Number of sailors cranking revised

Archaeologists still think there were nine sailors on submarine

Saturday, May 5, 2001

BY SCHUYLER KROPF
Of The Post and Courier staff


     The manpower that drove the Hunley apparently was not as strong as originally thought.
     Instead of eight cranking Confederates, there were seven.
     Archaeologists still believe nine sailors were on board the sub, but there appear to be only seven hand positions for the Hunley's hand-turned propeller shaft.
     And in another design enlightenment, the propeller shaft doesn't run the length of the crew compartment, as previously thought. The shaft stops at an area near the forward hatch.
     The remaining space is taken up by an air bellows, a leather and wood bag that, when pumped, circulated breathable air through the sub via two snorkel pipes protruding from the top deck.
     The eighth man was apparently assigned to the air pump full time.
     "We were greatly surprised that the crank ended at Grid Two (near the front hatch)," project manager Bob Neyland said at a press conference Friday.
     The shaft is connected to the starboard (right) wall of the sub's interior by a series of brackets. The crew, meanwhile, apparently all sat on the left side while they cranked the sub.
     The shaft apparently is connected to cranking gears at the rear of the sub that bring the momentum back to center and to the propeller.
     The sub's speed probably didn't suffer as a result of having only seven men to power it, Neyland said, adding that historical records show the sub made a speed of 4-5 knots.
     Hunley Commission Chairman Glenn McConnell said the bellows could play a key role in determining how the sub sank, which still remains a mystery.
     About three-quarters of the sub has been excavated so far, but not the area forward of the front hatch where sub commander Lt. George Dixon would have been stationed.
     More insight about life aboard the sub was also disclosed Friday. Archaeologists have found another canteen inside, the bottom base of a wax candle and a second pencil.
     The excavation is still weeks from completion. The excavation team now is looking for ways to remove the bellows so they can get to the forward section where Dixon's remains are believed to be. The team spent Friday afternoon X-raying the area.
     The remains of eight Hunley sailors have been discovered so far.