Using advanced technology and tools to document, share and explore surrounding waters, the Bermuda 100 Challenge aims to create a marine heritage science and engineering methodology combining data acquisition, curation, analysis and dissemination. In doing so, the project will also construct the foundations of an ecosystem to enable continuous innovation. The reefs surrounding Bermuda are home to well over 100 shipwrecks in relatively shallow waters. Many surrounded by mystery and myth (think Bermuda Triangle), these sites are integral to the cultural heritage of this Atlantic outpost. Over the centuries, shipwrecks have become naturalized components of the benthic ecology – located on the bottom of the ocean – and these unique biological communities function as time capsules for the study of natural systems. Their stories tell of human ambition and courage as well as misadventure and tragedy, and they offer marine scientists new worlds of discovery.
Bermuda is a world leader in the incorporation of shipwrecks into marine protected areas, yet much documentation needs to be done in order to understand and assess the “state of health” of these unique places. Knowing the location and integrity of shipwrecks along with their contents and each site’s morphology is essential to reconstructing the natural and cultural processes as well as timelines that resulted in the formation of today’s wreck sites. By their very nature, shipwrecks necessitate specialized documentation techniques in order to fully record a site’s condition and all its elements in three dimensions, and to do most of the data gathering underwater. Such techniques are essential to building 3D computer models and virtual-reality simulations that can become important new tools for scientific story-telling and education – allowing the public to full engage and become stakeholders even from thousands of miles away.
In connection with the Bermuda 100 Challenge, researchers at UC San Diego – in collaboration with conservation experts and authorities in Bermuda – plan to develop hardware and software systems and methodologies including:
- A ‘gold standard’ for diagnostics and preservation of underwater cultural heritage (notably shipwrecks) and ecosystems (coral reefs);
- A one-of-a-kind digital, online atlas of underwater sites for the waters surrounding Bermuda;
- Tools for scientists and stakeholders to analyze data (in real time where possible);
- Visualization tools such as 3D immersive environments for the public at large to learn about and appreciate these marine environments and explore them in virtual reality.
The Bermuda 100 Challenge is part of two centers at UC San Diego focused on conserving cultural heritage: the Center of Interdisciplinary Science for Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3) and its Cultural Heritage Engineering and Innovation Initiative (CHEI). Click here to learn more about CISA3/CHEI.