New England Wreck Symposium 2021

New England Wreck Symposium

New England Wreck Diving goes back to the very first days of diving. Before Sidescan Sonar or Multibeam Echo Sonars were used to find these sunken vessels, divers would ride along with dredgers in hopes of finding numbers to their newest diving spot.

In February 2019, SECONN co-hosted the revamped New England Wreck Symposium with the UConn Avery Point Scuba Club. Held on Avery Point’s beautiful campus in Groton, the event brought divers and non-divers from all six New England states! With local explorers such as David Caldwell & Heather Knowles, Mark Munro, Captain Bill Palmer, Evan Kovacs, and more the topics cover all aspects of wreck diving and exploration.

To follow COVID safety measures, our 2021 was be held on the Zoom platform.

2021 Presentations

Heather Knowles and David Caldwell

Heather Knowles and David Caldwell are the co-founders of Northern Atlantic Dive Expeditions, Inc. They operate their dive charter boat, Gauntlet, with a focus on shipwreck diving and exploration. Both are technical diving instructors and fellows of the Explorer’s Club. Heather and Dave have had the privilege of exploring some of the world’s notable shipwrecks off the East Coast U.S. as well as shipwrecks in Canada, the Mediterranean and the South China Sea. In addition, they have made shipwreck discoveries in their local waters, including the USS Nezinscot, among others, and have collaborated on research projects with NOAA in support of exploration in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.  

Reflecting on the Wreck of the YF-415

In 2003, a group of divers descended on an unknown target in 240 feet of water. In a few dives, they determined it was the wreck of the YF-415, a US Navy work lighter that sank on May 11, 1944 after ordnance exploded during a disposal exercise, claiming the lives of 17 men. Heroic rescue efforts from men aboard the USS Zircon saved numerous sailors fleeing the burning, exploding YF-415. Following the incident, the story disappeared from the wartime headlines quickly. However, the story of the YF-415 continues to unfold. In the last several years, sailors from the USS Zircon and their children learned of the discovery of YF-415 and have shared their personal stories, shedding light on the incident that is not present in the historical records. Join us as we share stories and first-hand accounts of men from the USS Zircon and reflect on the discovery of the YF-415 more than 17 years later.

Mark Munro

Since 1988, Mark Munro has been actively diving on or searching for New England Shipwrecks.  Instilled with a passion for discovering previously unexplored shipwrecks he has sought out and located many using classic techniques including Side Scan Sonar and Magnetometers. In 1996, six years before purchasing his own side scan sonar, Mark began using publicly available remote sensing data to locate a number of shipwrecks in Fishers Island Sound.  One of those shipwrecks was the Phyllis, aka Three’s a Charm, which after her discovery took five years to positively identify. He continues to augment his personal research and remoting sensing data with freely available public data which significantly decreases the time, energy and money necessary to locate previously unexplored shipwrecks.

How to Find Shipwrecks Using Your Computer and an Internet Connection*

Everyone loves a shipwreck and of course the ultimate shipwreck is one which hasn’t been previously explored.  In decades past finding that special shipwreck required a great deal of boat time using a standard echo sounder or sophisticated and expensive equipment such as Side Scan Sonar and Magnetometers. In today’s data-rich environment the preferred tool for finding that shipwreck just might be your computer and an internet connection.  Join Mark Munro as he demonstrates the methods he’s used for over a decade to locate many previously unexplored shipwrecks using publicly available remote sensing data.

*In order to see details of this presentation, we recommend it be viewed on a screen larger than a phone or tablet.

Dr. Jamin Wells

Dr. Jamin Wells grew up exploring the waters of southern New England. A PADI dive instructor at 18, he worked for his father at a family-operated dive shop in Warwick, Rhode Island, while studying maritime history and underwater archaeology at the University of Rhode Island. He earned a Ph.D. at the University of Delaware and recently published his first book — Shipwrecked: Coastal Disasters and the Making of the American Beach — which is the subject of his talk. He currently lives in Pensacola, Florida, where he is an assistant professor of history at the University of West Florida and directs the Graduate Program in Public History and the UWF Digital Humanities Lab.

Shipwrecked: Coastal Disasters and the Making of the American Beach

Shipwrecks fascinate us. For as long as there have been ships, shipwrecks have littered our coastlines. Many still remain on the bottom of the sea, visited by divers and studied by archaeologists and historians. Each wreck is a memorial to a final voyage, a time capsule to explore and venerate. But what has been the broader impact of the thousands of vessels wrecked along the American coast? In this session, Dr. Jamin Wells tells the story of how coastal shipwrecks drove the transformation of the American beach from an isolated frontier to the modern beach we know and love today. Drawing from his new book, Shipwrecked: Coastal Disasters and the Making of the American Beach, Wells explores the surprising story of how shipwrecks made the modern beach.

Eric Takakjian

Captain Eric Takakjian is a professional mariner and has been sailing ships and oceangoing tugboats to various corners of the world since 1978. Presently Captain Takakjian is employed aboard an ocean going Articulated Tug Barge unit (ATB) operating in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. He and his wife Lori owned and operated the research vessel QUEST for 17 years, conducting oceanographic and shipwreck research in the North East United States and outer continental shelf waters.

Captain Eric has conducted extensive historical research on New England shipwrecks. Since 1985 captain Eric and his team have conducted expeditions resulting in the location and exploration over 70 previously undiscovered shipwrecks in the waters around New England and outer continental shelf waters. Captain Eric was part of the team that discovered the German submarine U-550 in 330’ of water in 2012. Most recently Captain Eric was part of the team that discovered the American submarine R-8 off the coast of Maryland. A diver since 1972 and an avid shipwreck diver since 1975. Captain Eric has been a fellow of the Explorers Club since 1997, is a member of the Board of Directors of The Steamship Historical Society of America, and is an associate member of the Boston Sea Rovers

The Search and Discovery of the Passenger Ship SS North American 

The search and discovery of the passenger ship SS North American which was lost in the Atlantic Ocean while under tow from the great lakes to Norfolk Virginia in September of 1967.

Launched by the Great Lakes Engineering Works in Ecorse Michigan in 1913, North American was the very first ship to be built specifically as a cruise ship. Her and her sister ship the South American were employed by the Georgian Bay line for many years during the summers taking passengers on week long cruises of the Great Lakes.

This talk will recount the ships history, plans for her future use at the time of her loss and the multi year search for the wreck which resulted in her discovery 140 miles offshore in 2006