Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Shipwrecks to be Studied In Virginia

Survey of Civil War shipwrecks continues in James River
Lauren King
The Virginian-Pilot
June 28, 2011

A two-day research expedition began Monday to survey two sunken Civil War vessels in the James River.

The archaeological survey of the USS Cumberland and CSS Florida is being conducted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Navy, a news release from NOAA said. Researchers are using sonar technology to create three-dimensional maps of the two shipwrecks to analyze their current conditions and better understand the technological innovations of the time.

The Cumberland, a 1,726-ton wooden frigate, was lost on March 8, 1862, during the Battle of Hampton Roads, when the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia, formerly the USS Merrimack, rammed the Cumberland. It went down with more than 100 men. Nearby are the remains of the notorious Confederate commerce raider Florida. In late 1864, a Union warship seized the Florida at a harbor in Brazil and towed it to Hampton Roads, where it was rammed by a U.S. Navy troop ferry on Nov. 19, 1864, and sent to the bottom.

Both vessels are protected under the federal Sunken Military Craft Act of 2005, the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1987 and the Territorial Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives the U.S. government exclusive rights to its own property.

The Cumberland was last surveyed in 2007. This is the first time the federal government is surveying the Florida.