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Thread: Complete Civil War submarine unveiled for first time

  1. #1
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    Default Complete Civil War submarine unveiled for first time


    12:26pm EST

    By Harriet McLeod

    Slideshow Link

    NORTH CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Confederate Civil War vessel H.L. Hunley, the world's first successful combat submarine when it sank a Union ship in 1864, 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," said engineer John King 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 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.

    "It's like looking at the sub for the first time. It's like the end of a long night," said Paul Mardikian, senior conservator since 1999 of the project to raise, excavate and conserve the Hunley.

    In the summer of 2000, an expedition led by adventurer Clive Cussler raised the Hunley and delivered it to the conservatory on Charleston's old Navy base, where it sat in a 90,000-gallon tank of fresh water to leech salt out of its iron hull.

    On weekdays, scientists drain the tank and work on the sub. On weekends, tourists who before this week could only see an obstructed view of the vessel in the water tank, now will be able to see it unimpeded.

    Considered the Confederacy's stealth weapon, the Hunley sank the Union warship Housatonic in winter 1864, and then disappeared with all eight Confederate sailors inside.

    The narrow, top-secret "torpedo fish," built in Mobile, Alabama by Horace Hunley from cast iron and wrought iron with a hand-cranked propeller, arrived in Charleston in 1863 while the city was under siege by Union troops and ships.

    In the ensuing few months, it sank twice after sea trial accidents, killing 13 crew members including Horace Hunley, who was steering.

    "There are historical references that the bodies of one crew had to be cut into pieces to remove them from the submarine," Mardikian told Reuters. "There was forensic evidence when they found the bones (between 1993 and 2004 in a Confederate graveyard beneath a football stadium in Charleston) that that was true."

    The Confederate Navy hauled the sub up twice, recovered the bodies of the crew, and planned a winter attack.

    On the night of February 17, 1864, its captain and seven crew left Sullivan's Island near Charleston, and hand-powered the sub to the Union warship four miles offshore. From a metal spar on its bow, the Hunley planted a 135-pound torpedo in the hull of the ship, which burned and sank.

    Some historians say that the submarine showed a mission-accomplished lantern signal from its hatch to troops back on shore before it disappeared.

    Mardikian has the lantern, which archaeologists found in the submarine more than a century later, in his laboratory.

    Scientists removed 10 tons of sediment from the submarine, along with the bones, skulls and even brain matter of the crew members, Mardikian told Reuters. They also found fabric and sailors' personal belongings.

    Facial reconstructions were made of each member of the third and final crew. They are displayed along with other artifacts in a museum near the submarine. In a nearby vault is a bent gold coin that archaeologists also found in the submarine. It was carried by the sub's captain, Lieutenant George Dixon, for good luck after it stopped a bullet from entering his leg during the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.

    "The submarine was a perfect time capsule of everything inside," said Ben Rennison, one of three maritime archaeologists on the project.

    The Hunley Project is a partnership among the South Carolina Hunley Commission, Clemson University Restoration Institute, the Naval Historical Center and the nonprofit Friends of the Hunley. The nonprofit group raised and spent $22 million on the project through 2010, a spokeswoman told Reuters.

    The next phase of the project will be to remove corrosion on the iron hull and reveal the submarine's skin, preserve it with chemicals, and eventually display it in open air, Mardikian said.

    Scientists have found the vessel to be a more sophisticated feat of engineering than historians had thought, said Michael Drews, director of Clemson's Warren Lasch Conservation Center.

    "It has the ballast tanks fore and aft, the dive planes were counterbalanced, the propeller was shrouded," Drews said. "It's just got all of the elements that the modern submarines have, updated."

    There were previous submarines, Drews said, but the Hunley, designed to sail in the open ocean and built for warfare, was cutting-edge technology at the time.

    "Dixon's mission was to attack and sink an enemy ship and he did," Drews said. "At that particular time, the mindset of naval warfare was, basically, big ships sink little ships. Little ships do not sink big ships. And the Hunley turned that upside down."

