WILLEMSTAD – On Friday February 19, 2016 the Curacao owned, based and operated Research Vessel and submarine tender RV Chapman will leave the harbor of Willemstad and start out for the island of Dominica, in the Eastern Caribbean.
The 137ft long Chapman will be carrying a total of 17 crew members and passengers. Also on board will be the Curasub, the 5 person submersible operated by Substation Curacao. As in any responsible operation, the ship will be carrying auxiliary boats; at least 3 will be carried along during the passage to Dominica.
The reason for the at least month long expedition to Dominica, led by Curacao Sea Aquarium director Adrian “Dutch” Schrier, is twofold. On the one hand, the trip to Dominica has been designed around a large group of marine scientists. They will be using the Curasub to explore the deep reefs off Dominica, from 200 feet to 1000 feet, in search of new species. The secondary reason is that Substation Curacao and STIMACUR, the foundation for Marine Archaeology Curaçao, have teamed up. These entities will be venturing into the deep reefs off the northwestern coast of Dominica to document and map known deep water anchorage sites and possible archeological findings.
In order to conduct this marine research about a dozen scientists of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History will be flying to Dominica mid-March. They will be accommodated in the staterooms on board the Chapman. For those passengers preferring lodgings on shore, comfortable cottages will be available.
For this group of scientists this will not be their first encounter with the Chapman and the Curasub, as these entities have a long standing scientific relationship dating back to 2011. This partnership has so far yielded over 35 new species of fish, sponges and invertebrates, not to mention the highly successful Deep Reef Observation Program (DROP) launched to explore marine life and monitor changes on deep reefs in the southern Caribbean.
Documenting and mapping of deep reef locations where archeological artifacts and even old shipwrecks might be present, will take place at the request of the island government of Dominica. The authorities have over the last couple of years built up a close working relationship with STIMACUR and especially their leader Mr. François van der Hoeven. Partnering with each other in a joint Marine Archeological Expedition, the Dominican government, RV Chapman, Substation Curacao and STIMACUR are now hoping to discover historical nautical sites and uncover century’s old ships that went down as a result of fierce tropical storms and hurricanes or perished hundreds of years ago during naval battles and attacks by pirates.
For setting the Curasub, as well as all the auxiliary vessels overboard, the Chapman is equipped with a 110 ton Fassi crane and onboard camera equipment able to document all goings on in and on the ship. To facilitate the research work on board the research vessel, Dutch Schrier furthermore had the research vessel outfitted with air-conditioned wet and dry labs. In the spacious and comfortable lounge a state of the art audio/visual system will guarantee that all aboard will be able to fully enjoy the videos and pictures of the day’s archeological and scientific endeavors because all submarine trips will be recorded via constant high definition cameras and this film material will be used to create a documentation of all exploratory work on Dominica.
Apart from lauded marine biologists and scientists from the Smithsonian Institution, the Chapman will additionally receive visiting researchers from Dutch universities, like the University of Wageningen, and other scientific institutes. These researchers have been doing deep sea studies with the Chapman and the Curasub in Curaçao and Bonaire and would like to compare the deep reef situation in Curaçao and Bonaire waters with those in the Dominica waters.
The trip to Dominica is expected to take about 2.5 to 3 days. So leaving the harbor of Curacao on the 19th would set the research ship to reach the southwest part of the island and its capital Roseau around the 22nd of February, where the ship initially dock at the Fisheries Dock before continuing on northbound to Prince Rupert Bay around the 26th. Dominica dignitaries have already announced that they are very much looking forward to the arrival of the Chapman, the Curasub and their subsequent crews.
Photo: Adrian Dutch Schrier on the R/V Chapman