Search for buried treasure with your very own OpenROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle)

Eric Stackpole is an adventurer. For Eric, exploring the inner depths of Hall City Cave was only the beginning of his latest exploration. He had one goal in mind: buried treasure.

Legend has it that, in the late 1800s, a few renegade Native Americans attacked a surprisingly well-to-do group of miners near Hayfork, CA. The attackers took about 100lbs of gold nuggets from the miners.

Since the Indians were on foot, and also carrying a very heavy load, it did not take long for the posse to catch up with them. In fact, as a last ditch effort to get away, the Indians stashed the gold somewhere so they could move faster. When the posse caught up with them, only the Indians knew where the gold was. The men in the posse told the Indians that they would not be hung for their crimes if they would tell where they hid the gold. The Indians told the posse that they had hidden the gold in Hall City Cave. Then they were promptly hung right on the spot.

As it turns out, Hall City Cave has a deep, submerged cavern at the back of the cave. The cavern is said to be bottomless, because no one apparently has ever been able to get to the bottom. And of course, not the posse, or anyone else, ever found the gold. Did the Indians hide the gold somewhere in the cave? Did they just dump it into the bottomless cavern to get rid of it? Did they have some secret hiding place in the cave, perhaps underwater? Or did they hide the gold somewhere else?

Excerpt from Dave McCracken’s blog

These are questions that can’t be answered by humans alone. Something capable of underwater exploration and data collection was necessary. Enter: OpenROV.

OpenROV is a project started by Eric Stackpole and David Lang, with the mission of making underwater exploration available to the masses. The first design of OpenROV (“ROV1”) is a shoebox-sized Arduino-controlled submarine device, with an onboard HD webcam, designed to operate in an unexplored underwater cave. The plans for OpenROV are open source. In other words, OpenROV is hackable, and Eric and David hope customization and improvement of the designs are exactly what takes place. Their aim for OpenROV is the crowdsourcing of exploration–that, by opening up the plans for OpenROV, the possibility for discovery will be heightened. There exists a depth of knowledge to be learned about the deep. OpenROV may allow some of these secrets to finally be uncovered.

OpenROV was built at TechShop in Menlo Park, home to many a Maker in the Bay Area. Eric was careful to built in a garage-like setting, so OpenROV could be recreated by others, anywhere. However, he’s made a few mods using equipment like TechShop’s laser cutter that makes OpenROV a cut above “garage” quality.

The second design of OpenROV is in the testing phase. Once Eric can show that the prototype works, he will release plans on Certainly, he and David will be back to Hall City Cave to search for the stuff of legend.

Keep up with David and Eric’s adventures on and be sure to catch them at this years Maker Faire Bay Area! See photos of Hall City Cave exploration, or “Reconnaissance Expedition”, here and here. Eric explored the cave with friends, Jeff Bernard (also shown in the photo above, and who initially introduced the story to Eric) and Bran Sorem (who took the photo and also help with development of the ROV).

To see some of Eric’s DIY background, check out this video of the hybrid rocket motor he built using only parts from a local hardware store. In his words, “I love figuring out how to do high-tech things with low-tech/ consumer-off-the-shelf parts.”

80 thoughts on “Search for buried treasure with your very own OpenROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle)

    1. @Jessica: thanks :)
      @Randy: I’ll try to get the guys to make a video. I agree — a video definitely makes it easier to put one of these things together and see how it works!

  1. $2,426,666.66 at current prices. I can understand wanting to keep people in the loop, but if the ROV sees something promising, you might have a gold rush on your hands. You might just report after the fact.

    Is there a reason a diver can’t go in this particular tunnel? I could see this thing making it into smaller places than people could fit. Might need a convertible model with treads if another dry portion is found.

    Also, couldn’t the ornery old miners have been overstating their loss?

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