Friday, April 20, 2001
BY BRIAN HICKS
Of The Post and Courier staff
Archaeologists believe they may have a leather wallet belonging to a member of the H.L. Hunley's crew - but it appears to be empty.
The wallet was found deep in the sediment that filled the Confederate submarine's crew compartment. Bob Neyland, project manager, said scientists have X-rayed the wallet, but didn't find anything - identification, money - inside it.
Sen. Glenn McConnell, chairman of the Hunley Commission, said the wallet is another artifact humanizing this archaeological project.
"As the recovery of the skull gives us the opportunity to put a face to the person, the personal effects, like a wallet, give us the tools to put a personality to the human image," McConnell said.
Also, the Hunley may be giving up another secret to its inner workings. Scientists excavating the Hunley's interior were surprised the rods controlling the submarine's rudder were not along the ceiling of the submarine - where historical diagrams put them. Ever since, the steering of the sub has remained a mystery.
But now, archaeologists are beginning to see two rods beneath the portside bench the crew members sat on. Scientists have no proof yet that these are the steering rods, but it would make sense. In the cramped quarters of the Hunley's crew compartment, steering rods along the ceiling would have been just one more thing for the crew to bump their heads on.
"If these are truly the control rods, then this is another example of the technological advancement and ingenuity that continues to surprise everyone associated with the project," said Warren Lasch, Chairman of Friends of the Hunley.
After cutting off Web cameras broadcasting the excavation on Tuesday to remove some bones from the Hunley, the project was back on line by Wednesday. Neyland said scientists have removed only a very small portion - less than 10 percent - of the human remains. So far, scientists have discovered the remains of eight of the nine crew members.
Archaeologists believe the only missing crewman is Lt. George Dixon, the sub's commander. The excavation has not moved into the forward-most area of the crew compartment, where Dixon would have steered the sub, operated its dive planes and forward ballast tank.
Scientists are particularly interested in the forward section of the Hunley's interior - and Dixon's remains - because one long-held theory is that Dixon was shot while his head was in the forward conning tower, and that ultimately led to the sub's sinking. Neyland said they don't expect to reach Dixon's remains for another 30 days.