Home / Exploration & Technology / Navy’s Underwater Archaeologists Conduct Survey of the USS Tulip

Navy’s Underwater Archaeologists Conduct Survey of the USS Tulip

From  Naval History and Heritage Command, Communication and Outreach Division

Earlier this week, Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology (UAB) Branch partnered with Navy’s Supervisor of Diving and Salvage (SUPSALV), Phoenix International Holdings, Inc., and the Institute of Maritime History (IMH) to conduct a two day survey of the wreck site of USS Tulip off Ragged Point, VA utilizing a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV).

Team members from NHHC, SUPSALV, IMH, and Phoenix International gather to place the OceanServer AUV into the Potomac River where it will run a programmed side-scan survey over the wreck site. (U.S. Navy photo by George Schwarz/Released)
Team members from NHHC, SUPSALV, IMH, and Phoenix International gather to place the OceanServer AUV into the Potomac River where it will run a programmed side-scan survey over the wreck site. (U.S. Navy photo by George Schwarz/Released)

 

Up-to-date side-scan sonar images and photographs of the site will assist NHHC in its mission to study, manage, and preserve U.S. Navy sunken military craft. Updated imagery allows archaeologists to determine how to the site has changed since its initial discovery. The survey also served as a training exercise for all parties involved.

History of USS Tulip

The Union Navy purchased USS Tulip, a steam-screw gunboat, in July 1863. She joined the Potomac River Flotilla shortly after in August of the same year. Tulip was tasked with towing, transporting and landing soldiers, supporting Union communication, and maintaining the Union blockade of Confederate ports. On 11 November 1864, while en route to the Anacostia Naval Base for repairs, the starboard boiler exploded, sinking the vessel in the Potomac River off Ragged Point, Virginia. The sinking claimed the lives of 49 of the 57 sailors on board.

 

A Seaeye Falcon ROV rests on the deck of R/V Roper. The ROV will capture video of the wreck of USS Tulip. This video will be used to determine the extent and preservation of the site. (U.S. Navy photo by George Schwarz/Released)
A Seaeye Falcon ROV rests on the deck of R/V Roper. The ROV will capture video of the wreck of USS Tulip. This video will be used to determine the extent and preservation of the site. (U.S. Navy photo by George Schwarz/Released)

 

History of the Wreck Site

The wreck site was located in 1994 by the Maryland Maritime Archaeology Program (MMAP). While documenting the site in 1995, archaeologists discovered that artifacts had been removed from the site in the late 1960s. With the help of MMAP staff, over 1,500 of Tulip’s artifacts were returned to the Navy where they have been undergoing stabilization and conservation treatment at NHHC’s UA Archaeology and Conservation Lab. For more information about Tulip’s artifacts at the UAB Archaeology & Conservation Lab, click here!

 

 

UA_TULIP_MAR16 (2)
The AUV begins its descent over the wreck of USS Tulip to map the site using side-scan sonar. Side-scan sonar captures the intensity of acoustic reflections from the seafloor and then stitches together the returns to create an image of the sea bottom, including any features such as shipwrecks. (U.S. Navy photo by George Schwarz/Released)