Public gets closer look at Hunley recovery, plans

Sunday, August 13, 2000

Of The Post and Courier staff

     SULLIVAN'S ISLAND - The National Park Service updated the public Saturday on the history, present status and future plans for the H.L. Hunley Confederate submarine.
     Park Service employees gave the free presentation to a crowd of about 100 at the Fort Moultrie Visitor's Center. They watched computer graphics of the recovery project, underwater shots of divers working to secure the sub and footage from Tuesday's homecoming of the Hunley from the ocean floor.
     Dawn Hammer, a Park Service ranger, spoke about the Hunley's namesake and benefactor Horace L. Hunley, who perished along with the second crew of men aboard the submarine. She said the deaths of the first two crews were due to human error, and the sinking of the Hunley's final crew still is a mystery.
     Matt Russell, a Park Service archaeologist who participated in underwater dives, talked about the sub's recovery process and its future conservation plans.
     The Hunley appears to be smaller than previously was thought, Russell said.
     It's 40 feet long, 51 inches high and less than 4 feet wide.
     Presenters fielded a variety of questions from the audience.
     One person wanted to know if the public would be able to view the Hunley at the conservation lab where it currently is kept in 50-degree freshwater. Russell said officials are developing plans for periodic access, but there will not be continual visitation.
     Another person asked about the USS Housatonic, the Union ship that the Hunley sank.
     Wreckage of the Housatonic has been found about 1,000 feet away from the Hunley, buried in about 8 feet of mud.
     Because the ship is so large and spread out, it would be difficult to recover it.
     Interesting items from the Housatonic have been found, such as a pistol, leather boots and other weaponry, Russell said.
     Park Service Project photographer Brett Seymour, a resident of New Mexico, said it is fascinating to see Charleston's reaction to the Hunley.
     "It means different things to different people, but it means something to everyone," Seymour said.
     The next step is for the hull to be X-rayed to determine the best way to enter the sub, which is packed with silt. Plans are to start excavation in September.
     After about five to 10 years of preservation, the Hunley submarine will be put on display at the Charleston Museum.


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


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