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New NOAA website - Hunt for the Alligator

This is the place to read all about submarines in the real world!

Postby TMSmalley » Fri Aug 13, 2004 11:29 am


This is a letter I received from the NOAA list servce on the USS Alligator. It is announcing a new website focusing on their search for the 'gator. You can sign up to be on their automatic update list - you only get emails from them maybe every other month. The link is at the bottom of this post.

Welcome to the new Alligator-News Listserve, our mechanism for providing you with the progress of the ‘Hunt for the Alligator’, the mission designed to locate the U.S. Navy’s first submarine. We have developed this listserve to provide you with the most updated information regarding the ‘hunt’ or mission, new research and upcoming events.
The Mission Will Be Beamed To You

From August 21-31, 2004, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Sanctuary Program and the United States Navy's Office of Naval Research have teamed up once again to search the waters off of Cape Hatteras, N.C. in hopes to discover the elusive Alligator. With help from East Carolina University, the expedition will include state-of-the-art marine technology to search the depths of ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’. During the expedition, the Science Channel will be on-board to document the story of the mission and the research conducted. Today August 13, 2004, the expedition website is officially unveiled. Tune in for the exciting archaeological survey and exceptional education components to learn more about our search. You will be able to read the daily logs from participants, meet the expedition explorers, and see pictures and video of the crew at work. Follow along daily to watch the hunt unfold.

NEW!! Research Updates

Check out the primary source historical letters on the Alligator, such as a nine-page letter from J. Winchester, Acting Master of the USS Sumpter to Secretary of the Navy Gideon Wells from April 9, 1863, reporting the Alligator's loss at sea in April 9,1863. Some other exciting finds include letters obtained by the National Marine Sanctuary Program, written by the Alligator inventor, Brutus de Villeroi to the French government detailing his new submarine design after the loss of the Alligator. See below the update from submariner historian Jim Christley, (EMCS(SS), USN (ret), and Historian), regarding the progress of analyzing the secrets behind the engineering design of the Alligator.
All of these new discoveries can be viewed on the website at

Upcoming Public Events

The second annual Alligator symposium will take place October 30-31, 2004 at Nauticus Maritime Center in Norfolk, VA. The first day will be by invitation only, however the second day will feature a public event to take the audience on the Hunt for the Alligator through informative presentations by expedition scientists and historians, as well as interpretive exhibits.
More information to come soon!! Stay tuned.

If you have any questions regarding the Alligator, please e-mail us at [][/email] Please also feel free to forward this e-mail to anyone interested in learning more about this exciting project!!


The Alligator team.

Read below the new research by Jim Christley...

Understanding the Technology of the Alligator: A Look Inside and Out

By Jim Christley

Work on two models of DeVilleroi’s submarine is a driving force for discussions about details of the construction of Alligator including its hull fabrication, hatches and external appearance. A 1:12 scale model of Alligator's final configuration is being constructed by Mr. Dave Merriman of D&E Miniatures in Virginia Beach, VA. Work developing ideas on how the Alligator was constructed and how she operated continues on several fronts. Progress on Dave Merriman's modeling of the Alligator can be found at

This model is to be radio controlled and will be filmed in action at the Navy's David Taylor Naval Ship Research and Development Center model basin.

An other model is being developed of the prototype DeVilleroi’s submarine that was confiscated in Philadelphia 1861. Dubbed by the model builder, Tim Smalley, the Alligator Junior, this 1:7 - (about 5 feet long) model will also figure in the documentary. You can see progress made in building the model at

These two models incorporate existing design drawings found by Ms Catherine Marzin of NOAA, most of the existing illustrations found during the historical research of Mr. Christley, Mr. Ragan, Mr. Beard and Mr. Bruns of the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Mr. Chuck Viet of the Navy and Marine Living History Association and others. Mr. Christley forwarded to the group sketches which were the result of converting the design elements of the DeVilleroi drawings into known fabrication techniques and component parts which existed in 1861. In addition, Mr. Smalley has supplied photos of the interior of the Intelligent Whale and x-ray images of CSS H.L. Hunley's conning tower construction and deadlights.

The two model builders, using their experience and insight are incorporating their own ideas and interpretations of the existing evidence into highly detailed models. These models and their construction are leading to invaluable discussions as to the boats construction and operation. Several of the discussions are on the boats employment and operation.

At least two differing concepts on how the boat might have employed its divers are being formulated at this time. The major differing points are centered around depth control elements of the design and as a result, how the diver might be deployed. One hypothesis put forth by Mr. Merriman holds that the boat most probably have employed an anchor weight similar to that shown on the contemporary illustrations of the prototype submarine. This weight would have been employed to vary the submerged depth of the boat as the diver was deployed.

The other hypothesis, defended by Mr. Christley holds that the depth control was performed by deploying the buoyancy chambers and using them to control the depth of the boat. The latter system would have been difficult to employ but the anchor weight proposed in the other hypothesis is not shown on the design drawings. That the latter system was difficult to employ does not mean it wasn't the means used and that the anchor weight is not shown on the design drawings does not mean it was not actually on board. There are several elements that were necessary to the operation of the boat and its divers are not incorporated into the design drawings such as the air compression pump for supplying the diver helmet with air.

This type of frank and open discussion is extremely useful in the Alligator Project as it helps ensure all facets of what is known are explored and those elements that are not known are identified. These unknowns can be further researched and discussed. No resolution of the differing opinions as to the boats operation is expected soon, if ever, as the actual answer to many of the questions need the most important element of the project which is the location, recovery and preservation of the actual boat. ###


Go to new NOAA - Hunt for the USS Alligator website

Edited By TMSmalley on 1092411431
Tim Smalley
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