CHARLESTON, SC – February 8, 2002 - Dr. Doug Owsley, Division Head for Physical Anthropology, and research osteologist Rebecca Kardash from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, Dr. Robert Mann, a hand and foot bone expert from the U.S. Army’s, Central Identification Laboratory, Hawaii (CILHI), Dr. Jamie Downs, Chief Medical Examiner of the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, and genealogist Linda Abrams from Massachusetts have been working this week at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center. They are beginning the forensic analysis of the eight-man crew of the H. L. Hunley. Now that the bones are all sorted, some information is being revealed about these individuals. "I can look at the bones and tell that some of the crewmembers had been in the submarine longer. By looking at the remains of the crew’s youngest member, aged of 18-20 years, I can tell he went through a lot of physical strain when he turned the crank," said Dr. Doug Owsley.
"It will be interesting to see if Dr. Owsley’s findings on the young man’s skeleton indicate a lot of physical strain that can be associated with the bellows and snorkels. Was he straining to get air into the sub during the final minutes of the voyage of the H. L. Hunley, or was he straining to crank the propeller? This could provide another clue for the speculation that anoxia may have figured into the demise of the H. L. Hunley on its journey home," said Senator Glenn McConnell, Chairman of the Hunley Commission.
The forensics team is following a detailed protocol designed to identify each crewmember.
The precise location of recovery allowed preliminary assignment of each bone to individual skeletons. Using this information, each skeleton was placed in anatomical position to determine which bones were missing and whether there were duplications or mixing. Size and lengths, joint surface articulations, and other anatomical features were matched to confirm association of each bone to a specific individual.
All major bones are accounted for. A few small finger bones are still concreted to the wall of the submarine. The bones of Lt. George Dixon have not been laid out at this time. Due to preservation of fragile textiles, his remains were removed in "block lifts" in order to allow controlled laboratory separation of the clothing and personal items from the remains. These block lifts have been x-rayed in preparation for this archaeological and conservation effort. After the sorting is complete, a larger forensic team will return to Charleston to begin the forensic anthropological analysis. Major steps include: