New England Wreck Symposium

New England Wreck Symposium

@ UConn Avery Point 

1084 Shennecossett Rd, Groton, CT 06340

See you January 30, 2021!

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.

2020 Presentations

Solving the Mystery of the Lost Steamship Allentown

Heather Knowles and David Caldwell

For more than 130 years, the final resting place of the doomed collier Allentown has been a mystery. The Allentown was a 250-foot-long iron-hulled collier and on its fateful voyage was carrying over 1600 tons of anthracite coal bound for Salem, MA. However, the Allentown never arrived in Salem. On that ill-fated voyage during a severe November 1888 storm, the Allentown essentially vanished, lost with all hands. But where did the Allentown sink? Reports placed it off Minot’s Light in Scituate, but ultimately it was nowhere near there. Join us as we share a four-year exploration project to solve the mystery of the Allentown.

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. 

Anatomy of a Wreck

Mr. Patrick Casey

New England Shipwrecks come in all shapes and sizes; some broke up exactly where they sank, while others were heavily salvaged, blown up, or wire dragged because they were deemed hazards to navigation. Degradation of these sites continues today with natural erosion and human impacts like dragging resulting in near constant changes to the sites.  

Because of this many of the wrecks we enjoy diving in New England are little more than debris fields. Divers new to New England wreck diving are often confused after diving on wreck debris and compare the experience to diving a garbage dump.  Pat’s presentation will help divers new to New England wrecks to identify key elements of a shipwreck and to better envision the dive sites. When combined with a little historical knowledge these skills will increase a diver’s enjoyment of these unique cultural resources but be warned if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

Mr. Patrick Casey

Pat’s first experience with shipwrecks was at the age of nine when, in the middle of the night, two wet and troubled survivors of a wrecked sport fishing boat came knocking at the door of his childhood home.  A week later he snorkeled out for a look and has been fascinated with shipwrecks ever since . At the age of sixteen he borrowed a neighbors steel 72 and double hose regulator to search for a high school ring lost off a dock by a distraught boater. The only instructions given to him by the lender of the dive gear was “always breath, especially when coming to the surface”. Having survived his first foray into the depths using SCUBA, his watery path was set.

With a desire to study all manmade things submerged, Pat, with over thirty-five years of diving experience under his belt, has explored hundreds of shipwrecks from the Great Lakes to South Carolina and from Scotland to Truk Lagoon. His forty years of shipbuilding experience with Electric Boat, and Pequot River Ship Works, has given him a unique and thorough insight into the construction, and ultimate breakdown, of ships lost at sea. If you’re on a wreck and can’t figure out what that rusty, broken down, seaweed covered, nondescript piece of debris is, just ask Pat, he’s sure to know.

Bob Foster and Ryan King

Disaster and Redemption, the story of the PE-56:

The Eagle 56 was originally built as a sub chaser at the end of WWI.  By 1945, she was stationed in Portland, ME, towing targets to support bomber squadron training operations at Brunswick Naval Air Station. During a routine patrol on April 23rd, 1945 a massive explosion ripped her in two just a few miles off the Maine coast. The US Navy initially classified the sinking an accident, leaving the families wondering “who aboard that ship was so negligent, that they killed their son.” It took a dedicated researcher and a team of divers working in more than 200 ft of water to locate and document the wreckage to finally set the record straight and provide closure for the families.

Bob has been an active diver since 1972, and became interested in wreck diving while living near the Great Lakes in the 80’s. He has been searching for shipwrecks in Massachusetts Bay for a number of years, and has discovered and documented over 15 including the YF-415, Brenton Reef Lightship, and Augustus Snow. In 2008 he became one of the first divers to reach the Steamship Portland. Bob’s wreck diving interests have also taken him to Lake Superior, to the Florida Keys, and to New York/ New Jersey to dive the Andrea Doria, U-869 and the USS Spikefish.

Ryan started diving in 1990 and has never looked back. For over 25 years, Ryan has been diving, teaching, and photographing marine life, caves and wrecks from Canada to the Caribbean. He has a passion for exploration and helping others enjoy and appreciate the underwater world. For the last few years much of his diving has been focused on locating and documenting new wrecks in New England with the rest of the Nomad Exploration Team.  Recent discoveries include the William H. Machen a collier lost during World War II. Most recently, the team discovered the USS Eagle 56 which was sunk just weeks before Germany surrendered in World War II.

Evan Kovacs

The Golden Age of Shipwreck Storytelling: Shipwrecks from the Great Lakes to Stellwagen

Evan has been working for a decade on developing imaging systems  systems to capture and show shipwrecks in way that fully engages the diving and non-diving public.  Although it is now a buzz word in the community, photogrammetry has become one of the best tools for inventive storytelling and seeing a full ship wreck in context.  This presentation will talk about diving and filming shipwrecks (with divers and robots) and the new golden age of shipwreck interpretation through the combined mediums of photogrammetry and VR..  

