Digging Up the Past
Salvaging CSS Georgia
Sailors from Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit (MDSU) 2 and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 6, along with Naval History and Heritage Command and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are diving the Savannah River to salvage the Civil War ironclad CSS Georgia.
Literally plunging into history, the team is in the water recovering Civil War-era ordnance and projectiles, rendering the site safe for the next stages of the mission.
"We have already recovered upward of 100 pieces of unexploded ordnance and discarded military munitions from the river bottom," said Chief Warrant Officer Jason Potts, on-scene diving and salvage commander. "Once this portion is wrapped up, we can move on to cannon recovery and large artifact removal."
The salvage of the ship from the river is necessitated by the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project, or SHEP. In order to deepen the river from 42 to 47 feet for larger ships, the ironclad needed to be removed.
If the ship is not removed it will be demolished by the expansion because the wreck sits right on the shoulder of the channel used by commercial ships entering the port.
Planning took efforts from several sources, starting with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).
"The project has huge national benefits," said Russell Wicke of the Army Corps of Engineers Corporate Communications Office. "An economic study shows the transportation cost savings could be upward of $174 million a year."
With the project in early planning stages, USACE reached out to the Navy for assistance.
"The Army Corps of Engineers sent a request asking for help to the U.S. Navy," said Rick Thiel, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) project manager. "That is how we got involved and coordinated all of the units out here."