2 more crewmen uncovered on sub

Tuesday, April 17, 2001

Of The Post and Courier staff

     The roll call for the Confederate Hunley crew is nearly complete, as archaeologists have found the remains of the seventh and eighth crew members buried inside the sub.
     Only the vessel's captain, Lt. George Dixon, is unaccounted for. His remains are believed to be at the very front of the sub, buried beneath decades of accumulated silt in an area the recovery team has not yet begun to excavate.
     The two latest crewmen were found during the weekend near where they would have sat at their battle stations, ready to crank the sub's center propeller shaft.
     Warren Lasch, chairman of Friends of the Hunley, said the pattern of finding crew members seated at the crank probably indicates the sinking was a very quick event, creating "both a recognition and acceptance of their fate," he said.
     Historians still have no idea what caused the sub to sink nearly 140 years ago.
     Two skulls that go with the remains of crewmen uncovered earlier this month also were found over the weekend.
     Once all of the remains are recovered, officials hope to use the skulls and a great quantity of hair being uncovered in the silt to reconstruct the crewmen's faces.
     "With the skulls being recovered, we can put faces to this great human story," said Hunley Commission Chairman Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston.
     One factor continuing to slow the excavation is the presence of fragile clothing that is intermingled with the remains. The clothing has to be gingerly handled to be removed.
     Project manager Bob Neyland estimates the excavation of the sub could take 60 more days.
     The Hunley sailed into history on the night of Feb. 17, 1864, when it rammed a 90-pound black powder charge into the hull of the Union blockade ship Housatonic. The ensuing explosion sank the Housatonic in five minutes, but the sub never returned. It was finally recovered 4 miles off Charleston Harbor in August.
     The Hunley is housed inside a cold-water recovery tank at the Lasch Conservation lab in North Charleston.

April 16, 2001

Archaeologists have now uncovered the partial remains of eight crewmembers of the H. L. Hunley. "Two more skulls were located over the weekend, and all the remains are in good condition, but we have not seen any human tissue as a result of these latest finds," says Dr. Robert Neyland, Project Director. So far the remains have been discovered at their proper stations around the crank of the submarine. "The crewmembers' remains being discovered at their stations indicated both a recognition and acceptance of their fate. The courage and bravery exhibited by these men continually astound all those associated with the project," said Warren Lasch, Chairman of Friends of the Hunley. "As the crew of the titanic remained at their duty stations until the end, the men of the Hunley have appeared to done likewise. Evidence seems to suggest more and more that the final moments were quick and decisive. The conduct of the Hunley crew in these fateful moments seems to have been bravery that defied even human nature. Now with the skulls being recovered we can put faces to this great human story," said Chairman of the Hunley Commission, Senator Glenn McConnell.

Nine soldiers boarded the H. L. Hunley on February 17th, 1864, and Lt. George Dixon is the only one left to find. Archaeologists say they have not come across Lt. Dixon's remains because they have not reached that portion of the submarine, where he would have last been.

One hurdle the archaeologists are having is recovering textiles. Some of the materials are intermingled with the remains, making the recovery process more difficult.


Used with permission of The Post and Courier and Charleston.Net

The Hunley project has been made possible in part through the generous support of the National Geographic Society.


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