URI exploration of sunken U-boat off Block Island to be streamed live, broadcast on Rhode Island PBS

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R/V Endeavor expedition to reveal story behind WWII clash in RI waters.


NARRAGANSETT, R.I. – August 24, 2015 – A team of University of Rhode Island oceanographers, engineers and students will spend four days in September investigating the underwater remains of a German U-boat sunk in one of the last World War II naval battles in the Atlantic, a battle that took place in Rhode Island waters. And the entire expedition will be streamed live so the public can watch every minute of it as it happens.


During the expedition Sept. 2 to 6 aboard URI’s research vessel Endeavor, scientists and historians will examine the condition of the wrecked submarine U-853, create a high-definition map of the site, and investigate the marine life around the sunken vessel.


“This is a great opportunity for school classes, amateur historians and the general public to learn the intriguing history of U-853 and go behind the scenes of an oceanographic expedition,” said Dwight Coleman, director of the URI Inner Space Center who will lead the project with URI alumnus Michael Brennan, an archaeological oceanographer at the Ocean Exploration Trust.


U-853 torpedoed the freighter S.S. Black Point on May 4, 1945 while the freighter was carrying coal to Boston. A day later the German submarine was sunk by depth charges deployed by the Coast Guard frigate Moberly and Navy destroyer Atherton. Located in waters about 130 feet deep, the two wrecks are now popular scuba diving sites. Both will be visited during the URI expedition.


Throughout the five days of the investigation, cameras located throughout the Endeavor and on underwater remotely operated vehicles will stream live images to the URI Inner Space Center, and the public can tune in at any time for free at www.innerspacecenter.org/riwrecks. Those interested in watching in high-definition and participating in live interactions with the expedition team may purchase a VIP pass for $8.53 (as in U-853) for special access.


Three times each day from Sept. 3 to 5, those aboard the Endeavor will produce a 30-minute live program broadcast from the ship. At 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., the program will feature interviews with participating experts, historical footage, and highlights from the previous day’s underwater investigations. The 7 p.m. program will broadcast live images of the wrecks from the remotely operated vehicles, with commentary from the scientists, archaeologists and scuba divers knowledgeable about the site.


Hosted by URI student MarieAlyse Pereira, the 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. shows will air on WSBE Rhode Island PBS, while the 1 p.m. show will air on WSBE Learn. All of the programs will also be streamed to the Inner Space Center website.


Social media will also be used extensively to highlight the activities and findings of the investigation of U-853. Follow the Inner Space Center at @innerspacectr on Twitter, @innerspacecenter on Instagram, and facebook.com/innerspacecenter on Facebook, and use the hashtag #Endeavorlive.


The expedition is funded by the Rhode Island Endeavor Program, a state-funded effort to provide URI researchers and local educators with access to the scientific research and educational capabilities of an ocean-going research vessel. Teachers Tiffany Risch of Coventry High School and Shannon Donovan of Scituate High School will be aboard ship to observe and assist in all aspects of the expedition and participate in live chats with school classes.


Among the others participating in the event will be Steven Licht, URI assistant professor of ocean engineering, and his graduate students Jordan Kirby and Matthew Perkins, who will run the remotely operated vehicles and test a new robotic arm they are developing; URI Professors Thomas Rossby and Godi Fischer, who will conduct several underwater acoustics tests of a device they have invented; URI History Professor Roderick Mather; and Capt. Rich Sanders, a professor at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, who studies the degradation of shipwreck sites to assess their risk to the environment.


For more information or to register for the VIP pass, visit Inner Space Center or email the Inner Space center at innerspacecenter@gmail.com.