The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA and the Office of Naval Research ONR have teamed up to search for the civil war submarine USS Alligator. This is the second year for this NOAA-ONR collaborative effort schedule to resume Sept. 9-12 off Cape Hatteras, N.C.
The newsobserver.com has a short article on this current effort.
The USS Alligator (Source: NOAA - Painting by Jim Christley)
The Alligator was so named because of it's low profile and distinctive green color. The 47 foot long sub was lost in April of 1863 while being towed by the USS Sumpter. The Sumpter was to tow the Alligator from Virginia to Charleston S.C. to participate in Union attacks on that Confederate port. The sub sank in a fierce storm somewhere south of Cape Hatteras and Ocracoke Island, N.C. in an area known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. In a heavy gale and no crew aboard the USS Alligator the captain of the USS Sumpter unable to make headway cut the tow line.
Hunting the Alligator (Source: NOAA)
An initial side-scan sonar search by the NOAA Ship Thomas Jefferson in the spring of 2005 identified several new targets. Additional investigation of these targets will be conducted using marine magnetometer and a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). Operating out of Ocracoke, N.C., a team of marine archaeologists and researchers will work aboard ONR’s 108-ft. “Afloat Lab” (YP-679), deploying a number of these undersea search and survey tools.
The USS Alligator has a distinctive place in history which few are aware. It was the US Navy’s first submarine.
There is some confusion around the first US Navy submarine claim. David Bushnell’s The Turtle used in the revolutionary war in September 1775 was piloted by an Army Sergeant and volunteer and not commissioned by the Continental Navy/Marines. John Holland's Holland VI is many times incorrectly cited as the US Navy's first Submarine even though it came some 26 years after the USS Alligator.
The USS Alligator was an innovation in naval design at the time and included many features and firsts for a submarine:
First submarine ordered and built for the U.S. Navy
First submarine to have a diver’s lockout chamber.
Was deployed to a combat zone.
First submarine to have onboard air compressors for air renewal/diver support.
First submarine commanded by a U.S. Naval officer (who would later achieve Flag rank).
First submarine designed with an air purifying system.
Had an underway test witnessed by a U.S. president (Abraham Lincoln).
First submarine to have electrically-detonated limpet mines.
Underwent an overhaul in a U.S. naval shipyard.
If you're interested in the project to find the USS Alligator and the sub's history, more information can be found at the NOAA website (Link here) specifically devoted to this project.