Alabama (C.S.S.)

For more information about the initial discovery of this ship, please see the  North Sea and English Channel Hunt page.

September 1985

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?

Stay tuned.

13 Responses to Alabama (C.S.S.)

  1. Larysa kowalenko says:

    I very much enjoy reading your expeditions, they have encouraged my curiosity even higher into the marine archaeology field. They have made me WANT to continue pursuing what I fell in love with when I was 14 years old. Finding forgotten/lost pieces of history, small or large, warms the heart, but when pushing ‘n shoving appears as to who it ‘ belongs to’, you ask yourself, ” Was it worth digging up?” Personally, I think so because it matters to you and to those that care. I’m hoping to join an organization like you guys, one day.

    Great work, NUMA! Have a happy New Year!


  2. Frank Roberts says:

    Being a long time admirer of you, your novels and historic searches via NUMA I must say that at least the Alabama has been found. As with the Hunley you do all the work and the land sharks come in for the rewards. Cussler/Numa fans know the truth.
    Keep up the fantastic work and to hell with the sharks.

  3. Lynn Chitty says:

    I agree with Frank, WE know who does the hard part, and gets very little of the credit. You know you are our #1 Author and enjoy living through your adventures.

  4. Jim Lenehan says:

    Have you ever considered exploring for Santa Maria De La Rosa [+1588 On September 21st 1588, Santa Maria de la Rosa, the vice-flagship of the armada of Oquendo Guipuzcoa, sank after ripping her bottom out on Stromboli Rock during the Armada´s attempt to flee after their aborted attempt to invade England.
    Strange name for a rock in the Blasket Sound of the southwest coast of Ireland (but that’s another story)
    She was a large basque merchant of 27m and 945 tons, rebuilt as a ship of war and armed with 26 cannons and carrying 64 sailors and 233 soldiers at the time of her loss. She was holed and sank very quickly, there was even no time to lower the boats. Only one person, who was washed ashore survived.

  5. Leonard B. Shultz says:

    You are still our HERO. Keep up the great work.

  6. Go for it Clive, you know i have and read all of your books, i think you are brilliant, just finished Devil’s Gate, excelent as usual, Kurt has some of Dirk in him

    I really admire you for the research and all that goes into your books.

  7. Merlyn Wulff says:

    I first learned about you from your tales of the Hunley. Since then I have and am reading everything I can get my hands on that you have written. So far I have finished about 25 books and have 9 more in waiting on my shelf. Please keep having new adventures and writting about them. Thanks.

  8. Charles Dickings says:

    My sincere thanks for making my free time a new adventure with every title of yours that it has been my good fortune to read!!
    I rate you as one of the greats among the great maritime writers who have had more than hands on experience, like Joshuah Slocum and Nicholas Monsarrat.
    I hope you never tire of keeping us entertained as we will never tire of reading your adventures. Thank you….

  9. James Cooper says:

    You could just throw a few more potatoes at them 🙂

  10. Susan says:

    “Why do I do it?” For the love of maritime history. The negative is that the vultures are always there for the almighty dollar. The positive side of the coin is that we get to see into history and occasionally it does get preserved. That’s why we do it.

  11. Teresa Watson says:

    I am never surprised at your endeavors. Some years ago before the CSS Hunley was raised I was in Charleston with some co-workers for a conference. Before the meetings began we made the trip to Fort Sumter. I was standing up on the “top” of the Fort staring at the Atlantic when I was approached by one of the members of the Park Service. He stood beside me silently and I said “where’s the Hunley?” He asked me, “what does a Northern girl know about that?” I replied with 1 word . . . “Cussler”! He nodded in agreement and told me “about a mile that way with more bells, whistles and alarms than you’ve ever seen!” We chatted for several minutes about the boat and the find and how exciting it was going to be when it was raised. The following winter my family and I stopped in Charleston on our way home from Florida. We went to the Fort once again and as the 3 of us were standing on that same windy top of the Fort the same Park Service guy walked up, looked directly at me and said, “she’s still out there!” He remembered me and that I was a huge Clive Cussler fan. Keep teaching us please. These journies are spectacular! Thanks for allowing us in to your world.

  12. jason dilkes says:

    Mr Cussler, don’t loose heart over political crap! Your work is too important to stop. People have always scrambled for their spoils, this is not you.
    You bring the truth out in the open for all to see, that is highly commendable itself. It is a shame that political bullshit and greed always had to poke its ugly head in.
    If I was not deathly afraid of water, I would ask for a job, as naval history had always interested me.

  13. Jim Millet says:

    Mr. Cussler,
    Wasn’t the Alabama known as the “Ghost Ship of the Confederacy?”

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