopped.
Records do not indicate where the ship went down, but historians and scientists have narrowed the search area to 900 square miles off the northeastern coast of England.
On the most recent trip - aboard the USNS Henson, a 329-foot survey ship - researchers focused on a 70-square-mile area where the water was about 200 feet deep. The Henson traveled in a back-and-forth pattern, as if mowing a lawn.
To cover as much area as possible, researchers used low-resolution sonar to scan a swath about 100 yards wide. When the images revealed something noteworthy, the ship would pass over the area again, this time scanning at high resolution an area only about 15 feet wide.