For more information about the initial discovery of this ship, please see the North Sea and English Channel Hunt page.
Cooperation with the French Navy in search for the Alabama. September 1985.
Though we were not invited to attend, the French Navy graciously accepted my location projections and inspired by our 1984 expedition to find the Alabama when no one had bothered to look for 120 years, went out and found her. She lies quite close to the estimated position from several sources, including Commander Winslow’s chart of the battle. The Captain of the Kearsarge didn’t miss it by very much.
This all comes by phone calls to Cherbourg since the French Navy did not consider me a brother anchorclanker or place me on their man-of-the-year-list after the disaster the year before.
They did, however, send me a diagram showing how they found the wreck on the bottom as sketched by their salvage divers.
They indicate a wreck that is incredibly intact. More so than I would have expected of a wooden ship underwater for 120 years in an area with currents up to five knots. The diver who went down on the wreck said she is 58 meters deep, deeply buried in a sand and silt bottom, not very scattered but well concentrated. Visibility is almost nonexistent. Not an easy dive.
I’m leery the Alabama could be found and surveyed in only two days, particularly a detailed drawing by one man under the conditions he described. But down deep I sincerely hope the report is genuine.
Now the fun begins. Being the pioneer didn’t provide me with world acclaim or the thrill of actually discovering her grave, but at least it impelled others to do the job. I really threw open the lid on Pandora’s box.
Everybody and their brother is fighting over the ship’s bones. The French claim rights since she lies in their waters. The British want to raise the hull and set it inside the dry-dock where she was built in Liverpool, and all of a sudden our ingenious American bureaucrats, after ignoring the Alabama’s existence, want to get in on the act. They have grandly announced that she belongs to the United States. The clowns at the State Department sent a letter to the French stating the claim.
So what will happen? For one thing French divers will go out now to her known location and began stripping the wreck. Con artists are already sniffing around to make a hit. Fights will erupt in law courts, attorneys will make money, backs will be stabbed, and the famous old ship will continue to lie down there rotting away.
God, why do I bother? What drives me to continually open worm cans? Is the challenge truly worth it, or do I belong under restraint in a rubber room?