High-tech underwater cameras help uncovering the secrets of HMAS Sydney
A recent expedition to survey historic World War II shipwrecks has produced a wealth of stunning imagery of sunken warships HMAS Sydney (II) and the German raider HSK Kormoran, off the coast of Western Australia.
The expedition, a follow-up to a 2008 mission which first photographed the previously undiscovered Sydney and Kormoran wrecks in 2,500 meters of water, 20 kilometers apart, about 200 kilometers west of Shark Bay, was undertaken this time with a more sophisticated spread of equipment to help researchers better understand what happened during the November 19, 1941 battle to cause the rapid destruction of both ships and the complete loss of Sydney’s 645 crew – a loss that to this day remains Australia’s greatest naval tragedy.
The recent Western Australian Museum and Curtin University survey, which took place in April 2015, used Kongsberg Maritime’s OE14-530 3DHD video camera and six OE14-408E digital stills cameras on two ROVs operated by DOF Subsea to collect quality video and images of the historic wrecks.
As the lead underwater camera partner for this work, Kongsberg Maritime helped collect images and data during the survey that will form the basis of several exhibitions at the Western Australian Museum, which will feature digital 3D reconstructions of the wreckage area that can be toured digitally. The 3D reconstruction will be predominantly created using images from the OE14-408E digital stills cameras, which feature Ethernet operation that allowed immediate transfer of the images to the surface.
“The six Kongsberg OE14-408E cameras fitted to the vehicles were our primary photographic cameras and have captured amazing images of the wrecks and debris fields,” said Dr. Andrew Woods of Curtin University. “These were used for feature photography and also for the important role of 3D reconstruction processing – to that end we have already generated some very realistic 3D models of items at the wreck site.” 3D reconstruction is a recent development which enables highly realistic 3D models of physical objects to be created digitally from an array of 2D photographs.
“We appreciated the support of Kongsberg Maritime to help us design and integrate an innovative underwater camera system to meet our exacting requirements,” continued Dr Woods. Multiple Kongsberg OE14-408E cameras were setup as an array, capturing multiple photos from multiple angles, providing RAW image download in real-time at 5 second intervals. “We had limited bottom time and the Kongsberg cameras allowed us to maximize our time on site.”
“The Kongsberg OE14-530 3DHD camera has captured a vast collection of absolutely beautiful footage. The camera performed flawlessly,” added Dr. Woods. “We were feeding live 3DHD footage into our control room during the mission and the ROV team kept popping their heads into our space, jaws agape at how wonderful the 3DHD footage looked, and openly wishing they could have that capability in their control room.”
In addition to contributing to the museum’s exhibitions and online galleries, the new footage will also be seen in a television documentary by Prospero Productions, a professional documentary company that accompanied the expedition.
“The team have pulled off something fantastic, singular in the history of Australian maritime archaeology,” said Andy Viduka, Assistant Director Maritime Heritage, Department of the Environment, Australian Government.