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Crane will lift lost sub
 By BRIAN HICKS
Of The Post and Courier staff


     After 136 years missing in action, the Confederacy's lost ship will finally come in today.
     The Hunley recovery team expects to pluck the submarine from the bottom of the Atlantic at 8 this morning. From there, The Hunley -- still strapped to its lifting truss -- will be put on a barge for the 15mile journey home.

     It's expected at the mouth of the harbor after 10 a.m.

     "It's 'a go," said Sen. Glenn McConnell, chairman of the HUNLEY Commission. "We've been working out all the last-minute details. And we've been inundated with phone calls -the public interest is overwhelming. This has all the earmarks of 'being the most historic event in Charleston in our lifetime."

                         Church bells will ring to herald the sub's arrival, and the ship will get a 21-gun salute from both sides of the harbor. A blue light atop the Yorktown will answer the The Hunley's blue light signal that IT’S mission, a century Later, is complete.

     From there, the HUNLEY will move up the Cooper to its new home, the Warren Lasch Conservation Center at the old Navy base.

It’s a day THAT, just over five years ago, few could have imagined.

     The HUNLEY, the first submarine in history to sink an enemy warship, disappeared into the murky Atlantic on Feb. 17,1864, AFTER sinking the Union blockader Housatonic.

     Stealth technology in embryo, the 40-foot, hand-cranked, iron-hull submarine had prowled the waters off the coast for months. The secret weapon was built and tested in Mobile, Ala, before being sent by train to Charleston for use against The Union blockades.

Once here, the submarine sank twice in Charleston Harbor, the second time killing its namesake, Horace L. HUNLEY. After that, Lt. George Dixon -- an infantry officer; who became the sub's final commander -- stepped up the program intent on sinking a Union blockade ship.

       Leaving from Breach Inlet, the  Submarine prowled the frigid waters of the Atlantic, passing so close to Union ships, they could hear soldiers on deck whistling.

     Carrying a 90-pound charge at the end of a 17-foot spar, The HUNLEY scored a direct hit on the Housatonic on a moonlit February night, sinking the ship in less than five minutes. Five on board the Housatonic died.

And then, the submarine and it’s nine-member crew disappeared.

Treasure hunters tried for years to find the sub, and P.T. Barnum offered $100,000 in turn-of-the-century dollars for its recovery. However, The HUNLEY lay buried in silt for 131 years.

     Then, in 1995, a dive team founded by novelist Clive Cussler found the sub in 28 feet of water, buried, under three feet of silt, four miles off Sullivan's Island. This was twenty-five years after the original discovery by Dr. E. Lee Spence.

The submarine's recovery, begun earlier this year, has been a great success so far. 

         Dive teams have recovered practically every piece of the submarine, and as of the weekend, the HUNLEY was hanging completely suspended underneath the lift truss.

    The 600-ton crane barge Karlissa B will need but three minutes to pull the submarine from the bottom of the ocean and gently lay it on a transport barge. The site will be witnessed by a boatload of reporters and cameramen, as well as another boat filled with dignitaries. Gov. Jim Hodges said he would not miss the special occasion.

    "I think it's an historic day. The HUNLEY played an important role in the history of the Civil War," Hodges said. "To see that piece of maritime history recovered from the ocean and then be able to take a look at it closely, it is a special opportunity.'

    Once the HUNLEY is up, it should take about 90 minutes to secure the sub to the transport barge. Then the journey home begins.

    McConnell, a Civil War re-enactor and the man most responsible for the recovery efforts, said the most poignant moment will be when the HUNLEY, a century late, enters Charleston Harbor.

    "Words will struggle to describe that moment," he said. "I suspect we'll all have lumps in our throats."

     When the HUNLEY reaches its tank at the conservation lab, a bugler will be there to play taps, Priests will bless the sub, and then, finally, 136 years after it left, the HUNLEY will be home.

 

 

 

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