1) WELCOME TO
THE NEW HUNLEY NEWSLETTER
SINKING THEORIES: FACTS
3) IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: PLANS FOR
RE-INTERNMENT OF CREW
Who's BLUE LIGHT WAS IT - THEIRS OR OURS
6) FROM THE GUEST BOOK
7) OUR PURPOSE AND
1) WELCOME TO THE NEW HUNLEY NEWSLETTER
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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SINKING THEORIES: FACTS
AND HYPOTHESIS OF THE CAUSES OF THE SINKING OF THE CONFEDERATE
SUBMARINE H L HUNLEY
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.
#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
"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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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