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Hunt for the Alligator Continues - Several reports

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Postby TMSmalley » Wed Sep 14, 2005 11:47 am

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Sent: Wednesday, September 07, 2005 9:07 AM
To: Alligator News
Subject: 2005 Hunt for the Alligator

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), with support from the Office of Naval Research (ONR), will return this week to the "Graveyard of the Atlantic" to continue the hunt for the Alligator, the U.S. Navy's first submarine. The joint expedition will take place Sept.
9-12 off Cape Hatteras, N.C., where the Civil War-era vessel was lost during a fierce storm in 1863. To learn more about the expedition, please visit

A documentary about the lost Civil War sub and the 2004 expedition to locate it, "The Hunt for the USS Alligator," will air on The Science Channel on Oct. 5 at 8 p.m. The Science Channel and Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, a partner in the Hunt for the Alligator, will hold a special advance screening of the film on Sept. 28 at the
Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia. For more information, please call 215-413-8631.

Thank you for your interest in the Alligator!

Here is a report from CDR Jerome Stephanko who is lead contact for the ongoing hunt for the USS Alligator - the US Navy's first submarine.


We returned to Ocracoke North Carolina September 8-11 to continue the search for the sunken civil war submarine Alligator.

A highlight of the trip this year was the participation by a research team from Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City (NSWC PC). NSWC PC is the lead Navy lab conducting research for ONR in the use of small, unmanned systems for Navy missions in coastal waters. The NSWC PC team brought two Remote Environmental Monitoring Units (REMUS) unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to assist in the search.


050909-N-7676W-042 Atlantic Ocean (Sept. 9, 2005) - The Office of Naval Research (ONR) funded Remote Environmental Monitoring UnitS (REMUS) prepares to dive off the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C., in the continuing search for the Alligator, the U.S. Navy's first submarine, which was lost during a fierce storm in 1863. Based in Ocracoke, N.C., the 2005 survey is part of an ongoing effort by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), ONR, and partners to solve the mystery of the Alligator's fate while promoting scientific and historical research, education and ocean literacy. U.S. Navy photo by Mr. John F. Williams (RELEASED)

The REMUS systems (originally developed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) produce detailed images of the sea floor using side scan sonar sensors.

We performed one day of at sea survey operations on September 9. REMUS collected excellent side scan sonar data in one of two primary search areas and we performed a magnetometer survey from the Afloat Lab in the second area.
Unfortunately due to the winds and seas from hurricane Ophelia we could not continue at sea search operations after the first day. We were able to perform some post processing and conduct educational programs from the Afloat Lab on September 10 before evacuating Ocracoke.

Here are a few pictures taken by ONR Public Affairs photographer John Williams (Some official and higher resolution photos can be found at In the search feature, choose photos and search on 7676w).

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like any additional information,


Posted on Fri, Sep. 09, 2005

Science turns fun in hunt for sub

By Edward Colimore

(Philadelphia) Inquirer Staff Writer

When the research ship Afloat Lab leaves Ocracoke, N.C., this weekend,
it will take government scientists and three Philadelphia-area
residents on the hunt for an obscure piece of the city's Civil War
history: the Navy's first submarine.

A teacher and student at Friends' Central School in Wynnewood and an
official of the Independence Seaport Museum on Penn's Landing spent
months studying the USS Alligator, built in Philadelphia 144 years > ago.

Now they will head out 30 miles aboard a Navy ship to the area off
Cape Hatteras known as the "Graveyard of the Atlantic," where the sub
was lost in 1863 in a ferocious storm. The roiling waters there have
sent hundreds of ships to the bottom.

"I've never done anything like this," said Dyann Connor, 49, a
Friends' Central science teacher who lives in Philadelphia's Overbrook
Farms section. "This is real science."

Connor's daughter, Deanna, 16, a junior at Friends' Central, said the
search combined science with technology and history - and would help
her better understand what she had learned through the museum's

But trying to find a 47-foot-long, 6-foot-wide relic in the Atlantic
may be "searching for a needle in haystack," said Karen Cronin, the
museum's vice president for operations, who is joining the hunt.

The searchers, including representatives of the Office of Naval
Research and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will
be checking 150 square nautical miles to depths of 250 feet or more.
They will make trips tomorrow through Monday or Tuesday, weather

"Whether we find it or not, it's educational," said Cronin, 42, of
Chadds Ford. "I'm fascinated that it existed, that it was built in
Philadelphia, and that for all this time the story has been lost. The
technologies it used were revolutionary."

The Alligator was the first submarine demonstrated for a president -
Abraham Lincoln - and the first intended for a war zone. But it never
made it into combat. It was being towed south by the USS Sumpter to
Charleston in April 1863 when it sank in snowy, wind-tossed seas.

Researchers trying to get an accurate picture of the storm called on
James Eberwine, Marine and Hurricane Program leader at the National
Weather Service office in Mount Holly, who studied Civil War documents
to analyze conditions.

"I looked at the logs of the captain of the Sumpter and the letters of
soldiers on land who described the harshness of the storm," Eberwine

"The captain said he couldn't see the end of his vessel because of the
snow and winds. He felt if they continued, both vessels could have
gone down. It was the decision to cut the rope."

Michael Overfield, a marine archaeologist with NOAA's National Marine
Sanctuary Program and coordinator of the Alligator expedition, said
the hunt was part of a wider search for wrecks. Some are from World
War II and pose a threat to underwater ecosystems because they still
contain fuel.

Overfield said the searchers would use the latest tools: side-scan
sonar to check for objects on the bottom, a marine magnetometer to
detect metal, and a remotely operated vehicle with a camera for a

"We went out four times last year," Overfield said. "If you don't look
for it, you're not going to find it."

The Independence Seaport Museum will offer an advance screening of a
Science Channel documentary on the Alligator search at 7 p.m. Sept.
28; the Science Channel will televise the program Oct. 5. And the NOAA
will hold a symposium on the Alligator on Nov. 8 at the museum.

Also this fall, local researchers plan an expedition into a marsh
along Rancocas Creek where the prototype of the Alligator was believed
to have been abandoned. The prototype was built for salvage work, but
Navy officials saw its military applications and paid for a larger
version in 1861, later naming it the Alligator.

The Confederates also developed a submarine, the H.L. Hunley, which
sank in Charleston Harbor in 1864 after sinking a Union warship. The
Hunley was raised in 2000 and taken to a conservation facility.

The Alligator - like the prototype - was made of iron and is likely to
be very corroded.

"There is no telling what shape it will be in," Overfield said. "She
could be intact or a disarticulated wreck... in pieces."

But the Philadelphia-area residents aboard the Afloat Lab are too
excited about the expedition to worry about the condition of the sub.

"I helped form the curriculum for [the museum's] Alligator Expedition
Project," allowing other teachers to access lessons online, said Dyann
Connor, a member of the museum's teacher advisory committee. "I had no
idea that I'd be part of an expedition. It will be an adventure."

David L. Hall
Media Coordinator/
East Coast, Great Lakes & Gulf of Mexico
NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program
1305 East-West Highway (N/ORM-6)
Silver Spring, MD 20910
Tel: 301-713-7248
Fax: 301-713-0404
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Postby Turbobearcat » Wed Sep 14, 2005 12:55 pm


I seem to remember they had 4 locations picked to where they think she might be hiding.. have you seen this as well?

I would love to see if they can bring her up to the surface after all these years...

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Postby Art Broder » Wed Sep 14, 2005 2:00 pm

For pictures of the search vehicle, REMUS, and it's successor, SENTRY, taken at Wood's Hole, visit the Alfa folder, under pictures, on my web site,

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Postby TMSmalley » Wed Sep 14, 2005 5:02 pm

I have several more photos posted of the Remus autonomous vehicle on my website in the "deVilleroi Files" area.
The deVilleroi Files

A highlight of the trip this year was the participation by a research team from Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City (NSWC PC). NSWC PC is the lead Navy lab conducting research for ONR in the use of small, unmanned systems for Navy missions in coastal waters. The NSWC PC team brought two Remote Environmental Monitoring Units (REMUS) unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to assist in the search. The REMUS systems (originally developed by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) produce detailed images of the sea floor using side scan sonar sensors.

