Friday, June 17, 2016

Hmmm, 136 years plus 16....

The H. L. Hunley has been sitting in a large container of water and chemicals for 16 years.

It's close to me, nearby, in a special lab, on the old Navy Base property.

Last Saturday, my brother and I decided to go take a look.

The last time I had seen the Hunley was from a distance, off the Battery, in 2000.

It had been partially buried on the ocean floor, just outside the harbor, for 136 years.

It had been found and raised carefully and that day was the star of an escort flotilla slowly passing by. Many of the boats were flying and waving a Confederate flag.

Now scientists would try to solve the puzzle of why she sank after being the first submarine to sink an enemy warship.

The Hunley was a secret weapon, used in an attempt to break the Union blockade of Charleston, during the Civil War.

This Hunley was the third try at an undersea battle.

The first two tests failed. Five were saved from the first sinking but all 8 crewmen aboard the second had drowned.

I quickly learned that the public is admitted only on Saturday and Sunday noon to 5 pm.

We look down from a raised platform at the vessel immersed in a solution.

This has been successful and much progress has been made in  removing decades of encrustation that built up on the metal parts.

*Both full-view photos of the before and after effects are pictures on display as part of the tour. The tank was filled so I had no chance for such shots.

Our well-informed tour guide Dave told us that during the week, scientists are working inside the drained enclosure.

They are carefully "chipping away" to bring the sub back closer to its original state 150 years ago. 

Dave added that school groups are brought through on weekdays and they may or may not see the tank emptied, depending on what efforts of restoration are being done.

A $20 gold piece, carried by Lt. George Dixon, skipper on that ill-fated voyage, was found among the remains of the crewmen.

The story was that he carried it as a good luck piece after it deflected a bullet during the Battle of Shiloh.

The actual coin is on display as an example of encrusted items found inside the Hunley, that are cleaned and preserved.

This was an easy photo to take.

Another item of interest was a uniform from the U.S.S. Housatonic, the unfortunate target of this new type of underwater warfare.

After being rammed with an explosive near the stern, the ship sank in less than 5 minutes.

Five Union lives were lost- probably at the blast site -  while the others clambered up the masts rigging. The water was only 25 feet deep where it sank.

My brother and I took turns sitting in the open-ended model.

We could grasp the handle that  turned the propeller, but both of us agreed we probably would not have been selected as a crew member because of our, lungs.

(Click on the photos and links for more details.)

Thanks for taking a cruise on the Hunley with us.

Call ahead and arrange to take the tour.

It's safe now to relive that voyage into history.

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