2014 Expedition
wreck of the Robert E. Lee

Exploring Unknown America

July 6 – 14, 2014
Lead Scientist
Expedition Leader

This expedition focused on documenting the myriad natural and cultural resources that lie in U.S. waters for the joint National Geographic and 60 minutes television special, The Unknown America. Some exploration sites visited include brine pools, deep-water coral reefs, and several shipwreck sites. These include German U-boat U-166 & Robert E. Lee. U-166 sank with all hands lost in 1942, after its crew torpedoed the steam passenger ship Robert E. Lee, on which 250 of 270 passengers were saved. U-166 is the only known U-boat to be sunk in the Gulf of Mexico. Other potential sites include Gulf Penn and Gulfoil, two oil tankers that were sunk by German U-boats during World War II. These two wrecks have a high abundance of very large corals growing on them, in particular, Lophelia pertusa, and have been used by biologists to study colonization and growth of these poorly understood types of corals. We are also working with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to select unidentified sonar targets to investigate during this expedition.

Meet the Team

Selected Publications


Brennan, M., Cantelas, F., Elliott, K., Delgado, J., Croff Bell, K., Coleman, D., Fundis, A., Irion, J., Van Tilburg, H., Ballard, R. (2018). Telepresence-Enabled Maritime Archaeological Exploration in the Deep. Journal of Maritime Archaeology 13(2): 97-121.