June 13th, 2017, was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter McCulloch, a ship recently discovered on the ocean floor right off Point Conception. Early October 2016, the United States Coast Guard and NOAA reached out to VideoRay, inquiring about our technologically advanced Mission Specialist (MSS) ROV. VideoRay is the standard underwater ROV for the United States Coast Guard, with a large fleet of VideoRay Pro vehicles purchased over the last decade. The Mission Specialist is VideoRay’s latest generation vehicle, and was called upon due to the depth, current, and other challenges of this mission. Tom Glebas, VideoRay Vice President of Product Management, provided his time and service at no cost to the government for the exploration of this historical shipwreck.

The VideoRay Mission Specialist ROV was deployed from the National Marine Sanctuary’s research vessel Shearwater, to find, identify and document the wreck. The Mission Specialist had to precisely maneuver in strong currents to capture photographs and sensor data to successfully identify the McCulloch. “The ROV was stable in strong currents providing high quality images officials used to identify the wreckage” stated Glebas. Glebas reported that the swells in the area were about 5-6 feet and choppy waves at 2-3 feet on the day of the mission.

Only the steel skeletal remains of a once-glorious ship remain on the seafloor. The MSS was able to maneuver through the McCulloch’s steel skeleton with ease, even in tight spaces, the pilot being careful not to get the ROV tangled. While there were a couple of snags, which can be expected in these kinds of conditions, the Mission Specialist returned without damage, and with significant data from the site.

Glebas, who piloted the MSS ROV during the October 2016 mission and traveled to the site with the ROV alone, discussed with us some of the challenges from the mission that the VideoRay MSS overcame. “While the 260 foot depth was not too bad, the real test for the captain and ROV pilot was staying over the site while the Shearwater was live-boating in 10-20 knot wind,” he explained. Nevertheless, the team was able to identify and document the McCulloch and compare it with historic photographs and plans. The ROV captured the bronze 11-foot propeller, the engine room skylight, the 15-inch torpedo tube molded in the bow stem, and multiple other distinguishing features.

The mission was an incredible success, and VideoRay is proud to have provided our services for this historical and scientific mission. Glebas was thrilled with the success of the joint mission, saying “I could not have asked for a better crew.” Robert Schwemmer of the NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, and chief archeologist for the mission, stated, “we greatly appreciate the time and efforts VideoRay put forth on such short notice, providing us with a superior ROV and cutting-edge technology to use for this mission.”

Tom was with the MSS ROV at the press conference on June 13th, 2017, where the USCG announced their findings of the shipwreck and the capabilities of VideoRay’s Mission Specialist ROV technology.

Click here to watch a video of the VideoRay Mission Specialist ROV in action!

Click here to view the VideoRay MSS photos of the ship and other information about the USCG Cutter McCulloch.

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