Chattanooga, Tenn. (June 5, 2009) – When the I-35W bridge over the Mississippi River collapsed on August 1, 2007, the nation’s eyes focused on the search and recovery efforts. Dozens of people plunged into the water during the rush hour calamity. Divers from the U.S. Navy’s Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit Two (MDSU-2) were called in to examine the wreckage, help clear away the debris and search for victims.
The divers rotated through 18-hour shifts to complete their mission at the bridge collapse site. Fighting swift currents and near zero visibility, the divers performed a meticulous sweep of more than 25,000 square feet of river bottom. At times, they had to remove their dive gear to squeeze into underwater gaps that measured less than twelve inches.
MDSU-2 team members have also been involved in the recovery of TWA Flight 800, and the recovery of the space shuttles Columbia and Challenger.
Not all of this unit’s work has dealt with tragedies however.
Civil War buffs might recall the efforts of this elite diving team in recovering the USS Monitor, the famous Ironclad vessel that defended the waters off Hampton Roads, Virginia from Confederate naval attacks. While constructed to withstand pounding river battles, the Monitor’s design left her vulnerable to stormy seas. The vessel swamped and sank 16 miles off the coast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina where MDSU-2 team members helped recover the ship nearly 140 years later.
To kick off Navy Week in Chattanooga, MDSU-2 divers will handle the duties of Tennessee Aquarium volunteer divers in the “Secret Reef.” Diving amongst big, toothy sharks and thousands of colorful reef fish will be a pleasant break from the demands of search and recovery missions in bone-chilling waters with zero visibility.
The Navy Divers will perform a maintenance dive Monday, June 8th at 9:00 am EDT, with another dive scheduled for 4:00 pm that afternoon.
Aquarium visitors will also have the chance to meet MDSU-2 divers at a display inside the Tennessee Aquarium’s Ocean Journey building featuring an array of Navy diving equipment June 8th. This will be a special opportunity for Aquarium guests to learn a bit about the history of naval diving and the current mission of today’s search and recovery divers.
The Tennessee Aquarium is proud to be a part of Navy Week in Chattanooga and salutes the men and women present and past who volunteer to serve our country.