NOAA 2004-R470
Contact: Fred Gorrell

NOAA News Releases 2004
NOAA Home Page
NOAA Public Affairs

Green, 47-foot-long sub was the Navy’s first

Using high-tech underwater search and survey tools, the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with support from the U.S. Navy’s Office of Naval Research, will hunt next week for the Alligator, the U.S. Navy’s first submarine. The NOAA-ONR expedition will take place off Cape Hatteras, N.C., where the Civil War-era vessel was lost during a fierce storm in 1863.

“NOAA is proud to join the Office of Naval Research in the hunt for the Alligator,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Through this hunt for the Alligator, we are expanding what we know about our nation’s undersea resources and America’s rich maritime history.”

“We are delighted to collaborate in this effort which will provide us with an ideal opportunity to further our understanding of the challenges involved in locating submerged objects,” Rear Adm. Jay M. Cohen, chief of naval research. “If we can find the Alligator, we can find anything, and that is always of critical importance for our great Navy.”

Researchers will operate from ONR’s YP-679 Afloat Lab. Based in Ocracoke, N.C., the 2004 survey is part of an ongoing effort by NOAA, ONR and partners to solve the mystery of the Alligator’s fate, while promoting scientific and historical research, education, and ocean literacy. In December 2003, NOAA and ONR unveiled the only known blueprints of the sub, which was designed for the U.S. Navy by French inventor Brutus de Villeroi.

“The hunt for the Alligator is not only about unlocking the secrets of the deep and the past, but also capturing the imagination of our nation’s youth, who represent our future,” said Daniel J. Basta, director of NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program, which houses NOAA’s Maritime Heritage Program. “Whether or not we find the Alligator, we will move ocean science and exploration forward, and hopefully inspire more than a few budding scientists and historians along the way.”

Launched in 1862, the Alligator represented a significant leap forward in naval engineering. Among the sub’s most notable features was an airlock designed to allow a diver to exit the vessel while submerged and place an explosive charge on an enemy ship. The Alligator’s design also included an air purification system. Both are standard components of modern submarines. In April 1863, while being towed south to participate in the Union attack on Charleston, S.C., the Alligator was lost in a storm off Cape Hatteras, N.C.

More information about the hunt for the Alligator, including daily expedition logs, mission plans, and resources for teachers, is available at

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

ONR manages science and technology for the Navy and Marine Corps. ONR sponsors basic and applied research in oceanography, advanced materials, sensors, robotics, biomedical science and technology, electronics, surveillance, mathematics, manufacturing technology, information science, advanced combat systems and technologies for ships, submarines, aircraft, and ground vehicles.

On the Web:



Hunt for the Alligator:

Note: Weather and survey schedule permitting, the media are invited to visit the survey vessel YP-679 and interview Alligator expedition team members dockside in Ocracoke, N.C., the week of August 22, 2004. Please call (301) 713-3125, Ext. 229 for visit times and locations. Video footage of the expedition will be available on-site to broadcast outlets as of August 23.