    (Editing by Greg McCune)

    © Thomson Reuters 2011. All rights reserved

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Complete Civil War submarine unveiled for first time

    There was a documentary about this last year, it was an astounding accomplishment for the time, wish I had recorded it now.

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    Default Re: Complete Civil War submarine unveiled for first time

    Great to see it in one piece, its been a very long time in coming, and worth the time, and money to reclaim it. I'd like to see it once its finished, and on display. Thanks for posting this Nick.

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    Default Re: Complete Civil War submarine unveiled for first time

    Nice. I remember watching the documentary.

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    Default Crew of the Hunley were killed by their own torpedo blast

    Mystery deaths of HL Hunley submarine crew solved - they accidentally killed themselves
    [The Telegraph]
    Sarah Knapton
    ,The Telegraph•August 23, 2017


    The mystery of how the crew of one of the world’s first submarines died has finally been solved - they accidentally killed themselves.

    The HL Hunley sank on February 17 1864 after torpedoing the USS Housatonic outside Charleston Harbour, South Carolina, during American Civil War.

    She was one of the first submarines ever to be used in conflict, and the first to sink a battleship.

    It was assumed the blast had ruptured the sub, drowning its occupants, but when the Hunley was raised in 2000, salvage experts were amazed to find the eight-man crew poised as if they had been caught completely unawares by the tragedy. All were still sitting in their posts and there was no evidence that they had attempted to flee the foundering vessel.

    Now researchers at Duke University believe they have the answer. Three years of experiments on a mini-test sub have shown that the torpedo blast would have created a shockwave great enough to instantly rupture the blood vessels in the lungs and brains of the submariners.

    "This is the characteristic trauma of blast victims, they call it 'blast lung,'" Dr Rachel Lance.

    “You have an instant fatality that leaves no marks on the skeletal remains. Unfortunately, the soft tissues that would show us what happened have decomposed in the past hundred years.”

    The Hunley's torpedo was not a self-propelled bomb, but a copper keg of 135 pounds of gunpowder held ahead and slightly below the Hunley's bow on a 16-foot pole called a spar

    The sub rammed this spar into the enemy ship's hull and the bomb exploded. The furthest any of the crew was from the blast was about 42 feet. The shockwave of the blast travelled about 1500 meters per second in water, and 340 m/sec in air, the researchers calculate.

    While a normal blast shockwave travelling in air should last less than 10 milliseconds, Lance calculated that the Hunley crew's lungs were subjected to 60 milliseconds or more of trauma.

    "That creates kind of a worst case scenario for the lungs," added Dr Lance. “Shear forces would tear apart the delicate structures where the blood supply meets the air supply, filling the lungs with blood and killing the crew instantly.

    “It's likely they also suffered traumatic brain injuries from being so close to such a large blast.

    "All the physical evidence points to the crew taking absolutely no action in response to a flood or loss of air. If anyone had survived, they may have tried to release the keel ballast weights, set the bilge pumps to pump water, or tried to get out the hatches, but none of these actions were taken.”

    The fate of the crew of the 40-foot Hunley remained a mystery until 1995, when the submarine was discovered about 300 meters away from the Housatonic's resting place.

    Raised in 2000, the submarine is currently undergoing study and conservation in Charleston by a team of Clemson University scientists.

    Initially, the discovery of the submarine only seemed to deepen the mystery. The crewmen's skeletons were found still at their stations along a hand-crank that drove the cigar-shaped craft.

    They suffered no broken bones, the bilge pumps had not been used and the air hatches were closed. Except for a hole in one conning tower and a small window that may have been broken, the sub was remarkably intact. Speculation about their deaths has included suffocation and drowning.

    The new study involved repeatedly setting blasts near a scale model, shooting authentic weapons at historically accurate iron plate and calculating human respiration and the transmission of blast energy.

    The Telegraph

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    Default Re: Complete Civil War submarine unveiled for first time

    Was reading about that yesterday, certainly makes sense, more than some mechanical failure does. Could be that conclusions were colored somewhat by the previous losses of crew when the Hunley sank.

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