J.D.R. Hawkins

One bullet can make a man a hero… or a casualty.

The Hunley Project

Eleven years ago, the Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley was raised from the depths just off South Carolina’s Charleston Harbor, and the mystery still remains as to why it sank. There has been much speculation, including the idea that the sub lost oxygen inside, thus causing the demise of the crewmen within her thick iron walls. (Their remains were put to rest during a Confederate funeral in 2004.) Another thought is that an explosion occurred after the Hunley rammed a spar with a power charge into a Union blockade ship, the Housatonic, in February 1864. The Hunley was the first submarine to sink an enemy warship. It was a Confederate “secret weapon,” constructed in Mobile, Alabama.

In 1995, author Clive Cussler led a team of archeologists to the discovery of the Hunley. The submarine was found to be remarkably intact and well preserved, due to its being buried in sand and silt. The vessel was raised and delivered to Clemson University’s Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where it remains today.

Recently, the hull of the sub was turned upright to reveal a side that hasn’t seen the light of day in 147 years, when the crew first entered the vessel. It took three days to turn the submarine. Approximately $22 million has been spent in the past fifteen years to preserve the Hunley. However, the investment has made its return, as several million people have visited the conservatory, where the Hunley rests in a tank-full of water. The next step will be to remove the overhead truss and straps that have been holding the vessel in place. The Hunley could be displayed in a museum as early as 2015.

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