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Archaeologists closer to captain's remains


Tuesday, May 15, 2001

Of The Post and Courier staff


     Hunley archaeologists have taken a fourth hull plate off the Confederate submarine, moving them, they hope, to within a few feet of the remains of Lt. George Dixon.
     Bob Neyland, the project's manager, said the hull plate, which had the sub's snorkel box assembly mounted to it, proved to be the toughest yet to remove. But ultimately it came off without a problem Sunday afternoon.
     "We were trying to be careful, and it was a little heavier," Neyland said.
     Meanwhile, in Connecticut, archaeologists plan to exhume the grave of Ezra Chamberlin, the Union soldier whose identification tag was found inside the submarine. They want to see if Chamberlin's remains are under the Killingly, Conn., grave marker bearing his name, or whether there is a chance Chamberlin could have been aboard the Hunley when it disappeared on Feb. 17, 1864.
     A total of four plates have now been removed from the top half of the submarine, all of them over the crew compartment. None of the other plates had equipment attached.
     The underside of the snorkel box has a little fixture on it, most likely where the bellows discovered earlier in the excavation attached to it. Neyland said the underside of the plate is still covered with concretion, so details are hard to pick out.
     The fourth plate joins the other three, placed in water to preserve them, in a vat near the Hunley tank.
     All that stands between the remains of Dixon, the Hunley's captain, and scientists is a wall of gray muck. Neyland said the edge of that wall is probably about four feet from the forward bulkhead.
     Scott Harris, a geologist from Coastal Carolina University, is helping the archaeologists map the sediment. They hope to discover clues to the cause of the submarine's sinking and the history of it filling up.
     Archaeologists have stepped up the excavation into two shifts, trying to finish the initial Hunley dig by the end of the month.


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