>In 1976 Rice University professor Paul Cloutier rediscovered the wreck while field-testing a recently designed magnetometer. Like a submerged time capsule, the wreck lay mostly buried in the sand-and-silt bottom. Portions of the two paddle wheels, the stern post, parts of the steam engine and the walking beam drive mechanism were all that protruded from the seafloor. Two years later Cloutier took the U.S. Navy to court to obtain admiralty rights; he was unsuccessful, and the Hatteras remains the property of the U.S. Navy. For the next three decades few divers — mostly state, federal and contract archeologists — dived on the Hatteras.
>Visibility in the area is highly variable, ranging from zero to 40 feet. After Hurricane Ike (2008) and other turbulent weather passed directly over the wreck, divers conducting surveys for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in 2010 reported that a significant amount of cover had been swept away, exposing more of the wreck. The news prompted James Delgado, a renowned marine archeologist and director of maritime heritage for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, to organize a privately funded mission involving 31 people and three vessels to assess and map the Hatteras.
>Glaeser directed the scanning operation in coordination with Emma Hickerson, research coordinator for FGBNMS, who orchestrated her dive team to reposition the tripod-mounted scanner 24 times. Prior to initiating the scanning operation, divers established the wreck's centerlines using measuring tapes stretched from bow to stern as well as across the wreck from sidewheel to sidewheel. Thirty-five dives later, over a two-day period with visibility that ranged from 5 to 15 feet, the scans were completed. (Fortunately, visibility is not an issue with sonar.) Glaeser created maps using mosaics of the scanned images. The technology employed also allowed creation of virtual 3-D "fly-throughs" of the wreck site. This was the first-ever application of this state-of-the-art sonar technology on an archaeological expedition to a marine shipwreck.
>Education was an important aspect of the Hatteras mission. Along with the support received from Teledyne BlueView, ExploreOcean of Seattle provided sponsorship for two local high-school students and three students from Texas A&M University at Galveston to participate. All were involved in deploying the sonar system and assisting the science team topside.
>On the first day at the wreck site the mission began with a formal memorial service for the two sailors who lost their lives during the battle. A fireman and a coal heaver, both Irish immigrants, never left their stations and heroically went down with the Hatteras.
>Delgado summed up the Hatteras mission when he said, "This technology [BlueView] allowed us to virtually raise the Hatteras while leaving her entombed as a war grave." There is no doubt that the 3-D images and photographs will not only benefit archeologists and historians but also give history enthusiasts and the general public a clearer view of the fascinating maritime heritage of our Gulf coast from 150 years ago.
>© Alert Diver —Spring 2013