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ROV NEWS: Uncovering Secrets of (another) lost civil war submarine

Posted on 23.12.2003 - 07:54 EST in GENERAL NEWS by admin

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA ## A joint research project is yielding new details about the U.S. Navy's first submarine, the USS “Alligator.” The U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research joined.....

forces to uncover the secrets of a technological marvel of the Civil War era akin to the USS “Monitor” ironclad warship and the Confederate submarine CSS “Hunley” ## the USS Alligator. Launched in 1862, the Alligator was the U.S. Navy's first submarine. While the vessel represented a significant leap forward in naval engineering, complete information about its design and fate has been elusive. Today, NOAA and ONR released findings that help fill large gaps in the history of the all-but-forgotten Union submarine, including details about the Alligator's inventor, innovative features, and loss in April 1863.

“NOAA is excited to partner with the Office of Naval Research to bring the largely untold story of the Alligator to the public," said Dr. Richard W. Spinrad, assistant administrator for NOAA's National Ocean Service. "Through the Alligator Project, we are learning not only about revolutionary developments in maritime technology but also the American Civil War experience and the pioneering spirit that built our great nation."

Chief of Naval Research RAdm. Jay Cohen added, "The Alligator Project will test our ability to find an object in the sea in a reasonable amount of time and at a reasonable cost. If we can find the Alligator, we can find anything." Among the NOAA-ONR research team's recent discoveries are the only design drawings of the Alligator found to date. Drafted by French inventor Brutus de Villeroi, the drawings provide new details about the vessel's architecture and breakthrough technologies, including the first diver lockout chamber ever devised for a submarine as a weapons system.

NOAA discovered Villeroi's original, hand-drawn designs in France in May 2003 after a search for Alligator-related documents led to the French navy's historical archives, the Service Historique de la Marine. Along with the design drawings, NOAA also found a number of original, hand-written letters exchanged by Villeroi and the French government. The letters document Villeroi's repeated but unsuccessful attempts to persuade the government of his native country to purchase his submarine design. An 1863 letter provides clues about the loss of the Alligator off the coast of North Carolina while it was being towed by the USS Sumpter from Washington, D.C., to Charleston, South Carolina.

The information released, including images of the Alligator design drawings, historical documents, and a map depicting the last reported position of the submarine, are available on the Alligator Project website at:

Source: OceanSp@ce

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