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Hunley Crew Remains to be Studied by Top Smithsonian Experts
February 1, 2002

As the focus of the H. L. Hunley excavation shifts to the human remains of the crew, top scientists from the Smithsonian Institution will be traveling to Charleston, S.C. next week to learn more about the 8 men who lost their lives when the world's first successful submarine sank after completing its mission on February 17, 1864.
Dr. Doug Owsley, head anthropologist at the Smithsonian, research assistant Rebecca Kardash and Dr. Robert Mann, who is a hand and foot bone expert, will be at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center all next week to study the human remains of the crew.
S.C. Senator Glenn McConnell, chairman of the Hunley Commission, said, "Just as the Hunley is the story of technology and bravery, it is now technology which will unmask the identity and secrets of the final voyage of the H.L. Hunley. The crew gave their best and now our present crew will give their best to tell the complete story of this national treasure."
"The goal is to sort the bones by laying them out anatomically in order to make a person," said Dr. Owsley. With 206 bones for each human, it is a complex and lengthy process. The forensic team's task has been simplified somewhat by the fact that the remains were found where each crewmember was stationed in the submarine.
"This process is the first step in identifying each crewmember. We have to create a person before the formal analysis can begin. What is also helpful is that we are dealing with people of various sizes and ages, which will assist us in laying out the remains," Dr. Owsley said. The scientists on the Hunley project will be assisting the forensic team in this process.
The preliminary study of the remains will begin to unlock the mystery surrounding the crewmen. Project Director Dr. Bob Neyland said, "We should be prepared for startling discoveries about the personal life, background, age and health of the crew."
Warren Lasch, chairman of Friends of the Hunley said, "Although nothing will be conclusive next week, this will put us closer to our goal of giving these brave men a name and a face, which is important not only to everyone on the project but also to the descendants of the crew."
The Hunley, the first submarine in history to sink an enemy ship, has been the subject of international attention since it was recovered from the ocean's floor off Charleston harbor in August of 2000.


Currently the eight pairs of leather shoes are being documented and excavated, as all shoes contain bones. Conducting x-rays, photographing, and sketching the artifacts have assessed the positioning of the bones as well as the state of preservation of each shoe. One of the most difficult procedures in last year's excavation of the Hunley was removing the shoes, as most were concreted to the sub's hull. Although some were well preserved, many were not in that good of condition.

"The ultimate goal of the archaeological work is to record as much information as possible before the scientists remove the bones permanently from the shoes. Even sampling sediment inside the shoes could give us insight that will be used by geologists or palynologists (people who study pollen) to figure out the burial conditions of the sub soon after the sinking," said Paul Mardikian, Senior Conservator.

The scientists decided to begin the work on the shoes with the less complicated ones, and so far three shoes have been CAT scanned at the Medical University of South Carolina. Mardikian says the CAT scans are an incredible step in looking at the shoes and give a three-dimensional look, something that is lacking in a simple x-ray. Five more shoes will be scanned at MUSC today.

Textiles that are believed to be fibers from a knitted wool sock were found in the first two shoes that were excavated, and it is likely that more textiles will be found as the work progresses.

"Osteological data is critical, therefore the positioning of the bones (sometimes still impressively articulated) will be a premium source of information for the forensic team. In addition there is the likelihood that we could find soft tissue, as some samples have already been collected and will be analyzed," said Mardikian.

The forensic team including Dr. Doug Owsley, Head Physical Anthropologist and Dr. Bob Mann, a hand and foot bone specialist both from the Smithsonian Institution will arrive next month to study information collected so far and to pursue the forensic work on the crew of the Hunley.

"The physical laying out of the human remains of the Hunley crew should start around the week of February 4th. X-rays indicate the presence of a pocket watch and binoculars on Lt. Dixon," said Senator Glenn McConnell, Chairman of the Hunley Commission. "Further, we should be getting closer to ascertaining whether or not the apparent clasp we see in the x-ray is part of a diary or logbook. If so, the Hunley may speak from the past in words instead of through clues," said Sen. McConnell. "This part of the project is exciting as it will require new scientific techniques," said Dr. Robert Neyland, Project Director.

Warren Lasch, Chairman of the Friends of the Hunley, expressed excitement over the direction of the scientific mission. "We will now put dimension into the remains as we discover the height, size and age of the crew members," he said. "We will put more than a face on the crew," he added.

Sen. McConnell said that preliminary studies indicate this crew is probably older and more diverse in age than earlier thought. The youngest is approximately between the ages of 17-20, and the oldest is in his 40's. The two men behind Lt. Dixon appear to be seaman or dressed in Navy clothing. Archaeologists are unclear at this time about the dress of the fourth crewmember. The fifth man appears to be Confederate artillery, perhaps Carlson. One of the next two crewmen appears to be a seaman, and the other is questionable. The eighth man with the 7th Connecticut medal appears to be in civilian clothes. While this paints a clearer picture of whom these crewman might be, it raises greater questions.

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

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