A world class diver, passionate explorer, and perpetual imaginer, Evan Kovacs began his work with subsea imagery in 2003 while working with the History Channel. He is one of the very few people to film – in both 2D and 3D – the R.M.S. Titanic and her sister ship, H.M.H.S Britannic. Over the course of his career, he has participated in expeditions to survey and film wrecks, caves, and archaeological sites across the United States, to the islands of the South Pacific, the English Channel, the jungles of Mexico and the Dominican Republic, the D-Day beaches of Normandy, the Mediterranean, Thailand, and Antarctica. His underwater and topside work can be seen on National Geographic, History Channel, Discovery Channel, PBS, CBC, NHK, and elsewhere. In 2009, he was nominated for an Emmy in videography for the NOVA program Lost and Found: Legacy of the USS Lagarta.

Since 2006, he has partnered with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to film around the world with the deep submersible Alvin, the Pisces submersibles, and numerous remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). He frequently collaborates with the Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab at WHOI to build and operate imaging systems for filming both above and below water for broadcast television, archaeological expeditions, and esteemed research institutions around the world.

In 2010, Kovacs formed Marine Imaging Technologiies, LLC (MITech), a sought-after subsea imaging company headquartered in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to develop innovative ideas for subsea imaging systems and robotics, including Pixel, the first Cinema Class ROV, Spooler, a new style of penetration class ROV and Hydrus, the first deep water lowlight VR system.

Working with the United States National Parks Service, he first demonstrated Spooler’s capabilities on the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii in 2016. The expedition was featured on the PBS documentary Pearl Harbor – into the Arizona.

Michael Macdonald

Lost Shipwrecks of Lake Champlain

Lake Champlain is a large freshwater lake which lies between Vermont and New York and partially situated across the US-Canadian border.  Prior to European colonization, the lake was used heavily used by indigenous people and served as border between Abenaki and Mohawk (Iroquois Confederacy) traditional territories.

Despite being an inland lake, Champlain served a critical role in the founding and development of the United States. It served as a site to many important battles in the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution, and the War of 1812.  Perhaps most notably, Lake Champlain is the home to the 1776 Battle of Valcour Island, generally regarded as one of the first naval battles of the American Revolutionary War.  

The lake was also a major commercial and industrial hub during the 18th and 19th centuries.  With the completion of the Complain Canal system in 1823, a 60-mile canal connected the southern end of Lake Champlain to the Hudson River in New York. It was simultaneously constructed with the Erie Canal and is now part of the New York State Canal System and the Lakes to Locks Passage.

In this age of commerce where navigable roads and railways were non-existent and travel was often slow and perilous, Lake Champlain and the Champlain canal system served as a vital link in the “super-highway” connecting Lake Champlain to the Erie Canal system via the Mohawk River and finally the Hudson River providing an outlet to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean.

Today the lake is home to over 300 known and unidentified shipwrecks, many of which are in spectacular condition and immaculate state of preservation due to the deep and cold waters of Lake Champlain. This presentation aims to cover a brief history of Lake Champlain as well as outline some of the shipwrecks, different classes of canal boats and schooners found in the lake.

Mike has been a diver for close to 20 years. Despite getting his initial open water certification while in Cozumel, Mexico, his interests have grown primarily to local cold water wrecks, realizing there is more to diving than looking at bleached coral and decimated fish populations.

He is trimix and full cave trained, a recreational dive instructor, and captains and crews for multiple dive boats in the New England area. A year-round diver, Mike owns more drysuits than actual suits and enjoys local diving in New England, the Great Lakes, and caves in Florida and Mexico.

In recent years, Mike has organized deep wreck dive trips in the Great Lakes aboard the Molly V captained by Jitka Hanakova. This experience has led to him to explore unidentified wrecks in Lake Champlain aboard the R/V Amazon with his friend Gary Lefevre.

Mike lives in Salem, MA with his wife and two cats. When not diving his hobbies include aquasealing holes in his drysuit and rebreather counterlungs.

Dr. Calvin Mires

Maritime Archaeology: Training and Research in New England

Dr. Calvin Mires will be discussing opportunities and programs for avocational and Citizen Science training in maritime archaeological field techniques, highlighting case studies from past and ongoing programs at universities, such as Salem State University and Bridgewater State University, and specialized dive organizations, such as Tactical Reintegration Project, a Veteran-led diving non-profit in Massachusetts. He also present findings from ongoing research on deep-water shipwrecks in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, such as the Paddle Steamer Portland, known as New England’s Titanic, and the coal schooners, Frank A. Palmer and Louis B. Crary, which ran into each other racing to Boston and still remain interlocked bow to bow, 400 feet below where they collided. 

Dr. Calvin Mires has almost 20 years of experience in maritime archaeology and underwater cultural heritage. He is a Research Associate III at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Bridgewater State University in the Department of Anthropology.  He has led and worked on more than 30 maritime archaeology projects around the world, including Greek and Roman shipwrecks and harbors, Sweden’s iconic warship, Vasa, Confederate Blockade Runners in North and South Carolina, ship graveyards in Bermuda, and various sites in the Caribbean Sea, Pacific Ocean, and the Great Lakes. Since 2015, he has co-directed the only maritime archaeology field schools in Massachusetts with cooperation of the Massachusetts Board of Underwater Archaeological Resources, The Trustees of Reservations, and the National Park Service, and has run maritime archaeological summer programs for middle and high school students. He is a Senior Tutor for the Nautical Archaeology Society for New England region, a group that provides maritime archaeological training for the public.

He has received grants from the National Park Service Maritime Heritage Program and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and has published in journals such as The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, The Society for Historical Archaeology, and Bermuda Maritimes. He currently is involved in several projects in Massachusetts, including the archaeological investigations of 1626 Sparrow Hawk and deep sea research on shipwrecks in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Captain Bill Palmer is a sport diving pioneer, avid shipwreck diver, videographer and historical enthusiast with more than 40 years diving experience. He runs his charter boat, the Thunderfish, along the East coast. He has produced many shipwreck documentary dvd's. His work has also appeared on National television. He has also authored a book titled "The Last Battle of the Atlantic, The Sinking of the U-853".

Captain Bill Palmer

L8: the First Submarine Built at a Naval Yard

In 1915, the L8 would become the first submarine built at a naval shipyard. She was designed by Simon Lake and laid down in 1915 at the Portsmouth Shipyard. By 1926, she was being used as a target to test magnetic torpedoes. It was the first and only use of a magnetic torpedo prior to World War II. Today she rests in 11ft of water just 5 miles south of Newport, Rhode Island. As a true New England dive, the visibility varies from a few hazy feet to a solid 30ft. If you are a marine history buff this wreck should be on your must-dive list.

Captain Bill Palmer is a sport diving pioneer, avid shipwreck diver, videographer and historical enthusiast with more than 40 years diving experience. He runs his charter boat, the Thunderfish, along the East coast. He has produced many shipwreck documentary dvd’s. His work has also appeared on National television. He has also authored a book titled “The Last Battle of the Atlantic, The Sinking of the U-853”.


Rick Simon

From the Chester Poling to Andrea Doria: Gearing Up and Gas Management

When you think about diving the Chester Poling versus the Andrea Doria, you’ll come up with a different set of equipment required and gas plans for your dive. This presentation will give you a breakdown of the equipment and thought processes required to have a successful dive on various wrecks within the North Atlantic.

Richard M. Simon (32) grew up diving and crewing on New England dive boats. Rick is a Boston Sea Rover & Frank Scalli Intern (2005) and  a TDI dive instructor holding both recreational and technical ratings. Rick is also the president of Manta Industries- a dive equipment manufacturing company; and is the vice president of Shoreline Diving Services, INC.- a commercial diving company specializing in inspection, salvage and construction. Rick is an avid diver; especially enjoying cave and wreck diving mostly on the East Coast but really anywhere around the world. When he is not diving he enjoys spending time on his farm with his wife Erin and their many farm animals.

Peter Straub

Mapping Shipwrecks of the Revolutionary War – Chestnut Neck NJ

Every shipwreck has a story, but not every wreck creates a tale that trickles its way through history. Join us for a talk that will discuss how diving and mapping wrecks can be used as a way to assess their historic and cultural significance.   

Pete Straub is a Professor of Biology and currently serves as Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Stockton University. He has been diving since 1980 and is a scuba instructor for PADI (MSDT), and NAUI and a Scientific Diving Instructor for AAUS. Straub uses sonar, remotely operated vehicles and diving in his work mapping submerged habitats and cultural resources.

Peter Venoutsos

Photographing Shipwrecks

Peter is the photographer behind the photo of the Patriot used in all of our 2020 NEWS promo. In this presentation, he will be discussing various techniques to get the best possible photos during your dive. Come prepped with questions for the Q&A at the end of the presentation.

Pete Straub is a Professor of Biology and currently serves as Dean of the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at Stockton University. He has been diving since 1980 and is a scuba instructor for PADI (MSDT), and NAUI and a Scientific Diving Instructor for AAUS. Straub uses sonar, remotely operated vehicles and diving in his work mapping submerged habitats and cultural resources.

2019 Photo Gallery