Expedition Maps USS Hatteras

New Wave Media

January 29, 2013

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The USS Hatteras was an iron-hulled sidewheel steamship that was converted to a gunboat by the US Navy to enforce the wartime blockade of southern ports during the US Civil War. The Hatteras was lost in a brief, unequal battle with a better-armed foe, the Confederate raider CSS Alabama, on January 13th, 1863. The Hatteras was the only US warship sunk in combat in the Gulf of Mexico during the Civil War. Alabama sank Hatteras after a 20-minute exchange of cannon fire; two crewmen from the Hatteras were killed in the action.  Six men managed to escape and the rest of the 126 man officers and crewmen were captured and taken to Jamaica, where they were paroled. Now 150 years later a scientific expedition consisting of researchers from several national and state agencies, plus other organizations used 3D sonar to draw a three dimensional picture of the wreck as it lies today in about 60 feet of water 20 miles from Galveston, Texas.  Resting in sand, and silt, the wreck of Hatteras is largely intact and untouched. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Hatteras is a nationally significant war grave and archaeological site with strong local ties to the cities of Galveston, Houston, and the state of Texas as one of many shipwrecks that is part of the extended maritime cultural landscape off Texas’ historically significant shoreline, and part of the greater Houston region – itself a nationally significant hub of maritime economic activity. In the past the wreck had only been explored by scuba divers, developing a fragmented knowledge of the site because of low visibility and silt.  The high-resolution images of the iron-hulled vessel are being released this month to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the battle where the ship was lost. Besides the shell hole, they also show previously unknown details like a paddle wheel and the ship’s stern and rudder emerging from the shifting sands. Divers used the 3-D sonar to map the site in the silt-filled water where visibility is from near zero to only a few feet.


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