Daily Mail Online: Civil War and World War II shipwrecks are being analysed with sonar technology to provide never-before-seen detailed images
Historic shipwrecks are being analysed with incredible sonar technology to create images described as almost photographic.
The shipwrecks will appear vivid and three-dimensional, showing even more detail than diving at some of the sites off North Carolina and Virginia, could provide.
Federal researchers are using sonars to gather data that will result in images - and one day video - of the shipwrecks. These will likely end up on-line and in museums.
Not everybody dives, and so that's why we embrace technologies like this that are cutting edge, cost effective and give you a three-dimensional sense of that ship on the bottom,’ said James Delgado of the government's Maritime Heritage Program.
‘The kinds of imagery — it's almost photographic.’
The sites are World War II shipwrecks off North Carolina and Civil War shipwrecks in Virginia.
Some of the major shipwrecks:
Battle of Hampton Roads - March 8, 1862: The USS Cumberland (part of the U.S. Navy's North Atlantic Blockading Squadron) was sunk after being rammed by the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimack) killing 120 men.
CSS Florida - November 19, 1864: a Confederate commerce raider, the ship sunk after it collided with a U.S. Navy troop ferry
The Battle of Atlantic - July 14 1942: a merchant convoy of 19 ships and five military escorts left the Hampton Roads area of Virginia en route to Key West, Florida., to deliver cargo to aid the war effort. A German U-boat submarine attacked the convoy the next day off Cape Hatteras. The German boat was then sunk, along with an American merchant boat and a Panamanian tanker depth charges dropped by U.S. Navy aircraft. The ships are situated in North Carolina's Outer Banks.
- This was a decisive battle turning the tides for the Allied Forces on the American coastline.
These are sites that are miles out into the sea and so unless you're a diver you're likely not to going to be aware of them even,' said Alexis Catsambis, an underwater archaeologist for the U.S. Navy.
'Many people may not know that there were (German) U-boats off the coast of North Carolina during World War II that created a number of casualties,’ she added.
On Tuesday, researchers headed to North Carolina's Outer Banks to begin creating images of ships sunk in the Battle of the Atlantic.
They have identified potential shipwrecks from the battle and the 3-D mapping will help them determine exactly what they're looking at.
One of the escorts for the World War II KS-520 convoy was the Coast Guard cutter, Triton (pictured)
‘There's 400 years of ships sunken off the coast here, so it could be anything. You never know what you're going to get,’ said Joseph Hoyt, maritime archaeologist for the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.
Eventually, researchers hope to develop 3-D video of individual Battle of the Atlantic shipwrecks.
The researchers used the sonar to map Civil War shipwrecks in the murky waters of the James River near Newport News, Virginia on Monday.
The research will hopefully find new ways to protect the wrecks, of growing interest as the nation prepares to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War
‘In terms of the guys who died in the Cumberland that day, not only are they heroes, but they're sons and fathers and grandsons and nephews and they left families who are still with us today and their stories resonate,’ Delgado said.
The ships are protected by federal law, but resources are limited.
Researchers hope that by being able to better tell the ships' stories with new visualizations that they won't be looted or damaged by divers or unknowing fishermen.
If people don't have a personal connection to it, they don't care about it,’ said David Alberg of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary.
‘By doing these types of projects, getting that information out there, that's helping to educate the public, which is ultimately the most important tool to protecting the site.’
Often popular as dive sites, the new images will mean less damage to the wrecks and will aid scientists to preserve them better.
The technology also allows the public to view shipwrecks in waters that aren't very clear.