Underwater Drone Uncovers Century-Old Shipwreck in Western Australia

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In a remarkable discovery, a small Underwater drone named Hydrus has located the wreckage of a 100-year-old coal hulk off the coast of western Australia. The drone’s advanced capabilities allowed scientists to reportedly create a detailed 3D model of the 210-foot ship using photogrammetry.

A 3D digital reconstruction of a century-old shipwreck discovered off the coast of Western Australia, created by Daniel Adams from Curtin University HIVE.

Hydrus underwater drone: A Game-Changer in Ocean Exploration

Hydrus, developed by Advanced Navigation, is designed to make deep ocean exploration more accessible and cost-effective. Its compact size allows for easy deployment by a single person, eliminating the need for large vessels or complex launch systems. The drone can capture georeferenced 4K video and still images simultaneously, enabling efficient surveys of underwater sites.

Exploring the Rottnest Ship Graveyard

The wreckage was discovered in the Rottnest ship graveyard, southwest of Rottnest Island, where numerous ships have been wrecked since the 17th century. The graveyard serves as a dumping site for obsolete ships, with at least 47 historically significant wrecks.

According to Ross Anderson, curator of the Western Australia Museum, the wreck is an iron coal hulk that serviced steamships in Freemantle Port. It was likely built between the 1860s and 1890s and scuttled in the graveyard around the 1920s.

Photogrammetry and 3D Modeling

Using the geolocation data provided by Hydrus, scientists at Curtin University HIVE employed photogrammetry to create a 3D digital model of the wreck. Professor Andrew Woods emphasized the importance of structured data in constraining feature matching and reducing processing time, particularly for large datasets.

This video of the 210-foot wreckage of a coal hulk from the 1800s was recorded by Advanced Navigation’s Hydrus underwater drone.

The Search for SS Koombana

The expedition team’s next target is the wreck of the luxury passenger steamship SS Koombana, which disappeared off Port Hedland during a tropical cyclone in 1912, with 150 people presumed dead. Despite several deep-water expeditions in the early 2010s, the shipwreck remains undiscovered.

The use of Hydrus Drone Technology in this search could potentially lead to the discovery of the long-lost SS Koombana, providing closure to the families of those who perished and shedding light on the ship’s tragic fate.

The discovery of the century-old coal hulk by the underwater drone Hydrus highlights the potential for advanced technology to uncover the countless undiscovered shipwrecks around the world. By making deep ocean exploration more accessible and efficient, Hydrus and similar innovations are paving the way for further discoveries that will help us better understand our maritime history.

Image courtesy of Advanced Navigation.

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