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Contact: Katie Kole

Civil War Tugboat USS Narcissus Becomes Florida’s Twelfth Underwater Archaeological Preserve

Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced yesterday Florida’s newest Underwater Archaeological Preserve, USS Narcissus. The Civil War tugboat was dedicated during an official ceremony, hosted by the Florida Department of State, The Florida Aquarium and South Eastern Archaeological Services at the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.


“I am pleased to announce the inclusion of the USS Narcissus as the newest of Florida’s Underwater Archaeological Preserves.  The USS Narcissus has a unique story to tell about its role in our nation’s and Florida’s naval and maritime history,” said Secretary of State Ken Detzner. “Drawing in roughly 29,000 annual visitors, the Preserves promote tourism through the exploration by divers and visitors to Florida who want to experience firsthand our states natural and cultural resources.”

A Civil War-era steam tugboat, USS Narcissus was lost in a storm off Egmont Key in 1866.  Built in 1863 in East Albany, New York, the vessel was purchased by the U.S. Navy. During the Battle of Mobile Bay the tug witnessed the attack in which Union Admiral David G. Farragut uttered the famous words, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” On her way to New York where she was to be decommissioned, the tug ran aground in heavy seas off Tampa Bay. The boiler exploded, killing all on board. 

Florida’s Underwater Archaeological Preserves are administered by the Florida Department of State’s Bureau of Archaeological Research. Shipwrecks are nominated by local waterfront communities to become Preserves, making them more accessible and better interpreted for visitors with brochures, posters, underwater maps, and a website. The Preserve program encourages state, county, and city officials, local organizations and individuals to work together to protect and interpret Florida’s maritime history. USS Narcissus was nominated by Mike Terrell of the Florida Aquarium and maritime archaeologists John W. Morris III and Nicole Morris. The shipwreck is unique in that it is still the property of the U.S. Navy, which provided input and recommendations for the new Preserve. 

The Dedication Ceremony took place Tuesday morning with a live, interactive underwater broadcast with Aquarium Scuba Divers from the resting place of USS Narcissus, located about two miles off the northern end of Egmont Key.  The broadcast included unveiling of a bronze plaque to designate the new Preserve and included two direct descendants from the USS Narcissus crew. The ceremony featured comments by Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida Aquarium President Thom Stork, State Historic Preservation Officer Robert F. Bendus, Dr. Robert Neyland of the Naval History & Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch, and Nicole Morris of South Eastern Archeological Services. 

“The Florida Aquarium is honored to be a part of this historic dedication,” said Thom Stork, President of The Florida Aquarium. “Our team worked extremely hard to preserve this important part of history and we are thrilled that it will now be available for visitors to enjoy.” 

Florida’s Underwater Archaeological Preserves include Urca de Lima, a Spanish galleon off Ft. Pierce; USS Massachusetts, the nation’s oldest battleship sunk off Pensacola; Half Moon, a racing yacht near Key Biscayne; and City of Hawkinsville, a steamboat in the Suwannee River near Old Town. For more information, visit

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About The Division of Historical Resources
The Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources (DHR) is responsible for preserving and promoting Florida’s historical, archaeological, and folk culture resources. DHR directs historic preservation efforts throughout the state in cooperation with state and federal agencies, local governments, private organizations, and individuals. The director of DHR serves as the State Historic Preservation Officer, acting as the liaison with the national historic preservation program conducted by the National Park Service. The Division is comprised of two Bureaus or major program areas: archaeological research and historic preservation. For more information, visit

About the Florida Department of State’s Bureau of Archaeological Research
The Florida Department of State’s Bureau of Archaeological Research, within the department’s Division of Historical Resources, is entrusted with the maintenance, preservation and protection of more than 12,000 years of Florida heritage. Archaeological and historical resources on state-owned and state-controlled lands, including sovereignty submerged lands, are the direct responsibility of the bureau. The bureau is composed of the five sections: Collections and Conservation, Education and Research, Florida Public Lands Archaeology, Underwater Archaeology, and Mission San Luis. The five sections work together to ensure that Florida archaeological heritage will endure for future generations. For more information, visit