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Hunley Investigation like a CSI Cold Case File - Who.... are you? Who who, who who?

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Postby TMSmalley » Fri Feb 18, 2005 8:59 am


Associated Press

CHARLESTON, S.C. - On the anniversary of its sinking, a scientist said while it's still not known what sent the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley to the bottom, the vessel will eventually give up its secrets.

"There is no such thing as a smoking gun when you are conducting a forensic investigation," Maria Jacobsen, the senior archaeologist on the Hunley project, said Thursday.

"Archaeology is the perfect forensic discipline. But in our case we have a very cold case. It's not 10 years old. It's over 140 years old," she said. "I'm very confident we will know what happened but it's a matter of time."

Thursday was the 141st anniversary of the sinking of the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship.

The 40-foot, hand-cranked Hunley rammed a spar with a black powder charge into the Union blockade ship Housatonic on Feb. 17, 1864.

But the Hunley also went down and was finally located off Sullivans Island in 1995. It was raised five years later and brought to a conservation lab at the old Charleston Naval Base where it sits in a tank of chilled water.

Thursday evening, Confederate re-enactors planned to march from Fort Moultrie on Sullivans Island to Breach Inlet, where the sub began its ill-fated mission. They planned to throw wreaths onto the water in memory of the sub's eight-man crew.

Earlier, journalists got a chance to see the wooden crew bench removed from the submarine. The 18-foot bench, fashioned of three sections of wood, is in remarkably good shape after the sub sat on the ocean floor for decades.

Jacobsen noted that there are few signs that worms ate away at the wood.

That would indicate the submarine filled with sediment after the sinking. Water rushing through would have brought in more sea life, she suggested.

Paul Mardikian, the Hunley's senior conservator, focused a
magnifying glass on the bench to reveal a human hair from one of the crewmen.

Scientists later found the faint imprint of fabric on the bench,
which had been painted with an oil-based paint.

Since the paint probably took a long time to dry, the imprint could have been from the clothes of a crewman or perhaps a someone working on the sub before its voyage, said Kellen Correia, a spokeswoman for the Hunley project.

More clues about what happened after the sinking will be provided by examining the sediment excavated earlier, Jacobsen said.

Using Lead 210 dating, scientists can narrow down to decades when something happened in the sub. Beyond that, she said, scientists can get an even closer estimate by looking for pollen inside the sediment.

"We are looking at the pollen inside the layers. You can look at the pollen and that will give you an idea of how things changed in a year," she added.

Mardikian said that about 1,000 artifacts have been removed from the Hunley so far, including the shoes of the crew which were freeze-dried as part of the conservation process.

He said scientists are working three days a week on the sub itself and two days on conserving artifacts. Scientists think that they may find more artifacts in the heavy encrustations on the sub found beneath the crew bench.

The remains of the Hunley's eight-man crew were buried last year in a ceremony that attracted thousands and has been called the last Confederate funeral.

Scientists are still determining the best way to conserve the Hunley itself. The sub eventually will go on display in a museum in North Charleston.

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Postby Novagator » Fri Feb 18, 2005 9:33 am

Well according to Paul harvey on the "rest of the story" he said she rammed the Housantonic and and they both sank together. When I heard that, I knew that couldn't be right since they still had no idea why she sank.
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Postby TMSmalley » Sat Feb 19, 2005 12:36 am

Friday, February 18, 2005 - Last Updated: 7:38 AM

Submariners carved no messages, but timber's condition indicates they suffocated, scientist says

Of The Post and Courier Staff

They had hoped for some graffiti -- initials at the very least --
but scientists have found no messages from the H.L. Hunley's crew
carved into the sub's bench.
That said, they may have uncovered a significant clue to the crew's
final moments.

Maria Jacobsen, senior archaeologist on the Hunley project, said
Thursday the bench appears to be made of a soft, fast-growing wood --
perhaps pine. The condition of the fragile, 18-foot bench lends
considerable support to the theory that the crew ran out of air
rather than drowned on Feb. 17, 1864.

"The only way that timber survives is if it is buried quickly,"
Jacobsen said Thursday.

The preservation suggests little or no water entered the sub before
it filled with silt and sediment. There is only microscopic evidence
that any worms nibbled on the wood.

"The oxygen dropped away very quickly, and very few animals would
venture into such an environment," said Paul Mardikian, senior
Hunley conservator.

The bench is the latest, and perhaps the best, evidence that the sub
went from being dry and airless to being packed with sediment.
Scientists will soon begin their examination of the sediments in the
sub for more insights into how, when and why the sub filled with mud
from the ocean floor.

The bench, removed in the past few weeks, also reveals a little more
about the sub's operations and the way it was handled. An off-white,
oil-based paint was used to paint over the bench. It appears there
were several coats applied at different times, which may indicate
that the sub's interior was repainted before each of the three times
it sank.

"It would freshen the crew compartment," Jacobsen said.

Mardikian has found not only brushstrokes from when the bench was
painted but also the pants of several crewmembers recorded in the
paint. That may mean the sub was back in the water before the paint
had time to dry.

As scientists worked on the bench Thursday, several recognizable
features of the planks stood out -- most noticeably, a notch in the
aft section of the bench, likely made by a sailor who had rapped his
knuckles on it one too many times while operating the aft ballast

A piece of the bench was missing in one section, an area where the
remains of a Navy pea coat were found. It could have been that the
heavy coat was used as padding on that particular seat.

Although scientists have found a few hairs from the crewman
concreted to the bench, they have yet to find any markings common to
other wooden pieces of sailing ships -- not a "George was
here," "war is ####" or "Lincoln stinks" anywhere.

It may have been too cramped to maneuver well enough for the men to carve, or maybe they had other things on their minds while aboard the Hunley.

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