The Liverpool Nautical Research Society, Maritime Archives and Library, Merseyside Maritime Museum, Albert Dock, Liverpool, L3 4AA UK


The Liverpool Nautical Research Society Maritime Archives and Library Merseyside Maritime Museum Albert Dock Liverpool L3 4AA UK


Diving on the Alabama Wreck Site

Diving on the Alabama wreck site
First published in the Bulletin of September 2001

A letter from Captain C.W. Andersen of Houston, Texas

Captain Andersen has e-mailed the society with a report from The Mobile Register giving details of diving operations on the wreck site of the Alabama:
(The American Confederate cruiser Alabama was built by Laird Brothers at Birkenhead in 1862 under a contract with Commander James Bulloch of the Confederate Navy. The British Government which had declared its neutrality in the American Civil War issued an order of detention on the vessel under construction, as yet unnamed but known as No. 290. Before the enforcement officers could reach Birkenhead the ship, named Enrica, steamed down the Mersey without clearance. She made for the Azores where she picked up her armament which had been brought from Liverpool in two British ships. She was then commissioned as the Alabama.
      Under the command of Captain Raphael Semmes, she swept the seas of Federal shipping for two years until she was sunk in the English Channel off Cherbourg by the U.S.S. Kearsage on 19th June 1864 – Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea).

from The Mobile Register
      “This year’s dives on the Alabama wreck were conducted from 9th June to 21st June, and from 27th June to 2nd July. Both American and French divers took part.
      The Mobile based C.S.S. Alabama Association began its recovery of artefacts from the site last year. Prior to that, the French had recovered some 200 items since the discovery of the wreck by a French naval mine hunter on 30th October 1984. The work is now being sponsored by the Mobile-based organisation in co-operation with the French.
      The artefacts raised this year are being shipped to the Warren Lasch Conservation Laboratory in Charleston, S.C. for cleaning and preservation. Many are expected to be displayed at the Museum of Mobile.
       Underwater archaeologist Gordon P. Watts Jr. reported that 40 to 50 artefacts were recovered this year, many from the quarters of Raphael Semmes, the Alabama’s captain. Watts said that a rich covering of sediment in the hull of the ship, particularly in Semmes’ quarters, had kept the artefacts in remarkable condition, including a decorated pipe bowl which had retained the small of tobacco. The big surprise of the divers, said Watts, was the number of items found. He felt sure that as excavations continued in the hull, all sorts of organic material such as leather and fabric will be recovered. Sediment has prevented oxygen from deteriorating artefacts and the cold water, 200 feet down in the English Channel, has assisted the preservation.
      Plans are being made for further dives at the wreck site in 2002. Watts said he wants a larger vessel with the capacity to lift up to 25 tons. He also hope to obtain the use of a remotely operated vehicle with the ability to take underwater photographs.
      The president of the C.S.S. Alabama Association, Robert S. Edington of Mobile, said that he expects funding to be available for the dives in 2002 using much more sophisticated and expensive equipment. The budget for this year’s dives was about $160,000.