ROCK HALL — It’s surprising what you might find in the Chesapeake Bay, as one local waterman found out when he came across something other than his usual catch
In a Nov. 5 telephone call to the Kent County News, David Haas of Rock Hall said he found what he thought to be a “probe of some kind” while crabbing with his crew by the Bay Bridge, and was taking it back to his house to look it over.
“He said it was really foggy and almost hit it,” his wife, Laurie Haas, said in a follow-up interview Tuesday, Nov. 17. “It was floating on top of the water. They thought it was an upside-down sailboard at first.”
She said her husband brought home a 6- to 7-foot bright yellow tube with fins on the end. After inspecting it, a crew member found a service number on its underside and called it.
“We were a little concerned because it could have been very valuable and belong to someone,” Laurie Haas said.
The number was for Kongsberg Gruppen, a technology supply company based in Norway. Among its functions is the manufacturing of autonomous underwater vehicles, which are robotic vessels capable of marine exploration.
“Someone from there told us what we have after we described it,” Laurie Haas said.
She said later that night, a representative from Northrop Grumman Corp.’s Annapolis office called. Northrop Grumman is an American global aerospace and defense technology company.
“He said that someone from Kongsberg reached out to them about the AUV and it matched the name on what we found,” Laurie Haas said.
She said the representative told her and her husband that the company was using the AUV for research in the Bay Nov. 5, near Sandy Point, when they suddenly lost communication with it. Fearing it had sunk, the company immediately began to search for it.
Shortly afterward, David Haas and his crew found it.
“He said that they were using it for research into having underwater vehicles drive themselves, be able to recognize obstacles to avoid and also surface automatically,” Laurie Haas said.
The representative told the couple that the AUV had sonar and radar capabilities, and also could test the water quality of the Bay. Laurie Haas said it appeared that Northrop Grumman customized this particular model a little.
She said the Northrop Grumman representative came Nov. 6 and retrieved the AUV, thanking David Haas and his crew. He also offered to give them a tour of the facility sometime.
“It was kind of neat really. ... They (AUVs) can do so much more than we can imagine,” Laurie Haas said.
According to the Kongsberg website, its AUVs can be used for environmental monitoring, hydrography and search and recovery. Laurie Haas said their cost ranges from $50,000 to $250,000.
“It was a neat catch. I don’t think David has ever caught anything like that before,” she said.