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Present Day: Searching for the Battlefield
Despite the wealth of available primary source data, and numerous secondary analyses of the KS-520 conflict, only the locations of the Keshena and Chilore were known. So when the team of maritime archaeologists set out to search for the underwater battlefield, remote sensing survey was a major component of the fieldwork.
In 2011, the fieldwork was divided into two stages. Stage One consisted of a survey methodology designed around two separate remote sensing packages that would be used to conduct a wide area survey. This instrumentation suite allowed for the collection of data over a large area of the seafloor, as well as the detection of large and small objects on the seafloor and bathymetry. From the data collected, 47 sonar targets were identified for further investigation.
|Bluefields sonar image. Click here for a larger image. Photo: NOAA|
Stage Two focused on the relocation of discovered targets and their characterization. This stage also relied upon a remote sensing package. However, due to time limitations and equipment problems, only a small number of the 47 targets were inspected. For this reason, the entire dataset was ranked and seven targets were extracted as the most likely to represent shipwreck remains.
|U-576 sonar image. Click here for a larger image. Image: NOAA|
In the following years, expeditions focused on surveying the seven high priority targets, and in 2013, one site in particular held potential. In early 2014, the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer conducted sonar imaging around a site at about 750 ft. thought to be a candidate for the Bluefields. It also identified a previously unknown target, which rested at about 690 ft. In August 2014, a team of maritime archaeologists once again assembled to survey the two sites. The targeted high-resolution survey focused on gathering detailed acoustic imagery of the two targets, definitively revealing the remains of U-576 and Bluefields. This site has also been officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
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