Friday, May 15, 2015

Navy team soon will begin removing CSS Georgia guns, artillery rounds from river

Previously recovered CSS Georgia gun (Old Fort Jackson)

[Update note: Navy dives described below will now begin in mid-June]

A U.S. Navy explosive ordnance disposal team is expected to begin operations June 1 at the ongoing recovery site of the CSS Georgia, the Confederate ironclad resting in pieces on the river bottom in Savannah, Ga.

Initially, officials believed perhaps five to 10 artillery rounds might need to be removed and rendered safe.

But Russell Wicke, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Savannah, told the Picket on Thursday that divers “kept finding more and more” – for a total of perhaps 30.

Wreckage and artifacts of the CSS Georgia are being removed from the Savannah River in the first phase of the deepening of the city’s harbor. The vessel, which served as a defensive floating battery, was scuttled by its crew in late 1864, just before Savannah fell to Federal forces.

The Navy disposal group, working from a barge, will be on site at least two weeks, lifting four remaining cannon and the artillery rounds, with a Marines team rendering them safe, said Wicke.

Officials are finalizing plans for a “safe zone” during the ordnance recovery -- meaning the public will have to be outside of that boundary.

Casemate section pulled up in 2013 (USACE)

After that work is done, the recovery shifts to the large pieces of the ship: The casemates, propeller and engine, Wicke said. Many of the pieces will be conserved for future display.

The public can learn more about the story of the CSS Georgia and its recovery at a free lecture June 2 (new date) at the Savannah History Museum, 303 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

Two of the lead underwater archaeologists, Steven James and Gordon Watts, will talk about the vessel’s construction, life aboard it and how divers are documenting the wreck site. The speakers will bring some recently recovered artifacts. The museum will be open for light refreshments before the 7 p.m. talk.

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