The H.L. Hunley was the first submarine to ever
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H.L. Hunley was a Confederate submersible
that demonstrated the advantage and danger of undersea warfare. Although
not this nation's first submarine, Hunley was the first submarine
to engage and sink awarship.
built in 1863 by Park and Lyons of Mobile, Alabama, Hunley was
fashioned from a cylindrical iron steam boiler,
which was deepened and also lengthened through the addition of tapered
ends. Hunley was designed to be hand powered by a crew of nine:
eight to turn the hand-cranked propeller and one to steer and direct the
boat. As a true submarine, each end was equipped with ballast
tanks that could be flooded by valves or pumped dry by hand pumps. Extra
ballast was added through the use of iron weights bolted to the underside
of the hull. In the event the submarine needed additional buoyancy to rise
in an emergency, the iron weight could be removed by
unscrewing the heads of the bolts from inside the vessel.
On 16 February 1864, the Confederate submarine
made a daring late night attack on USS
and 1800-ton sloop-of-war with 23 guns, in Charleston Harbor off the coast of
South Carolina. H.L. Hunley rammed Housatonic with spar torpedo
packed with explosive powder and attached to
a long pole on its bow. The spar torpedo embedded in the sloop's wooden side
was detonated by a rope as Hunley backed away. The resulting explosion
that sent Housatonic with five crew members to the bottom of Charleston
Harbor also sank Hunley with its crew
of nine. H.L. Hunley earned a place in the history of undersea warfare
as the first submarine to sink a ship in wartime.
The search for Hunley ended 131 years later when
best-selling author Clive Cussler and his team from the National Underwater
and Marine Agency
(NUMA) discovered the submarine after a 14-year search. At the time of
discovery, Cussler and NUMA were conducting this research
in partnership with the South Carolina Institute of Anthropology and
(SCIAA). The team realized that they had found Hunley after exposing
the forward hatch and the ventilator box (the air box for the attachment
of a snorkel). The submarine rested on its
starboard side at about a 45-degree angle and is covered in a 1/4 to 3/4-inch
encrustation of ferrous oxide bonded with sand and shell particles.
Archaeologists exposed a little more on the port side and found the bow
dive plane on that side. More probing revealed an approximate
length of 34 feet with most, if not all, of the vessel preserved under
In August 2000 archaeological investigation and excavation
culminated with the resurrection of Hunley from its watery grave. A
large team of professionals from the Naval Historical Center's Underwater
Archaeology Branch, National Park Service,
the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology and
various other individuals investigated the vessel, measuring and
documenting it prior to preparing it for removal. Once the on site
investigation was complete harnesses were slipped underneath the sub
one by one and
attached to a truss designed by Oceaneering, Inc. Then after the last
harness had been secured, the crane from Clarissa B began hoisting
the submarine from the mire of the harbor. On August 8 at 8:37 AM the
sub broke the surface for the first time in over 136 years where
it was greeted by a cheering crowd lining the shore and in hundreds
of nearby watercraft. Once safely on its transporting barge, Hunley
finally completed its last voyage back to Charleston. The removal operation
reached its successful conclusion when the submarine was
secured inside the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in a specially
designed tank of freshwater to await conservation.
All who viewed the vessel said Hunley
incorporated an unexpectedly graceful and beautiful design. It is certainly
a marvel both for its time period and for modern day researchers. No doubt
this small submarine will be the key to unlock many mysteries of a bygone era.
on 1996 Expedition
Hunley Receives High Tech Visit
Submarine to Rise From Bottom of Charleston, SC Harbor
Submarine to Surface in Charleston, SC Harbor
Cheer Raising of Historic Submarine, H.L. Hunley in Charleston,