Can you imagine being the one to discover an underwater treasure? Well, they have “done it again” Now you can even seen the remains of the USS Hatteras in 3-D sonar images, down to such details as a shell hole that may have been one of the ship’s fatal wounds.
The Hatteras was the only U.S. Navy ship to go down in the Gulf of Mexico during Civil War combat, sunk by the famed CSS Alabama (YES!). Here is the story: Hatteras was ordered to give chase on an unknown ship off the coast of Galveston on the afternoon of January 11, 1863. When she came within hailing distance, Commander Blake demanded the identity of the unknown ship. “Her Britannic Majesty’s Ship Petrel,” came the reply. Suspicious, Blake prepared to inspect her, but no sooner had his men launched a longboat, than a new reply rang out, “We are the CSS Alabama.”
Famed Confederate raider Raphael Semmes lowered the Union Jack the raider had been flying, raised the Confederate Stars and Bars, and began firing. Soon Hatteras, badly crippled, began to sink. Captain Blake reluctantly fired a single bow gun, indicating surrender, and a need for assistance. Alabama sent over her boats to help remove the crew and wounded, just in time, because the Union Blockaders sank 45 minutes after the battle began.
Today, she lies in approximately 60 feet of water, an almost “intact time capsule”, sealed by mud and sand. “What is there will bring the crew and ship back to life in a way,” said Jim Delgado, the project’s leader and director of maritime heritage for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
More about this fascinating new science of 3-D sonar images in the next blog. Isn’t this a great age in which to live?”