Sub reproduction on wish list

Saturday, May 12, 2001

Of The Post and Courier staff

     Sometime in the next few years, a clone of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley may surface in Charleston Harbor.
     Members of the Hunley Commission said Friday they hope to have a replica of the submarine built to help gauge how it worked and what its limits were.
     "We are studying the feasibility of building a working model," said Randy Burbage, a member of the commission. "We want it built to the exact specifications of the Hunley. We would be able to tell how well it maneuvered, what it could do. I'm excited about the prospects of doing it."
     So far, the commission has only voted to study the idea of a replica. But ultimately, and ideally, the model would be moored near where the real submarine is displayed.
     There are some bugs to be worked out - a replica might prove too small for anyone except jockeys to operate. And, since the Hunley proved dangerous to so many Southern troops, it would have to be fitted with some modern luxuries -oxygen and a motor.
     The model might have to be built slightly larger than the real submarine to accommodate modern-day-sized people - the Hunley is a less-than-roomy 42 inches wide. But, even though the real Hunley sank three times, killing the better part of three crews, commissioners expect to have no problem crewing it. It could even be that the model would make the maritime show circuit, literally a hands-on learning tool.
     Commissioners said a reproduction would give a good indication of what the Confederates had at their disposal when they attacked the USS Housatonic on Feb. 17, 1864.
     State Sen. Glenn McConnell, chairman of the Hunley Commission, said Friday that he believed the model could be built for around $100,000 - if some of the time and materials were donated. But such a model, he said, is not expected anytime soon. Scientists will finish the first excavation this month, then begin work again in the fall. With new discoveries coming nearly every day, it could years before they have a good sense of the Hunley's operations.
     "As soon as she releases her secrets" engineering of the replica will begin, McConnell said. "Unfortunately, she is very reluctant to give up all of her secrets."
     The Associated Press contributed to this report. Used with permission of The Post and Courier and Charleston.Net


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