Associated Biological Resources
In May 1992, Indiana University conducted field investigations of the Benwood in order to prepare a comprehensive site plan, create a biological inventory, and establish a baseline for biological assessments on two sections of the hull. (Brown 1994) Assistant Professor, William Ruf, of the Indiana University Biology Department, led the biological survey. The team sectioned a 10' x 10' grid pattern on the bow of the shipwreck. The researchers chose this site on the bow for the vast array of aquatic life and the potential growth. The process was repeated on a section of the stern that contained an abundance of fragile Fire Coral, millepora complanata. The four engine mounts were also photographed and biology was noted.
During 1994 field investigations, the bow, stern and four engine mounts were again pictured. Biological data were again gathered by research assistants of the Underwater Science and Educational Resources Department of Indiana University.
Field investigations in 1994 and May 1996 indicate that the majority of coral found on the bow section consisted of sea fans and sea whips. In this area, a brain coral and red sponges were also present. The mounts contained predominantly soft corals, including again sea whips and sea fans. The stern section contained fire coral, millepora complanata. A qualitative inventory of fishes present was conducted as well.
Biology at the bow section of the Benwood was most abundant and diverse. An inventory revealed 20 hard corals and 15 soft corals on the bow section alone, including encrusting corals, deep water sea fans, sea whips and gorgonians.
The mount sections of the Benwood contained a large number of corals. Mount #1 contained eight hard corals and 11 soft corals. Mount #2 contained eight hard corals and 15 soft corals. Mount #3 contained six hard corals and 17 soft corals. Finally, Mount #4 contained three hard corals and 16 soft corals. Again, sea fans and sea whips were the prevalent corals.
The stern section of the Benwood contained the fewest number of corals monitored. The stern had nine hard corals and eight soft ones. The stern section of the Benwood contained fire coral and one area of star coral. Future investigations may examine why the bow and stern sections differ in the abundance of coral growth.
Because of time constraints, specific naming of the corals is not available. However, an on-going inventory has been maintained at the aforementioned biological monitoring stations. Indiana University will continue to monitor this site for changes in biological patterns. These studies will reveal information about reef ecology at the site, and may lead to a better understanding of human effects on coral reef systems.