Civil War Shipwreck Revealed By 3D Sonar Technology

A Civil War shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico is getting a new life through 3D sonar technology. The shipwreck is of the only US Navy ship to sink during Civil War combat.

The 3D sonar images show the ship as it lies in the murky depths of the Gulf. It reveals details about the Navy ship, including a shell hole that may have been its downfall.

The high-resolution photos of the iron-hulled USS Hatteras are being released to the public this month. The release coincides with the 150th anniversary of the battle that sunk the 210-foot ship, reports Fox News.

Along with the shell hole, the photos also show previously unknown details about the Civil War shipwreck. Those details include a paddle wheel and the ship’s stern and rudder emerging from the undersea sands.

The shipwreck is located about 20 miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas. Jim Delgado, the project’s leader, is also the director of maritime heritage for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Yahoo! News notes that Delgado stated of the new images:

“This vessel is a practically intact time capsule sealed by mud and sand, and what is there will be the things that help bring the crew and ship to life in a way. You can fly through the wreck, you’re getting a view no diver can get.”

The USS Hatteras was sunk in January 1863 and rested undisturbed on the ocean floor until she was discovered in the early 1970s. Recent storms in the area help to shift the sands around the Civil War shipwreck, exposing more of her.

Divers took the opportunity to use 3D gear, mapping the site in the silt-filled water before the sand could cover it up again. Delgado added:

“We have very crisp, measurable images that show the bulk of the steam machinery in the engine room is there. Some of it is knocked over, been toppled, which suggests we probably have 60 percent of the vessel buried.”

The platforms for the ship’s 32-pounder guns were also revealed, as well as the bow. For archaeologists and Civil War historians, the new discoveries and the 3D images are a treasure. Jami Durham, manager of historic properties, research, and special programs for the Galveston Historical Foundation, stated:

“Very exciting. We knew the ship was out there, and to finally see the images. It seemed to make it more real.”

The USS Hatteras confronted a three-masted ship in the Gulf of Mexico on January 11, 1863. The ship began firing on the Union vessel, revealing itself to be the CSS Alabama. The Alabama was a notorious Confederate raider and was credited with about 60 kills.

The Hatteras lost the battle and its crew was captured by Confederate forces. The ship sunk to the bottom of the Gulf and remains there, 57 feet below the surface. Check out the video below to see more footage of the Civil War shipwreck in 3D sonar.