Scientists find more artifacts inside Hunley

Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Of The Post and Courier staff


     Archaeologists excavating the Hunley have found a corked glass bottle and a wooden shelf inside the Confederate submarine.
     And Hunley project manager Bob Neyland said the scientists can see what may be the controls to the aft ballast tank.
     "We have these knobby things that we are beginning to see sticking out of the mud," Neyland said Monday. "It's just a concreted mass back there, but it may be part of the plumbing and valves."
     Historical drawings of the Confederate submarine indicate that the controls to its aft ballast tank were almost directly underneath the rear conning tower, up against the bulkhead to the crew compartment. That's roughly where the knobs are. Scientists are having a hard time determining what they have because the submarine's interior is concreted, much like the hull's exterior.
     As the crew digs deeper into the submarine - they removed more than 75 gallons of claylike silt Monday - the mysterious interior of the submarine is beginning to take shape.
     This is the second round of discoveries inside the submarine. Last week the team found two buttons off a crewman's coat and a bench running along the port side that may have been where at least part of the crew sat to work the submarine's hand-cranked propeller.
     This week the excavation team has found a small glass bottle, perhaps a medicine bottle, lying on the portside bench forward of where they found two buttons last week. The bottle has a cork in it and is partially filled with something - perhaps sediment, Neyland said.
     The shelf is on the port side wall near the rear of the crew compartment. It is much thinner and smaller than the plank discovered last week.
     As the excavation continues, one thing is becoming even more clear - it's tighter inside the sub than anyone believed. For that reason, Neyland said, crews have begun to remove concretion from another hull plate in hopes of removing it.
     The plate, which would be the fourth removed from the hull, is just aft of the forward conning tower and has the stuffing box for the submarine's snorkels mounted on it. Scientists will try to determine this week if that stuffing box will prevent them from removing the plate.
     Taking that plate off would give scientists better access to the forward-most part of the crew compartment, where Lt. George Dixon, commander of the vessel, would have stood and operated the sub's rudder, diving planes and the forward ballast tank.
     That is where scientists hope to make their most significant discoveries. They just don't want to have to squeeze to get to them.


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