IMH supports Naval History & Heritage Command and Supervisor of Salvage, USN

On Wednesday and Thursday, March 16 and 17, the Institute of Maritime History assisted NHHC and Phoenix International Holdings, a SUPSALV contractor, in deploying a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) and an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), two types of small, unmanned submarines, to take sonar and video images of the USS Tulip wreck.  Tulip was a US Navy gunboat that sank with heavy loss of life in a boiler explosion in 1864.  IMH is a non-profit society that is based at Tall Timbers Marina and conducts underwater archaeological reconnaissance and research for the Maryland Historical Trust and other agencies.
The river was too rough on Wednesday to safely deploy the ROV.  Thursday was calm, but even at slack high tide the river sediment prevented the ROV from getting good video images.  The AUV obtained excellent high-resolution sonar images of the hull and debris field.  At the end of work on Thursday a memorial service was held on the site, with tulips dropped into the water to commemorate the sailors who died in the tragic sinking.
Dr. George Schwarz was the NHHC archaeologist on the project.  Stephanie Brown was the SUPSALV representative.  Curt Newport, Charlie Kapica and Andy Yockey of Phoenix operated the Seaeye Falcon ROV and the Iver-3-580-3037 AUV.  IMH members Dan Lynberg, Charlie Reid and Dave Howe, and local resident Will Jordan operated the IMH dive boat Roper.  Roper towed a skiff and used her as a work platform to launch and recover the AUV.  On Thursday, Captain Will Gates of the pinnace Maryland Dove at Historic St. Mary’s City joined in the effort. 
In May, Brendan Burke of the Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program at the St. Augustine (Florida) Lighthouse and Maritime Museum will visit IMH, bringing LAMP’s Klein 3900 sidescan sonar and Marine Magnetics “Explorer” underwater magnetometer.  He and IMH members will spend several days scanning, magging, diving and mapping what appears to be another Civil War shipwreck near USMC Base Quantico VA, and several days on the Tulip.  IMH will dive Tulip only if accompanied by Dr Schwarz or another NHHC underwater archaeologist.  As a federal war grave, Tulip is a sensitive site.  The wreck is also protected from unauthorized disturbance under the Sunken Military Craft Act.  Some artifacts were illegally recovered years ago, were eventually surrendered to the Navy, and have been conserved and curated at NHHC.  In the current operation the site was not touched or disturbed.
USS Tulip was a screw gunboat, 183 tons, length 97’3″, beam 21’9″, depth 9’6″, draft 8′, complement 57, carrying two 24-pounder smoothbore cannons and one 20-pounder Parrott rifle.  She was built at New York City in 1862 and 1863 by Jowett & Company for export to China as the lighthouse tender Chih Kiang, but was purchased by the US Navy on 22 June 1863.
Renamed Tulip and refitted for service as a tug and gunboat, she joined the Potomac River Flotilla in August 1863.  That force patrolled the river, protecting Union waterborne communications between the nation’s capital and the port cities of the divided nation during the Civil War.  She initially performed towing duties at the Washington Navy Yard, and then served with the flotilla in operations against Confederate forces in the Rappahannock.  In the latter duties, the ship carried Federal troops and supported naval landing parties which from time to time went ashore for operations against Confederate traffic across the river.
As she continued this wartime riverine service into 1864, Tulip developed a defective starboard boiler.  Commander Foxhall A. Parker, commanding the Potomac Flotilla, ordered the ship home to the Washington Navy Yard for repairs.  Tulip got underway on 11 November with orders to steam only the port boiler.  Not long after departing from St. Inigoes Creek, St. Mary’s County, Maryland, her engineers, against all orders, began supplying steam to the starboard boiler.  When abreast Ragged Point, the boiler exploded and tore the fragile ship apart, killing 47 men instantly of the 57-man complement.  Of the 10 survivors, two died later as a result of injuries received in the violent explosion which claimed the ship.
The attached photo by Charlie Reid shows Captain Will Gates, Curt Newport, and Andy Yockey preparing to launch the ROV.

revised plan, autumn 2015

It was disappointing to cancel our big fall projects up the Potomac, but we can focus on the Lord Dunmore project instead.  It would be very valuable to Maryland and IMH to find and prove a vessel that was scuttled by Dunmore in the summer of 1776.  That would be the first underwater site dating from the Revolution found in Maryland.  Historical records say between eight and 23 vessels were burned, so we are looking for stone ballast piles and associated debris.

