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60 WBM july 2016 eeping the ship over the wreck site was another of the technological achievements. “They tied the nav into the ship and had two engines that could pivot,” Cherry says. “They developed a propulsion system that would hover over the wreck for a month at a time. That was the brilliant part of it. It was quite impressive what they were doing. It was quite a scien-tific undertaking.” After the supplies were unloaded, McAfee’s boat was loaded with weeks’ worth of trash. The cargo was covered by tarps, creating a suspicious profile that attracted the attention of the Coast Guard a couple of times on the run back to Wrightsville Beach. “We’d be coming back with these tarps covering every-thing,” McAfee says. “The Coast Guard would board my boat, pull the tarp back, and here’s all these trash bags filled with garbage.” At least, that’s the way McAfee remembers it. Cherry has a different story. His version is that the Coast Guard often had to tow the boat back to port. “The thing broke down all the time,” he says. “The Restless Spirit was the real name. We called it the Worthless Spirit. They were real good at buying stuff at a bargain that didn’t work very well.” That’s ironic, because while the Restless Spirit was limp-ing back to Wrightsville Beach, amazing things were taking place at the wreck site. Thompson’s team designed and built a remotely con-trolled submersible vehicle they called Nemo that was capable of delicate, intricate work and performing precise tasks thousands of feet below the surface. Nemo recorded more than 1,000 hours of bottom time between 1988 and 1991, recovering gold and artifacts of historic significance. The team even discovered a new spe-cies of Benthoctopus, a type of deep-sea octopus. McAfee remembers the moment when he got word that the first of the gold was brought up. “That was an exhilarating, exciting moment for several rea-sons,” he says. “We had proof that we were on a shipwreck with gold on board, and had the capability to recover it.” In those early days, the thrill was more about the accom-plishment than the treasure. “The cool moments were when we developed new tech-nology for the robot and saw it work,” McAfee says. “That was the thrill to me. I didn’t like the term treasure hunter then, and still don’t.” From top: Thompson (left) and two marine scientists work on one of the Nemo’s manipulator arms. The original Nemo was battery powered and used coaxial cable. It was replaced by a second-generation robot that used fiber optic cable and was able to stay on bottom for an unlimited time. Because it had open architecture and was not a pressure vessel, the team could bolt on whatever they needed that day: cameras, video, manipulator arms. Thompson (above, in plaid shirt) and Evans (bottom right) could operate Nemo from the control room with joy sticks and keyboards. PHOTOS COURTESY OF LANCE McAFEE AND NEMO


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