Yesterday I wrote about the USS Hatteras being discovered off the coast of Galveston, and how the new technology is providing images that were unknown short years ago. Archaeologists and technicians are racing to beat any potential seabed movement that conceal Hatteras again, so they spent two days last September scanning the wreckage using sonar imaging technology for the first time at sea.
Divers used the 3-D gear to map the site in the silt-filled water where visibility is near zero. The murkiness of the water amazingly, doesn’t affect sonar technology as it would regular photographic equipment. Sonar technology produces computer-colored images by analyzing sound waves bouncing off objects.
For example crisp, measureable images were made that show the bulk of the steam machinery in the engine room, as well as the platforms for the ship’s 32 pounder guns. The project manager called it “very exciting…we knew the ship was out there and to finally see the images, it seemed to make it more real,” he said. He added, “You can fly through the wreck, you’re getting a view no diver can get”.
The Hatteras had sat mostly undisturbed and unnoticed from 1863 when it was sunk by the CSS Alabama, until its discovery in the early 1970s. The wreck is the property of the U.S. Navy. At one time local treasure hunters filed suit to salvage the ship, but the courts ruled in favor of the government. This is one of the few times courts have ruled in favor of the historic preservation of a shipwreck site versus commercial interests. Aren’t we glad they did?