Always Striving to do Better: The Importance of Reflection

By Martin Klein
ACUA Associate Member

It was September 1967 and I was on a funky ship, Kardeșler (Brothers), off the coast of Bodrum, Turkey. I was working with an expedition led by George Bass of the University of Pennsylvania near the island of Yassi Ada. They were looking for a wreck they refer to as the “Negro Boy” ship because a statue of an African boy had been pulled up from 300 feet of water in the area.

Just three months earlier, in the EG& G Inc. booth at a convention of the Marine Technology Society in San Diego, I introduced to the world the first commercial dual-channel towed side scan sonar. My supervisors had told me that, as a lowly engineer, I could not go to the show. I bought myself a ticket and went anyway.

The original introduction of the E.G.&G. Side Scan Sonar at the Marine Technology Society Convention, 1967. Courtesy Marty Klein.

Now I had the new sonar onboard for the search. A group from Scripps Institution of Oceanography had preceded me with an experimental side scan sonar and they had picked out some promising targets. This was long before electronic navigation and global positioning, and we were running survey lines using transits along the shore. Suddenly Don Rosencrantz yelled out to me, “Heads up. It is going to show up shortly on the starboard side.”

Our sonar readout was on a mechanical strip-chart recorder with a clunky rotating helix that could fail at any time. In moments a large target showed up on the record. My heart pounded, and I shouted out that it looks like a shipwreck. The ship stopped and I directed the lowering of a buoy on the target location.

Don Rosencrantz and Turkish archaeological commissioner Yüksel Egdemir, submerged in the little submersible Asherah. Onboard ship we held our breath and waited for news on the underwater telephone. Suddenly there was a great clanging sound and we wondered if something had gone wrong. It turned out the buoy had landed right on top of a great mound of ancient amphorae, and Don had brought a tambourine in the sub. In his excitement at finding the wreck he banged on the tambourine. It was an historic event – we had made the first find of an ancient shipwreck using our “high-tech” equipment.

Marty launching the original E.G. & G., Inc. side scan sonar towfish, 1967. Courtesy Marty Klein.

I WAS HOOKED! That magic moment of seeing a wreck appear on the sonar chart is unforgettable.

When I returned from Turkey I learned that my old professor and mentor, Dr. Harold E. Edgerton, had also taken the sonar and his “Mud Penetrator” to work with Alexander McKee in the Solent in Portsmouth to help find the Mary Rose, the flagship of King Henry VIII, sunk in 1545.

Then in October 1967 I traveled to Israel with Doc Edgerton to work with Elisha Linder and Peter Throckmorton to look for an ancient harbor off the coast of Ashdod.

Meanwhile, before I went on these expeditions a lot had been going on at Edgerton, Germeshausen & Grier, which was now EG&G Inc. The company had become very large, and I was unhappy with the burgeoning bureaucracy and the treatment and support I was receiving. I resigned.

In January 1968, working in the basement of a little rented home in Lexington, Massachusetts, I founded Klein Associates. My prime motivation was to develop new and improved sonar and other equipment. I had no background in business or high-level management, and I had no idea what I was getting into. It was a terrible struggle – a story for another day. I was very proud that George Bass was one of my first customers. I learned quickly though, that there was no money in underwater archaeology and even though I loved the field, I had to find customers in many other venues.

Marty Klein with Serial Number 001 of the Klein Side Scan Sonar, purchased by George Bass, now at the MIT Museum. Courtesy Marty Klein.

However, I kept the interest and enthusiasm and I began to go to meetings of the Society of Historical Archaeology. The underwater finds continued and occasionally I would give talks at SHA annual meetings. At some point I was invited to be an associate member of the Advisory Council of Underwater Archaeology.

So began a lifelong love for the field of underwater archaeology.

Paul Gauguin posed three questions in one of my favorite paintings at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts: D’où Venons Nous / Que Sommes Nous / Où Allons Nous. Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? These questions have shaped my life in many ways.

At the MATE International annual ROV Competition I sponsor the “Martin Klein MATE MARINER Award Medal”. On the medal is my mantra “Always Ask How We Can Do This Better.” I usually give a pep talk to the students about this philosophy. Moreover, I think about it every day.

I would like to suggest that each of us and our larger professional societies set aside some time each year for some self-examination and soul searching.

Who are we?
Where have we been?
Where are we going?
How are we doing?
Who and how are we advising?
Are we making a difference?
How can we do better?

A time for self reflection is time well spent.