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Ever wonder what your coworkers do in their spare time?

Glenn Engineers Explore Below

Three divers sit by bell retrieved from Lake Erie. While many of us jump into swimming pools in search of cool relaxation in the summer, David VanZandt and Kevin Magee of ZIN Technologies, Inc. dive into Lake Erie in search of sunken shipwrecks.

Image right: VanZandt (left) and Magee (right) of CLUE with the recovered bell of the barkentine Cortland. Archeologist Carrie Sowden (center) is from the Great Lakes Historical Society.

The two engineers, who provide space flight hardware design, manufacturing and testing services at Glenn, spend their spare time during the summer months searching for what they call "submerged history."

"Lake Erie was a prime highway for carrying people and goods in the 1800s, leaving behind an estimated 1,000 undiscovered shipwrecks," explained Magee. "Many of the wrecks lie intact, providing 'mini time capsules' that tell a story of what life was like long ago."

VanZandt established Cleveland Underwater Explorers (CLUE), Inc. with cofounder Magee in 2001. The nonprofit CLUE organization is dedicated to finding, exploring and documenting shipwrecks discovered at the bottom of the Great Lakes.

Locating a shipwreck is no easy task, said the CLUE founder. "It requires a lot of historical research on land--newspaper articles, insurance records and U.S. National Archives and Records Administration documents, to name a few--before setting out on the water," explained VanZandt. "It takes about two hours to search one-square mile of water using sophisticated electronics equipment. And since these vessels don't have names painted on their bows, identification is often made through historical, physical and circumstantial evidence."

The team has discovered four notable shipwrecks on Lake Erie, including the barkentine Cortland, one of the most sought-after shipwrecks that sank in 1868. Federal and state guidelines require that artifacts must remain undisturbed. However, at the request of the Great Lakes Historical Society in Vermilion and permission from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, CLUE retrieved a bell from the Cortland last year.

Most of the items that VanZandt and Magee have discovered on shipwrecks include tools, furniture, dishes and some personal items such as spectacles, pocket watches and shoes.

"No treasure chests yet," Magee added.

For more information on VanZandt and Magee's underwater adventures, visit the CLUE Web site at www.clueshipwrecks.org.

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By Doreen B. Zudell
NASA's Glenn Research Center