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Skull found on sub

Saturday, April 14, 2001

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 snorkel box.
     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 died.
     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

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