Excavators think tubes were for air circulation


Saturday, May 19, 2001

Of The Post and Courier staff


     Archaeologists have discovered a lot of accessories on the H.L. Hunley, but they never suspected the 1863 model submarine came with air.
     On Friday, scientists said there may have been an air tube attached to the bottom of the snorkel box bellows that allowed the crew to pump fresh air throughout the Confederate submarine.
     There is a pipe that looks like a radiator hose on a car coming out of the bottom of the bellows. It appears to connect to a pipe or tube under the bench. Bob Neyland, Hunley project director, said archaeologists have not been able to remove the unexpected bellows because of the extra connections and the concretion.
     An airflow system is yet another advancement scientists say they didn't expect to find, but it makes sense. The men sitting in the middle of the submarine turning the propeller crank shaft would have had a hard time getting fresh air even when the submarine was on the surface with the hatches open.
     Neyland said the excavation, which may wrap up next week, is about half-way down in the sediment in grid one, the forwardmost area of excavation. Archaeologists expect to soon find the remains of Lt. George Dixon, the Hunley's commander.
     They also hope to find the two most-prized artifacts - Dixon's gold coin good luck piece and a blue signal lamp - in the forward area of the sub.
     The submarine has yielded unexpected discoveries.
     Scientists found a wooden shelf that may have been used for people to stand on and a thin sheet of metal.
     Also, archaeologists have located the control lever for the submarine's diving fins offset to the port side in the submarine.
     The lever appears to have a weight on it.
     "It may have been weighted to help them push against the water pressure," Neyland said.
     The dive fins control the depth of the submarine in the same way airplane wings work with airflow. When the fins pointed down, oncoming water pushed down on the sub. When the dive planes pointed up, it helped lift the Hunley.

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