SO482A -- “Historic Shipwrecks:  Science, History, and Engineering”

Course Policy Statement

Spring 2012


Instructor and Contact Info:  


Professor Peter Guth

Oceanography Department.



Prerequisites:  None


Course Description:  This will be a mostly web-based course showing how history, science, and engineering can be used together to search for historic shipwrecks from the Age of Sail.  John Paul Jones’ ship Bonhomme Richard serves as the case study, but the course stresses general principles and concepts with broad applicability. We will discuss ship construction and naval tactics of the era, and the historical record of the battle between Bonhomme Richard and Serapis. The course also introduces scientific models for the tides and ships drifting in the North Sea, as well as principles of geographical information systems, and the creation of map databases to display historic data and search results.  We will consider engineering principles of sensor design and employment, and how such historic vessels might be recovered from the marine environment. Evening in-person guest lectures will complement the self-paced, web-based weekly lessons.


Format: For the online portion of this course, you can participate during each week at your convenience, 24/7.  The lectures are posted on the USNA website at:   The week's lecture will be posted no later than Friday of the previous week. There will be a weekly online discussion for each lecture, which will take place on the USNA Blackboard system.  A self-grading weekly quiz will also be required.  Each week in this course starts on Tuesday.


In-person lectures will take place as indicated on the syllabus.


Requirements:  This course will be a hybrid of online and face-to-face lectures. Most of it will take place online, and a new lecture will be assigned each week. Specific requirements are as follows: 

  1. Adobe Connect session at 2030 on Tuesday 10 January.   There are directions for using Adobe Connect on the course home page (  This will take no more than 15 minutes, and is designed to insure that every student understands the course requirements.  If you cannot make this virtual meeting you must contact Professor Guth.

  2. In–person Guest Lectures:  Attendance is mandatory and roll will be taken at each lecture.  If you have to miss a lecture, contact the instructors to let them know. 

  3. Discussion Board:  In the discussion area of the course, you will interact with your instructor and classmates to explore questions and comments related to the content of the course.  A successful student in online education is one who takes an active role in the learning process. You are therefore required to participate in the discussion areas to enhance your learning experience throughout each week.  You must post to the discussion at least once per week to receive credit for this component, and unless you make the first posting you must address the posting from one of your classmates. 


    A post that says, "I agree (or disagree)." or "Interesting lecture" is not acceptable. Examples of quality posts are those that:

    • Elaborate on previous comments from others
    • Present explanations of concepts/methods to assist fellow students
    • Present reasons for or against a topic in a persuasive fashion
    • Share one's own personal experience that relates to a topic
    • Provide additional information to the discussion
  4. Quizzes:  There will be a short quiz each week, using the Blackboard system.   The weekly quizzes will be open book but individual effort; you will not discuss the quizzes with other students who have not completed it.

  5. Assignment deadlines:  There will be two deadlines each week:

    • 2359 on Tuesday, the day the next lesson starts, for posting an entry on the discussion forum and for completing the open book quiz. 
  6. Final Exam:  There will be a final exam consisting of 40 multiple choice questions, many of which will be similar to those on the quizzes.  It will be closed-book. If you pay attention to the quizzes and revisit the lectures, you should do well on the final.


The table below shows the weighting of the different assignments during each marking period:


Component 5 weeks 12 weeks 18 weeks Course
Discussion Board 30% 30% 30% 25%
Quizzes 70% 70% 70% 50%
Final exam       25%


Last revision 1/8/2012