Civil War Shipwrecks

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The Florida Aquarium is charting new territory. With a state grant money, Aquarium scientific divers are looking at the bottom of the bay.


What lies beneath?


That is exactly what Billy Ray Morris, primary investigator and marine archaeologist, wants to know.


"People will be shocked to find out what's under the water," says Morris. "We know there are several Civil War era shipwrecks in the waters around Tampa so we'll be looking for those first."


One of these shipwrecks, the U.S.S. Narcissus, sank off the coast of Egmont Key on January 4, 1866. All 26 Union sailors on board went down with the ship when the boiler exploded after the ship rolled on a shoal. Now, the state of Florida and The Florida Aquarium are seeking the U.S. Navy's permission to make the site a state underwater natural preserve.


Morris is an expert in the field with more than 20 years experience of underwater archeology in the waters off the Southeast United States and the Caribbean.

"First we'll use a magnetometer to look for deposits of metal," says Morris. "If we get a 'ping' we'll use side scan sonar to paint a picture of what's down there."


If the picture proves intriguing enough, divers will go down to get a better look.


The diving and project logistics are coordinated by Dive Safety Officer, Casey Coy. "If there is something of interest, we'll document the location and return to create thorough plans of the sites," says Coy. "There is potential for some extremely interesting discoveries with this project. No one really knows for sure."


The high-tech endeavor relies upon scientific divers from the Aquarium staff and volunteers during the next few years as areas of "interest" will need a more thorough examination.


The Friends of Narcissus


Housed at The Florida Aquarium, theFriends of Narcissus group is a community organization established to create public awareness about the wreck site of the USS Narcissus.  For more information about this group and how you can get involved, click HERE.