January 12, 2012

This Just In from the Civil War: The Confederate Submarine H.L.Hunley Has Risen Again

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C.  | Confederate Civil War vessel H.L. Hunley, the world's first successful combat submarine, was unveiled in full and unobstructed for the first time on Thursday, capping a decade of careful preservation.

"No one alive has ever seen the Hunley complete. We're going to see it today," engineer John King said as a crane at a Charleston conservation laboratory slowly lifted a massive steel truss covering the top of the submarine.

About 20 engineers and scientists applauded as they caught the first glimpse of the intact 42-foot-long (13-meter-long) narrow iron cylinder, which was raised from the ocean floor near Charleston more than a decade ago. The public will see the same view, but in a water tank to keep it from rusting. -- PhotoBlog - Complete Civil War submarine unveiled for first time

The backstory: "On 17 February 1864, the Confederate submarine made a daring late night attack on USS Housatonic, a 1,240-ton (B) sloop-of-war with 16 guns, in Charleston Harbor off the coast of South Carolina. H.L. Hunley rammed Housatonic with spar torpedo packed with explosive powder and attached to a long pole on its bow. The spar torpedo embedded in the sloop's wooden side was detonated by a rope as Hunley backed away. The resulting explosion that sent Housatonic with five crew members to the bottom of Charleston Harbor also sank Hunley with its crew of eight."

"The search for Hunley ended 131 years later when best-selling author Clive Cussler and his team from the National Underwater and Marine Agency (NUMA) discovered the submarine after a 14-year search. At the time of discovery, Cussler and NUMA were conducting this research in partnership with the South Carolina Institute of Anthropology and Archaeology (SCIAA). The team realized that they had found Hunley after exposing the forward hatch and the ventilator box (the air box for the attachment of a snorkel). The submarine rested on its starboard side at about a 45-degree angle and is covered in a 1/4 to 3/4-inch encrustation of ferrous oxide bonded with sand and shell particles. Archaeologists exposed a little more on the port side and found the bow dive plane on that side. More probing revealed an approximate length of 34 feet with most, if not all, of the vessel preserved under the sediment."

Last Confederate Burial: "On April 17, 2004 the remains of the crew were laid to rest at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina. Tens of thousands of people attended including some 6,000 reenactors and 4,000 civilians wearing period clothing. Color guards from all five branches of the U.S. armed forces—wearing modern uniforms—were also in the procession. Even though only two of the crew were from Confederate States all were buried with full Confederate honors including being buried with a version of the Confederate national flag."

Posted by gerardvanderleun at January 12, 2012 9:48 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Amazing. I think it takes all kinds of courage to get into a contemporary submarine (not a fan of enclosed spaces nor oceans. I can't imagine the courage of the men who got into that tin can.

Posted by: RandomThoughts at January 13, 2012 9:27 AM

Love it when we get to see important things such as this from our American history.

Posted by: loiseller at January 13, 2012 11:01 AM

It was successful because it was the first submarine to sink an enemy ship in combat.

It was certainly a deathtrap, though. Besides the eight crewmen who died during the attack, thirteen men had been previously killed in two separate sinkings during training.

All were volunteers.

Posted by: rickl at January 13, 2012 4:24 PM

And to think it's only a 10-minute drive from my door! Charleston is, if nothing, chock full of history.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh at January 14, 2012 4:47 AM

I'm just amazed that all of these have been found in my lifetime: USS Monitor, RMS Titanic, and H.L. Hunley.

Posted by: StephenB at January 15, 2012 3:03 PM

I'm just amazed that all of these have been found in my lifetime: USS Monitor, RMS Titanic, and H.L. Hunley.

And Liberty Bell 7, Gus Grissom's Mercury capsule. It sank after splashdown when the hatch opened prematurely. It's now on display in a museum in Kansas. (The hatch itself has not been found.)

I'm still hoping that someone will find Amelia Earhart's airplane.

Posted by: rickl at January 15, 2012 7:07 PM