From compact research boats bobbing in the ocean, a team of divers is working to find the unseen story of the Battle of the Atlantic.
For 67 years, the British trawler Bedfordshire has sat on the sea floor under about 100 feet of water about 25 miles southeast of Beaufort, its broken hull and intact boiler viewed only by divers.
Now the vessel is the first of the Allied wrecks to be surveyed and analyzed by a research team led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.
Photographs, videos, maps and corrosion analyses are being done to determine the boat's condition and the available options to preserve it.
"The torpedo tore it up pretty good," Joe Hoyt, a NOAA maritime archaeologist and the mission's principal investigator, said from the deck of the research vessel Sam Gray this week. "There's a lot of damage to the site."
No part of the wreck, regarded as a war grave, will be disturbed by the work. NOAA began the three-week expedition on Aug. 4.
The first phase used side-scan and multibeam sonar systems to try to locate previously undiscovered World War II shipwrecks.
The second phase, the examination of the Bedfordshire, began on Aug. 10 but has been plagued by mechanical problems that have forced delays or cancellations.