Discovering the Hunley
— The Hunley Recovery Project —
(Side One):H.L. Hunley Disappears
To break the blockade of Charleston Harbor, the Confederate submarine the H.L. Hunley
set out to attack the Union warship Housatonic
on the night of February 17, 1864. After ramming a 135-pound torpedo into the ship's wooden hull, the submarine quickly backed away.
Seconds later a massive explosion shook the Housatonic
, killing five crew members and sinking the vessel in 27 feet of water. The H.L. Hunley
became the first submarine in history to destroy an enemy ship, but the Hunley
and its crew never made it back to shore.
(Caption on the Right):
William Alexander's 1902 drawings of the H.L. Hunley.
was the third in a series of experimental submarines. The Hunley
sank twice during tests, killing thirteen crew members. Built from an iron steamboiler, the Hunley
was 40 feet long and carried a crew of nine men. The captain navigated while the other crew members worked the crank that turned the propeller shaft. The torpedo was attached to a long wooden spar on the bow.
(Side Two):Discovering the Hunley
Since the night of the attack, the H.L. Hunley
and its crew escaped detection by amateur and professional divers. In 1980, novelist Clive Cussler and a team of underwater archeologists began to search for the submarine in the outer Charleston Harbor. Fifteen years later they found what they believed to be the lost sub, buried in sediment in thrity feet of water four miles southeast of Fort Moultrie.
Researchers from the National Park Service, the South Carolina institute of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the Naval Historical Center soon confirmed the discovery of the Hunley
and partially uncovered and mapped the vessel. Test revealed that the Hunley
has sufficient hull strength to allow for recovery, conservation, and eventual display at the Charleston Museum.
(Side Three):The Hunley Recovery Project
Federal, state, and private sector underwater archeologists teamed with engineers and divers from Oceaneering International to excavate and recover the H.L. Hunley
. Oceaneering, a marine engineering company, has done recovery work on the USS Monitor
and NASA's Liberty Bell 7
In mid-summer 2000, the team excavated the sub and supported it with a continuous series of slings attached to a specifically built recovery frame. Each sling had a load cell to provide constant computerized monitoring of the hull stresses during recovery operations. Finally the Hunley
was raised from its resting place and transported to a conservation facility in North Charleston, where the delicate work of conservation and preservation will continue for years.