The Hunley.com

1) WELCOME TO THE NEW HUNLEY NEWSLETTER
2) SINKING THEORIES: FACTS AND HYPOTHESIS
3) IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: PLANS FOR RE-INTERNMENT OF CREW
4) Who's BLUE LIGHT WAS IT - THEIRS OR OURS
5) E-MAIL
6) FROM THE GUEST BOOK
7) OUR PURPOSE AND GOALS

 

1) WELCOME TO THE NEW HUNLEY NEWSLETTER

A special welcome to all the new subscribers. This newsletter is published every two weeks so no one is bombarded with mail.  This issue is about the various theories on why the Confederate Submarine H L Hunley sank and what might have happened that night of February 17, 1864. Contributions to this letter are from the great friends and rocket scientist in the CSS H L Hunley Club, a battlefield of wits and personalities galore, as well as data provided by Sen. Glenn McConnell, Friends of the Hunley, Inc., Dr. E. Lee Spence, I simply puzzled it together and added my two cents worth.


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2) SINKING THEORIES: FACTS AND HYPOTHESIS OF THE CAUSES OF THE SINKING OF THE CONFEDERATE SUBMARINE H L HUNLEY

by George W. Penington  

There have been numerous discussions in the CSS H L HUNLEY CLUB and in the press around various theories about the sinking of the Confederate Submarine H L Hunley. I have tried to compile these theories, excerpted from our discussions to condense them to an abridged form.  I have also tried to give credit where credit was due, but in many cases there were conjoining parts and pieces on theories scrambled with original thoughts mixed with known facts. The task at hand was not as easy as I thought it would be so no one take offense. I have had the advantage of being able to look at all the theories and the disadvantage of not having all the facts. Can any of the theories be ruled out? I think with most of them only parts can be rejected in time. The article starts with some of the facts that we know from the information that was provided, editorial privileges and b.s. (biographical sampling). A little logic and familiarity with the waters of Charleston Harbor, the help of the experts in the “Club”, and information from the “Friends of the Hunley, Inc.” make these facts fairly secure.

In this newsletter, the reader has the opportunity to choose the Sinking Theory that he or she thinks the best, most logical, most likely or closest to what actually happened on the night of February 17, 1864. The reader may also choose to add their own theory. I have started out with known facts including the physical and mechanical justifications to these facts, have given other opinions when appropriate and then numerated and captioned the various theory categories. PLEASE VOTE ON THE THEORY OF YOUR CHOOSING and I will let you know the outcome next newsletter.  Believe me it won’t be easy.


THE FACTS:

#1 The snorkels were discovered in the upright position. There were consistent problems with the snorkel and air bellows.
#2 The rudder was found completely underneath the sub.
#3 The Hunley was found approximately 650 feet from the wreckage of the Housatonic.
#4 The Hunley did not sink lying on her starboard side but somewhere in time rolled over. There was an unexplained cannonball size hole and a gash on the starboard side. The Hunley when discovered was found rested on her starboard side. • “The two holes on the starboard side of the hull appear to not be contemporary to the submarine's sinking. McConnell said both holes could have been made by an anchor that was dragged across the hull of the sub before it was covered in the silt.” The analysis of the Hunley interior sediments shows that several hull penetrations happened years latter after the sinking.......................... http://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2001AM/finalprogram/abstract_28473.htm
 "After initial sedimentation of fine-grained materials with rare bivalves and later filling of relatively coarse shelf
materials, in situ shells indicate a calm period of little to no deposition. Afterwards, another episode depositing shelf-reworked fauna added additional materials to the sub", may show the results of separate events that cause the large hole in the stern and one of the other holes. “
#5 The lower spar was bent possibly from the impact with the Housatonic or from the crash dive.
#6 The crew was in all probability seriously hurt from the explosion which happened less than 150 feet away.
#7 A “blue light” signal was seen from the Housatonic and Battery Marshall. “Blue lights were common signals used by both sides. We also know The lantern found on the Hunley is definitely not blue. The lens was not covered in concretion and clearly visible to the naked eye.

