Bone found in Hunley's hull came from an animal
Saturday, February 3, 2001
By SCHUYLER KROPF
Of The Post and Courier staff
It might have been a bizarre clue: a rib-like bone found in the
rear of the Hunley.
Turns out it was a rib, but it belonged to an animal.
The Hunley excavation team says it found a hog or cow bone wedged
in the sub's aft compartment during its recent excavation.
It was washed into the sub's 3-foot-long stern gash long after
the Hunley sank in 1864, they believe.
An animal bone in the ocean is not considered an oddity, and it
could have been thrown over the side of a passing boat at any time in history either as
garbage or after being a sailor's meal that simply meandered its way into the Hunley.
The fact it was found in a good state of preservation gives the
recovery team hope the remains of the Hunley's nine sailors will be found when they open
the crew compartment later this month.
"The presence of a bulkhead and the good condition of the
animal bone increased the probabilities that the human skeletal remains are in (a) very
good state of preservation," Hunley Commission Chairman Glenn McConnell said Friday.
Scientists are also getting a better picture of the sub's
mechanics. They have found a series of internal frames that run inside the sub that gave
it lateral strength.
Also, the rivets that seal the sub's hull were driven from the
inside out. They were then pounded down and sanded over flat, to reduce excess drag.
And instead of being built by overlapping its iron plates like
fish scales, the hull plates have been riveted to backing plates that were in turn riveted
"These new structural findings ... seem to defy all
recollections," said Warren Lasch, chairman of Friends of the Hunley.
Other discoveries are that the steering cables and propeller
shaft run inside hollow tubes that gave them protection, and two rectangular iron ballast
blocks in the rear.
Scientist believe the blocks indicate "that the builders of
this submarine gave great thought to balance and design."
The excavation timetable is ahead of schedule although
archaeologists are still continuing to X-ray the sub to expose more of its design
features. But how the rear gash got there is also a mystery, although one theory points to
an anchor getting caught on the sub.
"It will take further study of the interior and removal of
the exterior concretion to see whether or not there are bends inward or outward,"
Work continues next week.
The Hunley was recovered 4 miles off Charleston Harbor in August
after being lost for more than 130 years. It was discovered in May 1995 by a dive team
funded by adventure novelist Clive Cussler.
It became the world's first successful attack submarine in
February 1864 when it sank the blockade ship USS Housatonic by ramming an explosive charge
into its side.
The sub is being housed in a cold-water tank at the Warren Lasch
Conservation Lab in North Charleston.