The site is convenient to Tall Timbers and does not present the logistical constraints the Potomac projects posed.  It can be done in stages on weekends, and it offers good ancillary training in boat handling, sidescan operation, and magnetometer operation once we get that puppy to work.

Depths are 10 to 20 feet.  The bottom is hard, and visibility is unusually good by Potomac standards.

Prior scans by Azulmar, LAMP, and IMH with sonar and magnetometer covered about half the target area and disclosed several dozen protruding objects that need to be mapped and assessed, and at least 23 isolated magnetic anomalies that need to be refined, found, and assessed — plus two linear magnetic targets hundreds of yards long.  Those probably are underwater cables, perhaps left from the US Navy torpedo test station that operated in the area from 1941 to 1959, or electrical cables that once powered a lighted aid to navigation.  That speculation needs to be proved or disproved.

So, the revised plan for autumn is to dive and map the Dunmore site every weekend the weather allows, starting this Sunday, 20 September.  (Saturday 19 is out.)  Most weekdays are available too, if we have divers.  The standard plan will be to meet at Tall Timbers at 0830, load up, get underway by 0900, arrive on site and start diving by 1015, secure at 1600, and dock at Tall Timbers at 1715.  Two tanks should be enough.  Roper will carry spare tanks with yoke fittings.  We will anchor or live-boat, depending on location, conditions, and manning.  Mapping will be done by sonar, offsets, and trilateration.  Bring a tape, slate, and lunch, and confirm with me by email or phone (302-222-4721) the day before you come.

Fall 2014 recon at Widewater VA

Attached is a summary report of our reconnaissance of wooden steamships from World War One at Widewater VA in September and October.  We will return to the site in September +/- October 2015 to continue work.  Please contact me if you would like to participate.

IMH and BAREG on U-1105 wreck

If weather and luck are kind, BAREG and IMH will deploy the mooring buoy on the U-1105 on 12 April as we do every year to support the Maryland Historical Trust and the Naval History & Heritage Command.  Once the buoy is on, the site is open to the public for diving.  As a reminder to divers who are new to the site, the U-1105 is an Historic Shipwreck Preserve and is protected by federal and state law.  Do not disturb, move, or remove anything on the site.


Battle of the Atlantic Research and Expedition Group

IMH is pleased and proud to welcome the Battle of the Atlantic Research and Expedition Group as an affiliate organization.  The Group is focused on studying the history of the Battle of the Atlantic in both World Wars, and assessing the physical remains of those battles along the Atlantic coast.  We will share assets, fieldwork, information, and membership.

One possible field project, to commence in 2014 in cooperation with NOAA and the Maryland Historical Trust, will be an assessment of approximately 170 wooden steamers that were built in WWI and now lie in the Potomac River in or near Mallows Bay, Maryland.  See the attached image of one of them.

Archival projects may include researching Vritish and American technical evaluations of the German “Alberich” anechoic rubber tiles that coated the U-1105 and other U-boats

Other projects are also under consideration.

IMH fieldwork schedule, 2013

2013 fieldwork schedule:
February & March —
  sidescan sonar training on weekends
  boat maintenance on weekdays
April —
  dive & map sites in Potomac River or
    Chesapeake Bay on first 2 weekends
  boat hull and engine work after 11 April
May —
  boat hull and engine work until 9 May
  underway 11 May for Georgia and Florida
  scan sites in Georgia
  arrive St Augustine FL on 25 May
June —
  LAMP field school in FL
  17th century site in MD
July & half August —
  field reconnaissance, Florida
half August —
  scan sites in Georgia
  arrive Tall Timbers MD on 25 August
September through mid November —
  map sites at Quantico, Mount Vernon,
    and Aquia, Virginia

For more information email

new boat

The new-to-us skiff is operational and legal.  She will work in shallow waters and decent weather, and can handle four divers with gear — maybe six at most.  26 feet, 20+ knots, 1970 Pacemaker “Alglas” hull, 1996 Chevy 350 engine (straight inboard), center console, extra fuel tanks, all USCG-required gear, VHF, WAAS DGPS, &c.

She needs a name.  Suggestions?