In October 2012, Robert Schwemmer, West Coast Region National Marine Sanctuaries Maritime Heritage Coordinator, presented a scientific paper on the history and discovery of the wrecked remains of the George E. Billings, a rare, early 1900s Pacific Coast schooner used in the lumber trade. For many years, archaeologists and historians with the sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park had searched for the Billings. The wreck was located on a CINMS expedition aided by research from tech-diver Steve Lawson, researcher Gary Fabian, and Patrick Smith with Coastal Maritime Archaeology Resources.
Sanctuary Explores Cultural Landscape
The sanctuary partnered with ten organizations from government, non-profit and the private sector in a mission to document the wreck of the USS Hatteras, the only Union warship sunk in combat in the Gulf of Mexico during the Civil War. The use of 3D scanning technology provided an unparalleled view of the wreck, while also allowing scientists to document previously unexplored elements of the site. The sanctuary team provided significant ship and shore-side support for both the pre-expedition survey and the mapping expedition. The team also coordinated partners in providing displays and activities about the expedition for the annual Battle of Galveston commemoration, which attracts tourists from around the region.
Shipwreck Mystery Solved
The survey and mapping efforts of volunteer science divers from the National Association of Black Scuba Divers in September 2012 helped the sanctuary positively identify an early 20th century shipwreck off Key Largo, Fla, to be the British steamship Hannah M. Bell. Sanctuary staff compared the dimensions and construction characteristics of an unknown shipwreck with historic shipping records to positively identify the wreck. The wreck's shallow depth allows snorkelers and divers to appreciate Keys maritime heritage and provides charter businesses with an educational opportunity for visitors.