Bones indicate Hunley probably sank quickly


Saturday, April 7, 2001

Of The Post and Courier staff


     The chairman of the Hunley Commission believes the remains of the six Hunley crewmen uncovered so far indicate the men probably died at their duty positions around the propeller crank, an indication the sinking was a quick affair.
     Commission Chairman Glenn McConnell said Friday the bones are being found in a sequence around the crank, at about where each man would have been positioned during an attack. That suggests there was no mad dash to get out of the sub.
     "What is showing up is that the men were trapped in the final events," McConnell said. "It doesn't show the crew having shifted and moved."
     McConnell also said bits of human hair have been found in the silt. The hair was placed in plastic bags for testing.
     Another revelation: the presence of stalactite growth from the roof of the sub indicates that at some point after the sinking, there probably was an air pocket left in the sub.
     How the sub sank is one of the final mysteries archaeologists hope to settle during the excavation at the Warren Lasch Conservation lab in North Charleston. McConnell believes the sub may have flooded via a fist-sized hole in the forward conning tower that may have been created from small arms fire from the Hunley's victim, the USS Housatonic.
     By his theory, the sub could have survived the attack but sunk soon after as waves sloshed through the hole.
     "The question is: When did that splash become a spurt, and were they able to plug it?" McConnell said Friday.
     McConnell's theory won't be tested until archaeologists excavate under the forward tower looking for bullet damage or bullets lodged in the metal.
     There's also a chance that they may find wounds in the skeletal remains of the sub's captain, Lt. George Dixon, who would have been stationed at the front of the sub during the attack.
     "The key for us is, what does that sediment under that conning tower contain?" McConnell said.
     The excavation work on the sub is expected to take 30-60 days. So far, the partial bone remains of six of the nine crewmen have been detected, as well as pieces of leather and cloth.

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


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