         
X-RAYS OF HUNLEY LANTERN

#8 The Hunley was not operating as a submarine, but more as a “David” a surface semi-submersible vessel when it sunk the USS Housatonic.

#9 Dixon knew the tide schedule when he departed Sullivan’s Island and had developed a mission time table. The Hunley could not make headway against the tide so everything had to be timed perfectly. 

 ADDITIONAL FACTS:

This final crew had only been together three months, had practiced the long dive, lengthy runs,  and strenuous cranking periods. We know from information that has been released that the aft hatch is latched closed. The forward latch is not engaged, latched nor closed all the way and an x-ray shows the hatch is slightly opened a small amount, less than one degree.  The fact that the hatch was closed but not latched either indicates a forced or sudden dive or that Dixon may have unlatched it at the last moment to attempt an escape.

 Ballast tanks, at the bow and the stern were flooded by valves to submerge and pumped dry by hand to resurface. The Iron ballast keel could be jettisoned by unscrewing the heads of the bolts from inside the submarine.

There was air in the upper portion of the cabin interior for an extended period indicating there were no significant leaks.

WE KNOW THAT DIXON AND HIS CREW COULD NOT TELL IF THEY WERE MAKING FORWARD MOTION WHILE SUBMERGED

McClintock admitted that his boats suffered from three basic problems: the lack of a self-propelling motive power, inaccurate compass readings, and an inability to measure the horizontal movement while running submerged.

"...One difficulty which Mr. McClintock very frankly pointed out was the uncertain action of the compass in such a vessel...He also pointed out another requirement which he had not succeeded in applying - rather from want of means than from want of skill, or from any great difficulty in the requirement [illegible]. He states that when under weigh beneath the surface, it is quite impossible to ascertain whether the vessel is progressing as there are no passing objects by which to recognize the fact of motion; on several occasions when experimenting with his boat they continued working the crank while all the time the boat was hard and fast in the mud ("Report on a submarine boat invented by Mr. McClintock of Mobile, U.S. of America," PRO, Adm. Series 1/6236, File 39455).

 

 

Hunley Sinks landing on rudder

Bow settles as crew adjust

Hunley sits level on bottom

Hunley in attack mode

Forced Dive

Spar is bent

NOTICE THE SCALE OF THE HUNLEY COMPARED TO THE DEPTH OF THE WATER

 

Analysis of the sediment and degree of preservation indicates that Dixon was covered before the rest of the crew, indicating a possible leak from the forward area or did a sudden dive cause the stern ballast tank to empty forward.

We do know that the crew was not all at their stations.  The two crewmen right behind Dixon moved forward and the two men farthest aft moved aft we assuming to work the aft pump. One crewman was found closer to the top, a possible indication of an escape attempt. None of the others made an effort to escape. The majority of the crew showed no indication of awareness that the sub was mortally sunk.

* In an endurance test dive, the crew of the Hunley sat on the ocean bottom for two hours, thirty-five minutes without surfacing for air.

 

crew quietly losing consciousness and dying of oxygen deprivation.

Did they all go to sleep to never wake up.    The crew members have been found at their work stations. This suggests there was no panic on board. Scientists half- expected to find the bones of the crewmen mingled on the floor of the sub as they died climbing over each other trying to open the sub's hatches. The remains have been found in neat intervals in the mud.
 Stalactites and oxygen stains that suggest that the sub's interior did not fill with water right away, shooting a hole - so to speak - in the single-bullet theory.

The only crewman not found at his seat was found on top of what may be the remnants of a bellows used to pump air into the Hunley. He could have been trying to suck new air into the sub when it went down.

Doctors deduce the crew may have died from anoxia, a complete lack of oxygen. If that occurred, the crew would have simply run out of oxygen and gone to sleep.


THEORIES "WHY DID THE HUNLEY SINK?"

 One theory is in maneuvering for the attack, backing away, and avoiding the sinking Housatonic, Dixon found himself farther from base than he planned and was faced with the prospect of going across the paths of ships co