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The BonHomme Richard may see the light of day again

Mister Nizz

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Naval Archeological News

225 years later, searchis on for the Bonhomme Richard -- Expedition will try to recover ship lost in North Sea

Nearly 36 hours afterJohn Paul Jones shouted "I have not yet begun to fight" when thecaptain of the HMS Serapis asked him to surrender, Jones watched his flagshipsink to the bottom of the North Sea.

Jones, one of theNavy's founding fathers, became a Revolutionary War hero for capturingSerapis during a 3½-hour, almost point-blank fight off Flamborough Head, England,on Sept. 23, 1779.

More than 225 yearslater, Jones' flagship, the USS Bonhomme Richard, may again see the lightof day when an expedition by the nonprofit Ocean Technology Foundation attemptsto find and eventually recover it. The multiple-year expedition is being co-sponsored by the Naval Historical Center and a handful ofcivilian and military-related organizations. The destroyer USS John PaulJones and amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard have been named thehonorary "flagships" for the expedition.

The first year will bededicated to finding underwater objects that might be the ship, explainedproject manager Melissa Ryan in a phone interview from OTF's headquartersin Groton, Conn. When the team returns in 2007 itwill use a remotely operated vehicle to determine if any of those objects are,in fact, the Bonhomme Richard.

This is not the firstsearch for the famous ship. The nonprofit National Underwater Marine Agency,founded by adventurer and author Clive Cussler, has made at least fourattempts, and Ryan said that both OTF and NUMA will be searching for BonhommeRichard this summer. NUMA found the Civil War-era submarine USS Hunley off Charleston, S.C., in 1995 but it was only pulled from its ocean grave five years later.

Ryan said that right nowthey're focused on finding the Bonhomme Richard and will plan itsrecovery once it's located. Just finding the ship will be important tothe Navy and the study of naval history, officials say. "You cannot find amore important underwater archaeological site to the U.S. Navy than that of John Paul Jones' Bonhomme Richard," said Dr. Robert Neyland, headof the NHC Underwater Archaeology Branch, in a Navy news release. "Discovery of the shipwreck will shed new light on the horrific battle between Bonhomme Richardand Serapis, what life was like on board Bonhomme Richard for the officers andcrew, ship's armament and weaponry, and the construction of the shipitself," Neyland said.

Ryan said that part ofthe expedition's goals is education. "We're using this as ahook for younger people to learn about maritime history," she said. "Hopefully it will spur interest in the younger folks and the general public."

Navy ship named to honor American statesman,scientist

Navy ships have long been named after American warriors or statesmen and Bonhomme Richard was noexception. When King Louis XVI of France gave John Paul Jones a ship, an old East Indiaman called the Duc De Duras, Jonesrenamed it in honor of his patron, a famous American statesman and scientist. Most people wouldn't recognize Bonhomme Richard as a famous American, but they have probably heard of Benjamin Franklin. So how does Ben Franklin become Bonhomme Richard? In 1732 a man named Richard Saunders published the first "Poor Richard's Almanac," a collection of proverbs that included "Time ismoney" and "Early to bed, early to rise, always makes a manhealthy, wealthy and wise." Richard Saunders was the pen name used by Benjamin Franklin.

When Jones accepted the ship from Louis XVI, Franklin was the Americancommissioner in Paris. Franklin's almanac had been translated into French as "Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard" -"The Maxims of Good Man Richard" and the ship received the name" Good Man Richard," or "Bonhomme Richard."

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