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Coventry teacher researches on E/V Nautilus with Dr. Ballard

February 1, 2012

Dr. Robert Ballard with Tiffany Risch. Submitted Photo.

COVENTRY – Over the summer, one of Coventry High’s science teachers boarded the E/V Nautilus and with Dr. Robert Ballard, set out to find ancient shipwrecks.

The expedition began in June and sessions officially concluded in December, of which Coventry High School teacher Tiffany Risch participated for one two-week leg of the trip off of the coast of western Turkey. Twenty other educators from around the country boarded the Nautilus for portions of the research project that was led by Ballard, the oceanographer most commonly known for his discovery of the Titanic.

Teams comprised of scientists, engineers, navigators, educators, videographers and crew traveled off of the coasts of Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece and as far as Israel. On Risch’s portion of the trip, they discovered nine ancient shipwrecks, some of which are estimated to be from the second and third centuries B.C.

“We came across things like anchors but we were more interested in the piles of amphorae,” she said.

This is because amphorae are typically the only indications remaining of these undiscovered shipwrecks, she explained.

“The wooden shipwrecks have now been eaten away by different organisms or disintegration over time, and now what is left are these clay pots,” said Risch, explaining that the pots, now called amphorae, were commonly traded during ancient Greek periods.

To pinpoint the amphorae, researchers aboard the E/V Nautilus used a device known as a side scan sonar that would map out the bottom of the ocean using “acoustic pings,” explained Risch. Then, using the acoustics, the device would paint a picture of the ocean floor.

The full story can be found in today's Times.

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