Friday, June 5, 2015

Underwater archaeologists inform audience about CSS Georgia history, recovery

Parker Brooks with CSS Georgia gun elevation screw.

Two underwater archaeologists fielded questions from the public this week at a gathering where the curious were able to look at artifacts brought up from a scuttled Confederate ironclad in Savannah, Ga.

An estimated 200 people attended Tuesday' evening's lecture on the CSS Georgia presented by Stephen James of Panamerican Consultants and Gordon Watts of Tidewater Atlantic Research. The ironclad, part of the city’s defensive works during the Civil War, is being removed from the river near Old Fort Jackson as part of the deepening of Savannah’s harbor.

Among the questions brought up at the Savannah History Museum, according to Jeremy S. Buddemeier of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' Savannah district:

-- Why is the debris field in the Savannah River so scattered? (past dredging, salvage operations and the strong river current);

(Photos by Jeremy Buddemeier, USACE)

-- Why are only four cannon remaining on the river floor? (While the vessel could carry as many as 10 cannon, the artillery was moved frequently and it’s not known how many were on the CSS Georgia when it was scuttled in December 1864; at least a few have been previously recovered);

-- What’s going to happen with the artifacts? (This is being discussed by several parties, including the U.S. Navy, which owns the shipwreck, and the Coastal Heritage Society);

-- Any personal effects discovered? (Not many, but several pieces of Native American pottery that predate arrival of Europeans have been recovered).

For months, divers have surveyed the site and brought up numerous artifacts by hand.

U.S. Navy divers later this month will begin removing cannon and artillery rounds to be rendered safe for eventual display. After that come the larger pieces, including the CSS Georgia’s casemate engine components. It's not currently known whether the vessel had one or two propellers.

Texas A&M University has been assisting in the cataloging of items brought up to the surface and is handling conservation of artifacts.

Graduate student Parker Brooks showed the audience a recovered elevation screw used to adjust the height of the cannon’s barrel.

James and Watts provided a history of the project and told the crowd how technology has been used in the recovery.

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