Preparing for the excavation Before they start unearthing treasures, the team will map the wreck as precisely as possible. An underwater robot with two cameras mounted side by side will roam the murky bottom for a few days and map the wreck in 3D. [The 7 Most Extreme Jobs in Science]
"This is the most important part of the project, actually," Foley said. Without a detailed map of the wreckage, the team risks disturbing delicate artifacts.
Once they have a visual of the area, divers in regular SCUBA gear will plunge down to the wreck with handheld metal detectors and a bag of tiny plastic flags. This part of the mission, Foley said, "is not so high tech." The divers will sweep the wreck site, and every time they get a hit on their metal detector, they'll plant a flag in the sediment. Then, they'll send the robot back to map the flags.
"All we really want to know is roughly where things are, where concentrations of things are, then we can start the excavation," Foley said.
The first diving excavators will be equipped with a closed-circuit rebreathing system that absorbs the carbon dioxide from each exhaled breath and allows the user to breath in the unused oxygen from each breath. The rebreathers will give the divers at least 30 minutes of bottom time. Then the team will bring out the big guns - the Exosuit that allows for virtually unlimited bottom time.