Salvage hunters believe they are close to finding what is left of John Paul Jones’ ship, Bonhomme Richard

The name John Paul Jones means many things to many people. The Scotsman who sailed the seas in the ship Bonhomme Richard was thought of as a pirate and traitor by the British, however, at the same time, he was considered a hero by the US. We might ask why this was so, and it was, in fact, due to his part in the American War of Independence.

Today John Paul Jones is considered to be the “Father of the American Navy”. He lived from 1747 to 1792 and is considered to be the first naval commander that America had during its struggle for independence from British rule.

John Paul Jones

The ship he is most associated with is the Bonhomme Richard, a 42-gun merchant ship that had been given to America by a French shipping magnate. His role appears to have been a diversionary one; he sailed with other ships and caused alarm from the east coast of Britain all the way to the Humber Estuary. He lost the ship in a sea battle and it sank somewhere around Flamborough Head, Yorkshire.

The USNS Grasp has returned for a second attempt to find the wreck of Bonhomme Richard. In 2011, the Grasp, as documented by the Discovery Channel’s “Mighty Ships” program, attempted the salvage, but the mission wasn’t a success. So the international team is back to try again and fulfill the US Navy assignment.

John Paul Jones Photo Credit

USS Grasp

The researchers are based at Sunderland with navy personnel and a team of divers, and the Port Director is pleased and proud to have them there to be part of something that is about the mutual history of two great countries, Sunderland Echo reported.

A diver rides a stage to the sea bed from USNS Grasp in St. Kitts during Global Fleet Station 2008.

The USNS Grasp crew is searching approximately five miles off the coast and looking at locations that weren’t investigated in 2011. Using sonar scans and magnetometer scans, they are investigating a wreck on the sea bottom that they are hoping is that of Bonhomme Richard.

Back in 2006, the Bonhomme Richard Project was created by the OTF (Ocean Technology Foundation), and they managed to reduce the search area for the wreck to only 550 square miles. Before the 2010 survey, mapping scans of 450 square miles of the sea floor had already established that this area did not contain the wreck.

“Paul Jones the Pirate”, British caricature.

Engraving based on the painting ‘Action Between the Serapis and Bonhomme Richard’ by Richard Paton, published 1780.

Rather than becoming discouraged with the search, the salvage crew is showing patience, as every inch of the sea floor searched and scanned is less sea floor where the wreck could be hiding. At present, researchers are still scanning and widening their search as they go.

Read another story from us: Noted shipwrecks from around the world: an eerie reminder that nothing lasts forever

Due to poor weather and rough seas, it will be some time yet before the crew can collect enough information to positively identify the wreck they are investigating.

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