The area the Sumpter may have cut the Alligator loose is pretty large. AND just because it was cut loose in that area, there is no evidence that she was leaking or that the sub sank for quite some time. She may have drifted several hundred miles! This makes for a mighty big haystack, baby!


Watercolor by Jim Christley

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Postby TMSmalley » Thu Sep 15, 2005 9:32 am

Report on 2005 expedition -

The Hunt for the Alligator
Hunt for the Alligator Expedition Log for Saturday, Sept. 10, 2005

By Michael Overfield
Chief Scientist/Archaeologist
NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries

Deanna Connor (left), a junior at Friends' Central School in Wynnewood, Pa., tries her hand at piloting a remotely operated vehicle - a robot sub on a tether - while Friends' Central School science teacher Dyann Connor looks on. Photo: John Williams/ONR

It’s September off of Cape Hatteras, the height of the hurricane season. Listening to offshore weather reports throughout the night and early morning, the offshore forecast called for 7-9 foot seas for both Saturday and Sunday. Hurricane Ophelia has begun to move and was looking to threaten the border between South and North Carolina.

Although the on-water survey portion of our project has been called off, the opportunity for the students and teachers from Philadelphia, PA, and Norfolk, VA, to participate in the Hunt went on. A briefing was held on the fantail of the YP-679 at 1000 hours. The briefing, held by the chief scientist (yours truly), described the plan of the day and gave an overview of the project, along with a description of the work performed the previous day.

After the briefing, each equipment representative gave a detailed account of their particular piece of survey equipment and the reason it was ideally suited for this type of survey. In addition, the data collected on Friday was being post-processed on board for the teachers and student to see.

Lunch was served to the guests aboard the YP (submarine sandwiches and Gatorade). After lunch, Eben Franks from Benthos went the extra mile and set-up the Stngray ROV off the back deck of the YP-679. Not only did Eben give everyone a demonstration of the Stingrays abilities, but he gave everyone on board an opportunity to drive the ROV!

At 1530 hours, a mandatory evacuation notice went out for Ocracoke Island and all of Hyde County, North Carolina. Although the Hurricane was approaching, it appeared that the group would be able to sleep on the Island on Saturday and leave first thing Sunday morning. After a group dinner on Ocracoke and the sun setting on another attempt to find the elusive Alligator, the science team prepared for an early morning departure.

Although only one day of survey was completed, a lot of valuable data had been collected and will be reviewed over the next several weeks. All the participants are anxious to return and continue with the Hunt and we look forward to our next chance to hunt for the USS ALLIGATOR!

There are a number of individuals and organizations NOAA and the Office of Naval Research would like to thank for their continued logistical help on the 2005 Hunt for the Alligator: Alton Ballance from the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), Joe Schwartzer from the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum and Julie Howard from the Ocracoke Preservation Society for providing local knowledge of the Outer Banks to our team and engaging teachers, students and the community in our project; Chief Chris Sinclair and his team at the U.S. Coast Guard Station and the staff of the National Park Service in Ocracoke for accommodating the YP-679 in their harbor and opening their doors to us for critical mission support; the staff at the Harborside Motel and Island Inn, who make us feel like part of their family and always go the extra mile to make us feel at home in Ocracoke; and Captain James Winch of the RESTLESS and Captain Ernie Dosier of the GECKO for their operational assistance, expert seamanship and invaluable knowledge of the offshore sea conditions. We would also like to thank the survey team of Richard Dentzman and Barry Brake with IXSEA, C. Eben Franks with Benthos, and John McCormick and his staff from NAVSEA for not only providing the survey instrumentation, but also their tireless work in acquiring data in the survey areas along with their spirit for adventure. Finally, we would like to thank the people of Ocracoke for making us feel welcome in their beautiful island community.

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