Press Release from the Discovery Science Channel. . .
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ MYSTERIOUS CIVIL WAR SUB SOUGHT IN THE WATERS OFF NORTH CAROLINA IN SCIENCE CHANNEL SPECIAL, HUNT FOR THE USS ALLIGATOR
-One-hour special airs October 5 from 8-9PM ET/PT-on The Discovery Science Channel
Silver Spring, Md. – Off the coast of the Carolinas lies the Alligator, the U.S. Navy’s first underwater fighting machine, which predates the famous Confederate sub, the Hunley by two years. At the time, it was the largest, most sophisticated submarine in existence, brainchild of a French inventor who built his visionary craft in the shipyards of Philadelphia.
Commissioned by Abraham Lincoln in 1861 for the equivalent of $250,000 today, the 20-man sub was lost in a hurricane in 1862. Its inventor, Brutus DeVilleroi, walked off the job after conflicts with the shipyard, and the ship’s plans were lost to history until 2003. That’s when National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) employee Catherine Marzin uncovered the original blueprints in a 17th century castle outside Paris, home of the French naval archives. Her discovery sparked renewed interest in the craft, and in the summer of 2004 NOAA and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) sponsored a preliminary search for the Alligator in the waters southeast of Cape Hatteras, NC. Science Channel cameras were on board to capture the action.
HUNT FOR THE USS ALLIGATOR tells the story of the Alligator and its mysterious inventor, the 2004 expedition, and the sub’s fascinating place in naval history as the first military submarine commissioned by the U.S. Navy. The special premieres on The Science Channel on October 5, from 8 PM to 9 PM ET/PT.
From the shipyards of Philadelphia to the inventor’s home in Nantes, France (where DeVilleroi is rumored to have taught mathematics to a young Jules Verne, author of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), HUNT FOR THE USS ALLIGATOR traces the sub’s history and place in the Civil War’s underwater arms race.
Cameras travel to Carderock MD,where Science Channel commissioned, radio-controlled scale models of the Alligator (constructed by David Merriman, III) and it's 1859 prototype (built by SubCommittee member, Tim Smalley) were put through their paces at the Naval Surface Warfare Center and in the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal in an effort to better understand their propulsion and ballast systems. At the US Navy Submarine Base in Groton, CT, specialists are consulted on the viability of the sub’s innovative air purification system. The program concludes aboard the naval research vessel YP-679 during the 2004 NOAA/ONR expedition, where researchers hunt, unsuccessfully, for the lost sub. While unsuccessful on this first attempt to locate the Alligator, they don’t give up hope.
According to Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program, the search will continue, “The Alligator is an important national asset. The hunt allows us to capture the nation’s attention on things that are maritime heritage, that are marine science, that are conservation. How do you educate kids about science when you can’t get their attention....the Alligator has proven to be something that interests them tremendously.”
HUNT FOR THE USS ALLIGATOR is produced for The Science Channel by David Clark Inc. David Clark is producer and director. For The Science Channel, Steve Burns is executive producer.
Model of USS Alligator and diver built by Dave Merriman
Model of the 1859 prototype of Alligator built by Tim Smalley - now on permanent display at the Philadelphia Independence Seaport Museum.