Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Divers get more off Civil War ship


By Dan Scanlan
June 26, 2005

Six American divers, including three from the First Coast,
are researching the wrecked CSS Alabama this summer.

French Navy will help team bring up the Confederate raider's aft pivot gun.
Six American divers, including three from the First Coast, are back out in the English Channel this summer researching the wreck of the Confederacy's most feared commerce raider, the CSS Alabama.

Marine archaeologist John W. Morris III of St. Augustine is the field director of the French-American team diving on the wreck 200 feet below the tossing waves of the English Channel. Morris is the executive director of the St. Augustine Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program that found the 1764 shipwreck of the British ship Industry off St. Augustine in the late 1990s. He is joined by Curtis Deyo from St. Augustine and Rick Frascello from Ponte Vedra Beach.The Confederate ship was sunk 6 miles off France during a cannon battle with the USS Kearsage on June 19, 1864. Morris has been part of the team diving on the Confederate ship each summer since 1992.

Marine archaeologist John W. Morris III (left) of St. Augustine
and project director Gordon Watts (right) talk with vessel captain
Mike Lavender as they prepare to dive on the CSS Alabama.

The latest round of investigation ended last week, as divers excavated the aft pivot gun, the largest piece of weaponry on board. The forward pivot rifle was recovered in 1994, and cannons were brought to the surface in 2001 and 2002. The divers also recovered a bronze piece of a block and tackle used to secure the aft gun, while two pieces of British tableware have also been recovered.

"Both examples have a naval motif with cable around the rim and anchors inside a garter," Morris said in an e-mail. The divers will try to bring up the aft pivot gun in the next few weeks with help from the French Navy.

Morris and his team conducted its first underwater archaeological survey of St. Augustine's waters in 1996, then salvaged a cannon and other artifacts from the British ship Industry. Morris' team also researched 142 more potential archaeological sites in the waters off and in St. Johns County, including the remains of a colonial wharf site in Guana River State Park.


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