The relevancy of technology and underwater archaeology

The ability of human beings to work in an underwater environment has obviously improved pretty dramatically in the last few decades, and our ability to find the wrecks of vessels like the Titanic in thousands of feet of water many decades later is pretty amazing when you think about it.

But there is still a long way to go when it comes to underwater searches.  The problems with locating that missing Malaysian Air flight immediately come to mind, but there have been a few other examples lately that make me wonder what the hell we are doing wrong and what we could do to improve.

We seem to have a widespread problem of not finding people in (relatively) shallow waters like lakes, ponds, rivers, and creeks.

The thing that really got my attention was this:  two vehicles were discovered next to each other in a shallow lake in Oklahoma, and soon after a similar situation in a creek in South Dakota, where low water levels revealed an upside-down car.  Foul play is not suspected in any of these cases, but it is astonishing that suddenly eight people who had been missing for decades are now accounted for, and almost entirely by accident.

It makes me wonder how many more cases like these are out there, where missing persons are right there, still in the water, after all these years.  We just have to look for them more carefully.  How many times were these areas searched, and then passed by because there was nothing obvious like floating debris or something sticking out of the water?

It’s just that it seems to me all of these families could have had closure a long time ago, had the searches been more careful, or if there were better ways to search underwater in areas where visibility is severely limited.  What would be better?  Sonar maybe?  Perhaps a combination of some sort of cheap, efficient underwater RPV and better sonar?  I know, I know, budgets are always a factor, but how much better would it be to be able to efficiently search for vehicles like this, or for that matter recover items underwater that were purposely thrown in to hide them (guns come to mind immediately) rather than spend police budgets on fruitless searches or cold cases that last for years?  Hell, the reason those cars were found in Oklahoma was because a state police unit was trying out its new sonar.

It makes me think that there has to be a better way.

-Geoff

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