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).
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.
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!