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The H.L. HUNLEY - Riddle Of A Confederate Submarine - UPDATES

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Author Topic: The H.L. HUNLEY - Riddle Of A Confederate Submarine - UPDATES  (Read 344 times)
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« on: October 17, 2008, 05:52:22 pm »

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    c on: July 10, 2007, 02:08:56 am Quote 


                                              Riddle of a Confederate Submarine

Author: Joe McClain, Source: Ideation
Date: Jul 09, 2007

Working in the Surface Characterization Lab of the Applied Research Center, Jason Lunze runs some tests with lab tech Olga Trofimova. Jason hopes to add a little piece to the puzzle of why the Hunley sank.
In its brief career, the H.L. Hunley was a success and a failure. Now, years after its resurrection, the Confederate submarine is a mystery and a research project.

The Hunley was the first submarine in history to sink an enemy vessel. On a quiet February night in 1864--six years before Jules Verne's fictional 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea--the Hunley rammed a spar into the stern area, planting a torpedo into the hull of the USS Housatonic, one of the Union ships blockading Charleston harbor. The Hunley's crew reversed its crank drive, backing away from the Housatonic before detonating the torpedo, sinking the Housatonic. The Hunley surfaced to send a "mission accomplished" signal, but like Verne's Nautilus, the Hunley didn't come back.

William and Mary geology student Jason Lunze is no Captain Nemo, but shipwrecks have always fascinated him. As a kid, he would walk the beach near his grandparents' home on Mobjack Bay and pick up Colonial-era pipe stems and other artifacts. His interest in the Confederate submarine dates back to grade school.

"I was aware of the Hunley probably since I was about six years old," Jason said. "One of my first grade school teachers had noticed my interest in shipwrecks and lent me one of his personal books. At that time they were still looking for the Confederate submarine. I thought it rather fascinating but I never thought they would actually find it; it is rather a small article to find lost in a rather large ocean."

"Where" Becomes "Why"

Not only was the Hunley found, in 1995; it also was recovered. In fact, the Hunley is on public display at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston, South Carolina. If you want to see the Hunley, you'll have to go on a Saturday, because during the week, archaeologists are working to preserve the Hunley and to solve the remaining mystery-why did it sink?

"The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel, but it was lost shortly thereafter," Jason said. "It was somewhat of a technological marvel of its day, and that can be emphasized by the secrecy in which it was moved from Mobile to Charleston. A special train car was constructed to conceal its identity during its entire journey."

Not all the work on the Hunley is being done in Charleston. Jason Lunze is adding pieces to the solution of the mystery from the College of William and Mary. A geology major and marine archaeology buff, Jason got involved through Rowan Lockwood of William and Mary's geology department, who put him in touch with M. Scott Harris of Costal Carolina University, a William and Mary alumnus who has a record of collaborating with faculty at his alma mater. Harris is temporarily reassigned, working on the Hunley team.

Jason thought work involving the sedimentation of the Hunley might make a good geology project, but Harris told him there was no suitable sedimentation work. "But he had a project on the formation of rusticles within the submarine, and I said that I'd love to work on the project," Jason said.

Bacterial Condos

Scientific examination of the bacterial colonies that create rusticles--and the minerals produced by the bacteria--can provide insight into a number of conditions, present and past, in sunken iron vessels. Jason received five rusticles removed from the sub's interior.

"The samples that I collected from the H.L. Hunley are dead colonies," Jason said. "The submarine was in-filled with sediment, which stopped their growth. This gives us a good view of what the inside conditions were like before the sediment in-fill completely killed off the colonies."

He has been using a variety of nondestructive analytical techniques to examine his rusticles. He has worked with Bob Pike of William and Mary's chemistry department, but does the majority of his work in the Surface Characterization Lab in the Applied Research Center. Jason keeps his rusticles wet, to avoid oxidation. In fact, the entire Hunley hull is kept under water in a preservation tank.

"The samples have to be dry in order to run the analytical techniques," Jason explained. "So I have to dry them out first." The drying process involves placing a rusticle sample in a desiccating vacuum chamber, adding argon gas, which helps the process by displacing air.

Jason, who expects to graduate in 2008, will be busy on rusticle tests for the next four to six months. He will write up his findings in a senior thesis and hopes to have a paper accepted into a peer-reviewed journal. He characterizes his work as "a small brick in the wall of knowledge" on the H.L. Hunley that ultimately may solve the mystery of the innovative warship that accomplished its mission, but didn't come back.

By Joe McClain for Ideation magazine
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« Reply #1 on: October 17, 2008, 05:54:27 pm »

Kristen Kroll
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    Hunley commander's watch no smoking gun
on: December 21, 2007, 01:36:08 am Quote 


                                       Hunley commander's watch no smoking gun

Associated Press Writer
Fri Dec 14, 11:11 PM ET

CHARLESTON, S.C. - When scientists opened the watch belonging to the H.L. Hunley commander three years ago, they thought they had the key clue to why the Confederate submarine sank off Charleston.

But the 18-karat gold watch now seems to raise even more questions even though scientists announced Friday it did not slowly wind down but stopped quickly perhaps the result of a concussion or rushing water.

"All of us were thinking the watch pointed to the crucial moment," said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, chairman of the state Hunley Commission. "But I would say instead of the smoking gun, it's more of the smoke that keeps you from seeing."

The hand-cranked Hunley rammed a black powder charge into the Union blockade ship Housatonic on Feb. 17, 1864, becoming the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship.

The Hunley also sank that night with its eight-man crew. It was found 12 years ago off Charleston, raised in 2000 and brought to a conservation lab.

The watch owned by Lt. George Dixon was opened in 2004. It read 8:23, tantalizingly close to historical accounts that the Housatonic sank about around 9 p.m.

McConnell said experts from the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors said the damp on the Hunley could have made the watch run slow.

So concussion of the explosion might have stopped the watch and sank the Hunley.

But McConnell also said there is no way to tell if the watch was even working that night. It may have been broken but Dixon may have continued to carry the expensive watch.

And if the time on the watch was right, it doesn't explain how Confederate soldiers on shore reported a blue light signaling from the Hunley about 45 minutes after the attack on the Housatonic, he said.

McConnell said the fate of the Hunley may be revealed by other clues. In the coming months, scientists will X-ray valves on the pumping system that are encrusted with sediment.

The position may tell whether the sub was taking on water.

When scientists start removing encrusted sediment from the hull, they may find evidence of a rope showing the Hunley was anchored waiting for the tide to turn, McConnell said.

One theory is that the sub took on water while waiting to return.
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« Reply #2 on: October 17, 2008, 05:56:22 pm »

                                Scientists have new clue to mystery of sunken sub

Associated Press
Oct. 17, 2008

This is an undated image released by The Friends of the Hunley, showing the aft pump of the Confederate
submarine H.L. Hunley.

Scientists said Friday, Oct. 17, 2008, that the crew of the H.L. Hunley was not pumping water out of the
crew compartment when the hand-cranked sub sank off Charleston in 1864. A valve on the system was
not set to bilge water from the crew area, which might have happened if the Hunley were taking on water.

(AP Photo/Friends of The Hunley)

CHARLESTON, S.C. 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.

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.

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."

But she said scientists can definitely say the valve that would have been used to remove water from the crew compartment was closed.
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