USS Hatteras

Mapping a Civil War shipwreck in zero visibility

OceanGate Foundation was excited to help map the wreck site of the USS Hatteras in 2012. According to Wikipedia, “The very first USS Hatteras was a 1,126-ton steamer purchased by the Union Navy at the beginning of the American Civil War. She was outfitted as a gunboat and assigned to the Union blockade of the ports and waterways of the Confederate States of America. During an engagement with the disguised Confederate commerce raider, CSS Alabama, she was taken by surprise and was sunk off the coast of Galveston, Texas. The wreck site is one of the few listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its location away from destructive surf and because of the ship’s side-wheel design, which marks the transition between wooden sailing ships and steam-powered ships.”

From September 1-30, 2012, OceanGate Foundation partnered with renowned maritime archeologist Dr. James Delgado and his team from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, Texas A&M Galveston, the Texas State Historical Commission, and others. The goal was to create a thorough map of the wreck site. OceanGate Foundation provided Teledyne BlueView sonar and an operator, James Glaeser of Northwest Hydro. Partners showed up with no fewer than 15 scuba divers to assist in the setup and operation of the sonar on the ocean floor for measurement, assessment, and photography of the wreck site resting in sand, silt, and 57 feet of water. Visibility varied from ten feet down to zero, and the seas were rolling three-to-five feet. It was challenging work for people both above and below the surface but ultimately, the team succeeded in conducting the 3D sonar mapping that led to the creation of a 3D map.

Researcher reviews 3D point cloud data in preparation for creating the 3D model of the wreck site.
Research team deploys a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).
A partial 3D map of the USS Hatteras made from point cloud sonar scan data.