Skull found on sub
Saturday, April 14, 2001
BY BRIAN HICKS
Of The Post and Courier staff
Archaeologists have uncovered the first skull of a Hunley crew member, moving them one
step closer to putting faces on the final crew of the lost Civil War submarine.
As the excavation digs deeper, scientists are discovering some
unexpected technology in the sub.
Bob Neyland, the Hunley excavation project manager, said Friday
that the skull may belong to the sub's first officer, the man who would have sat aft in
the crew compartment working the controls to the rear ballast tank. That is where the
nearly complete skeleton has now been uncovered.
"At this time, we can see the back portion of the skull,
which is in good condition," Neyland said. "All that has been determined is that
it is a male cranium."
The skull belongs to the fourth crewman discovered. So far,
scientists have found six of nine members of the Hunley's crew.
Scientists plan to map the skulls of the crew members using a
computer program to recreate their facial features. Sen. Glenn McConnell, chairman of the
Hunley Commission, said that will happen over the next year. This week's discovery, he
said, starts the process.
Meanwhile, as the excavation continues, scientists are taking
another look at the position of the first crew member found, who was discovered just under
the sub's snorkel box.
At first, archaeologists believed the remains were held up by an
old stool, but it now appears that what is under the skeleton is a bellows. If that's the
case, the bellows would most likely be used for pulling air into the sub through the
The position of the remains found may indicate a crewman was in
an air pocket in the submarine trying to pump fresh air into the sinking submarine when he
Historical accounts of the submarine indicate that the Hunley's
snorkels never worked. However, with a bellows, the air may have circulated enough.
As the excavation gets into its final month, scientists are
beginning to dig deeply enough to find the personal belongings of crew members. Neyland
said he expects to find the contents of crew members' pockets soon, as the dig progresses
toward the floor of the sub.
Warren Lasch, chairman of the Friends of the Hunley, said this
excavation is putting the history of the lost submarine in a new perspective.
"The Hunley is becoming more and more of a human story and
less of a war story," Lasch said.
Used with permission of The Post and
Courier and Charleston.Net