In cooperation with Dr. Will Schroeder (University of Alabama – Dauphin Island Sea Lab) and Dr. Roger Sassen (Texas A&M University, Geochemical Environmental Research Group), ProMare utilized the US Navy Nuclear Research Submarine, NR1, to explore sites of potential chemosythetic organism colonization and methane hydrate deposition for a period nearly one month during the summer of 2002.

Sites surveyed include petroleum lease-blocks VK826, VK862, VK907, MC029 and MC118 in water depths ranging from 400 to 700 meters. Significant colonies of deepwater, chemosynthetic corals, as well as relict carbonate lithotherms and methane hydrate deposits were located and studied.


In the early 1980s, an oil company survey vessel discovered an anomaly in the Gulf of Mexico, suspected to be a shipwreck. The Minerals Management Service (MMS) inspected the site in 1999, identifying it as the “Western Empire” based on historical records. However, subsequent surveys in 2003 raised doubts about its identity. Further research by Dr. Chris Horrell revealed that the ship was salvaged in 1875, contradicting the Western Empire’s fate. The wreck, now referred to as BOEMRE Vessel ID No. 359, remains unidentified. It possibly served as a naval vessel converted to a merchant ship. Additional research is needed for conclusive identification.


In February 2001, an eight-inch gas pipeline was laid on the seafloor, intersecting a historic shipwreck from 1775-1830, reported to the Mineral Management Service (MMS). Sitting upright at 800 meters depth, the ship has a copper-clad hull. Funded by Exxon-Mobil, Inc., an initial study was conducted using ROVs. MMS partnered with Texas A&M University (TAMU) for further research, employing the US Navy’s NR1 submarine via ProMare. The ship, likely built between 1800-1830, was made of Eastern White Pine, typical of coastal merchant vessels vital to trade in the Gulf, Caribbean, and North American coastal waters. Its presence on a main shipping route suggests it was bound for or from New Orleans.


On October 21, 1876, the steam barge Chestatee sank in the Chestatee River near Dahlonega, GA. It was equipped with a diving bell for gold prospecting. Local divers recovered the bell in 1983, conserved it in 2012, and it’s now displayed in Dahlonega. The wreck remains in the river, where in 2012, the Georgia DNR Underwater Archaeology team, with ProMare’s Lindsey Thomas, dredged and recorded the site. The Chestatee is a square barge with its machinery removed, but retains the diving bell deployment well. About 50% of the site was documented, providing valuable insights into the vessel’s history.


On February 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia tragically disintegrated during reentry, scattering debris across the western United States. NASA led an extensive recovery effort. ProMare, contracted by Lockheed Martin, aided the EPA/ERT and FEMA in Texas. ProMare personnel served as sonar data analysts. Although Phoenix International and the US Navy eventually took over the underwater recovery, ProMare continued data analysis. Their involvement honored the memory of the crew and supported multiple agencies during this tragic event. The thoughts of ProMare remain with the families of the crew, who served not just their nation, but humanity’s aspirations.