August 25, 2011
Most of my time working at RPM Nautical is spent in the office on Stock Island, offering logistical support to the crew of the R/V Hercules who spend the summer season off exploring the Mediterranean looking for ship wrecks and submerged artifacts. So it is a special treat for me to be able to come over to Sicily and join the crew during the time that the important finds are actually recovered from the sea floor, to have Kathy here as well, makes it extra special.
Growth on ram
Italian officials with ram
While I speak, e-mail, skype and otherwise communicate with the crew on a daily basis, it is cool to be able to come over and spend some time with them in person and to meet the ROV pilots and interns who I have never met. I also get to meet the Sicilian officials and shipping agents who we work with regularly and who help keep things going smoothly.
Divers attach ram
Gerry & George retrieve ram
The ship is equipped with all the latest technology to find and recovery items from the sea floor including an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle). The control room feature a plethora of screens and gadgets to control everything and the many various camera images that are sent up as the ROV operates. There are also TV screens to watch the action in the Salon for when the crowds are on board to watch the action.
Howard, Gerry & Phil
The recovery of the rams and helmets drew a big crowd, due to the significance of the finds. There were any number of Italian officials on board including archeologists, cultural ministers, the Captain of the Coast Guard, the head of the Port of Trapani, numerous media representatives and others. It was fairly hectic and a lot of additional food prep time for the vessels five-star Chef Elliot.
The items recovered are believed to be from the Battle of the Egadi Islands, the cumulative battle of the First Punic War that was fought between the Romans and Carthaginians in 241 BC. Not many of the rams have been recovered and these two mark the third and fourth that RPM had discovered and recovered.
The excitement of bringing something up that hasn’t been touched by human hands in thousands of years is pretty cool. Usually the ROV is used exclusively to secure the objects and to bring up lighter items. Robotic arms can either lift items like amphorae and helmets or secure heavier items like the bronze rams which are lifted with the winch. We didn’t need them this time as the Italian Coast Guard offered to send down a pair of deep divers (85 meters) to secure the items.
We were able to watch all the action on big screen tvs as the items were secured and brought up and then watch from the upper deck as they emerged from the ocean and were brought on the deck. It was a pretty awesome thing to be a part of and so rewarding to see the culmination of all the hard work that is put in by the crew all summer.
Jeff examines ram
The season will wrap up this week and the crew is exhausted after the long season that found them working in Sicily, Albania and Montenegro before returning to pick up these items. Next week it will be back to the home port in Malta to get some rest before starting to plan and prepare for next year.