Know Your Park  Wrecks and Reefs of the Battle of the Atlantic

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Date: March 7, 2011
Contact: Outer Banks Group, 252-473-2111

The National Park Service Outer Banks Group Know Your Park citizen science program series continues with presentations from nautical archeologist Dr. Nathan Richards on Monday, March 14th at the Fessenden Center in Buxton at 7:30 p.m.; and education specialist/researcher John McCord on Tuesday, March 15th at the Ocracoke Community Center at 7:30 p.m.  These programs are free and will last approximately 1 hour.

The presentations will focus on recent the recent research and filming of German U-boats and Allied and merchant vessels sunk during WWII off of the Outer Banks.  In addition to locating and documenting these shipwrecks, the Battle of the Atlantic research team has been collecting data on the fish and other marine life that live on the reefs now growing on the sunken vessels.  Using a super high-resolution video camera, the research team shot digital video of a variety of these shipwreck sites ton dives ranging from 80 to 250 feet. The video was recorded in 4096x2048-pixel resolution—about four times better than the best high definition television picture—giving the researchers an incredibly clear view of the details of the shipwrecks and the abundant marine inhabitants.

Dr. Nathan Richards, an assistant professor of Maritime Studies at East Carolina, is also head of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Coastal Studies Institute's Maritime Heritage Program. Dr. Richards specializes in maritime history and nautical archaeology.  He has an interest in non-traditional subjects in maritime archaeology focusing on non-shipwreck sites such as ship graveyards, the archaeology of harbor infrastructure, and maritime terrestrial sites.

John McCord is the Education Programs Coordinator for the UNC Coastal Studies Institute.  As part of Battle of the Atlantic expedition team, McCord filmed much of the high-resolution video.

For the last three years Richards, McCord, and other researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, East Carolina University, and the UNC Coastal Studies Institute have worked with the Minerals Management Service, the National Park Service, and the state of North Carolina to document the Battle of the Atlantic.  The multi-year project will result in detailed site plans of the shipwreck sites, documentation of the diverse marine life that live on and near the wrecks, and documentation of the degradation of the vessels caused by humans and the environment.

In 1942, the Germans aimed to sink U.S. merchant ships that were carrying supplies to England.  U.S. and Royal Navy ships patrolled the coast to protect them and, when necessary, take on the Germans. One of the most overlooked engagements of World War II, this battle claimed 80 ships and hundreds of lives.

The Know Your Park citizen science program series is designed to further connect the Outer Banks communities and residents with the rich natural world and cultural heritage of their neighboring national park sites; Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Wright Brothers National Memorial, and Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. "These presentations offer park visitors as well as local residents an opportunity to learn more about, and better enjoy, the coastal environment and their National Parks" stated Mike Murray, Superintendent, Outer Banks Group.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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