3-D Sonar Shows off Civil War Shipwreck (Video)

First Posted: Jan 19, 2013 02:38 PM EST

Great news for all of those Civil War buffs out there. The remains of the only U.S. Navy ship sunk in the Gulf of Mexico during the war can now be seen in 3-D sonar images. The images are so detailed that they show specifics such as a shell hole that may have consigned the ship to its watery grave.

The ship, the USS Hatteras, was a 210-foot, iron-hulled monster in its heyday. The 1,126-ton Hatteras started its career as a civilian ship, but was later purchased by the Navy. It destroyed at least seven schooners and facilities before finally sinking. It now lies just 20 miles off of the coast of Galveston.

The ship has been beautifully preserved due to the fact that it was sealed by both mud and sand, according to Jim Delgado, the project's leader and director of maritime heritage for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. In addition to the shell hole, the images also show unknown particulars such as a paddle wheel, the ship's stern, and the rudder.

Recently, storms have started to shift the sand and mud where the ship rests 57 feet below the surface. Archaeologists and technicians knew they wouldn't likely get a second chance. Last September, they raced to document the wreckage using sonar imaging technology. Divers used the 3-D gear for the first time to map the ship. Although the visibility ranged from near zero to only a few feet, it didn't affect the technology's ability to scan the wreck. Instead, it produced crisp, computer-colored images by analyzing sound waves bouncing off of objects.

The release of these images was scheduled for the 150th anniversary of the battle where the ship was lost. For more information, check out the video below.

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