Archive for the ‘USS Housatonic’ Category

Scientists have new clue to mystery of sunken sub

October 19, 2008

It’s long been a mystery why the H.L. Hunley never returned after becoming the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship in 1864, but new research announced Friday may lend credence to one of the theories. Scientists found the eight-man crew of the hand-cranked Confederate submarine had not set the pump to remove water from the crew compartment, which might indicate it was not being flooded.

By Associated Press

That could mean crew members suffocated as they used up air, perhaps while waiting for the tide to turn and the current to help take them back to land.

The new evidence disputes the notion that the Hunley was damaged and took on water after ramming a spar with a charge of black powder into the Union blockade ship Housatonic.
USSHousatonic.jpg
Above: USS Housatonic.


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Scientists studying the sub said they’ve found its pump system was not set to remove water from the crew compartment as might be expected if it were being flooded.

The sub, located in 1995 and raised five years later, had a complex pumping system that could be switched to remove water or operate ballast tanks used to submerge and surface.

“It now really starts to point to a lack of oxygen making them unconscious,” said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston and the chairman of the South Carolina Hunley Commission, formed to raise, conserve and display the sub. “They may have been cranking and moving and it was a miscalculation as to how much oxygen they had.”

In excavating the sub, scientists found little intermingling of the crew remains, indicating members died at their stations. Those bones likely would have been jumbled if the crew tried to make it to the hatches in a desperate attempt to get out.

“Whatever occurred, occurred quickly and unexpectedly,” McConnell said. “It appears they were either unconscious because of the concussion (from the attack) or they were unconscious because of a lack of oxygen.”
Archaeologist Maria Jacobsen cautioned that scientists have not yet examined all the valves to see if the crew may have been trying to surface by using the pumps to jettison ballast.
“Can we definitely say they weren’t pumping like mad to get water out of the tanks? No we cannot,” she said. “I’m not really at a point where I think we should really be talking about what these guys were doing at the very end because we simply don’t know all the valve settings.”
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But she said scientists can definitely say the valve that would have been used to remove water from the crew compartment was closed.

Civil War Submarine Hunley; Modern Marvel of 1860s

September 22, 2008

By David Reed
Humboldt (California) Beacon

Submarines, that’s World War 2 stuff, right? Go back about 80 years earlier and you’d be closer. The sub “H.L. Hunley” sank the USS Housatonic in early 1864 during the American Civil War, becoming the first craft of its kind. Humboldt County residents will get a chance to see a replica of the historic sub at Fortuna’s Civil War Days on Sept. 20 and 21.

USSHousatonic.jpg

”She had everything on board that you would see in a modern submarine except a nuclear reactor and an electric motor,” explains John Nevins, member of the “Friends of the Hunley” and one of the curators of the traveling exhibition. Nevins explains that spectators are surprised that the ship looks so much like what they’d consider a “modern submarine” even though it was built 145 years ago.

 

”It was 100 years ahead of its time,” Nevins says of the 40 foot long, 4 foot high and 4 foot wide war ship.

Spectators at the Civil War Days event will get free access to the Hunley exhibit with their admission. Nevins says there’s a lot to learn about the historic craft and the presentation changes depending on the interests of the crowd….

It’s a multifaceted story with elements of technology, innovation, persistence, sacrifice, even love and ‘sneaky stuff,’ like spies.” Nevins lives in California and is one member of a team that brings the reproduction to events all over the country.

The reproduction was built at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston S.C., just feet from the real “Hunley.” The Hunley has resided at the conservation center since it was raised from Charleston harbor in 2000 where it had rested since sinking just after its successful first battle.

The exhibit is a working model of the original both inside and out. “ The right side of the ship comes off so even a grade school child can see inside,” Nevins adds that he and exhibit leader John Dangerfield do their presentation from inside the craft. They show how the 8 man crew worked the propulsion, navigation and unique weapon the ‘spar torpedo’.

The Hunley exhibit will be shown both days of Civil War Days in the upper portion of the event site. The reenactment and battles will take place down in the “Bowl” area behind the River Lodge Conference Center.

The Fortuna Civil War Day’s event is co-produced by the Reenactors of the American Civil War and the Rotary Club of Fortuna Sunrise with funds going to local Rotary projects and Reenactor educational events.

The reenactment is held directly west of the Kenmar exit, bordered by the Eel River and Highway 101. Free parking and the re-enactment site are just a quarter mile west of the highway.

Re-enactment organizers ask that spectators do not park at the River Lodge Conference Center either day, due to events at the lodge. Admission to the event is $8 for adults and $2 for children. For details about the 2008 Fortuna Civil War Days, go to http://www.civilwardays.com/

Link to our Civil War page on Hunley:
CSS Hunley: Submarine’s Hatch May Have Cost All Their Lives