VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. ? Since sailors who have been tasked to the Mobile Diving Salvage Unit 2 or MDSU 2 returned from its operations, they have been busy with technical trainings that will help them retrieve the 150-year old CSS Georgia.
CSS Georgia, a Civil War ironclad vessel has been located beneath the Savannah River in Georgia since 1864 after it was purposely destroyed by the Confederates to stop it being captured and prevent obstructing the river. It was only after 100 years when it was located and authorities created plans of taking the wreck from the river to give way to the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project or SHEP.
The professional divers from the MDSU 2 were tasked to help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or USACE during the SHEP operations in getting the parts of the armour systems, steam engine parts, small components, weapons such as cannons of the shipwreck, including the 50 projectiles which composed of rifle shells and standard cannon balls.
Chief Warrant Officer Jason Potts, commander for Mobile Diving Salvage Company 23, said that it was because of their expertise that the authorities have chosen them to remove CSS Georgia from underwater to give way to a bigger project of expanding the river.? ?This is what we live for; it?s what we do day in and day out. When it comes to mobile diving, salvage, underwater ship husbandry and force protection, these guys are more proficient than any dive team in the Navy right now,? he explained.
The chosen divers began their weeklong technical training last May 11 at Williamsburg, Virginia so that they could familiarize with the suit they would be using. The next days were slated to make dive operations at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek at Fort Story, Virginia. Every diver was given a chance to practice the role he was assigned on the actual operation. They were also trained to deal with the muddy-water settings by putting them into similar conditions during the training.
Calum Sanders, Diver First Class from MDSU 2, said that they were experts on diving operations and their training would ensure that they would not commit errors during the actual operations.? ?It ensures that we can continue to be the best and that we can successfully accomplish any mission that is given to us,? he added.
Only several more weeks and MDSU 2 will be making their way to Savannah, Georgia and start retrieving the vessel. However, since the wreck contains some unexploded ordinance or UXO, they will work together with the professional technicians of Navy Explosive Ordnance or EOD- Mobile Unit 6 Detachment recovering the cannons and cannonballs. After retrieving the items, they will be coordinating with Marine Corps EOD to bring the items to an offsite location where they can be safe.
The other items such as artefacts that will be retrieved will be given to US Naval History and Heritage Command or NHHC for accountability. It will be housed at one of the repositories of NHHC and the Conservation Research Laboratory or CRL at Texas A&M University.
Steve Askew, Chief Navy Diver, said, ?This operation has been going on for many years and to be able to raise portions of the ship along with artefacts means a lot to the entire team. To able to be a part of such an important and historical operation is an honour.?
These professional navy divers were previously assigned to various diving missions and since 2015 is declared as the Year of the Military Diver, CSS Georgia project is an excellent picture of their expertise as they joined in a historical event.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers