Human remains found in American Civil War submarine as it exits 75,000 gallon tank of chemicals
The 40-foot-long ship sank about an hour after becoming the first submarine to sink an enemy warship, killing all eight crew members on board
Human remains have been discovered inside the HL Hunley – a historical treasure that is the first submarine to sink an enemy warship.
The submarine was part of the Confederate Army during the conflict and was sunk near North Carolina, South Carolina, in 1864.
The 40-foot-long ship sank about an hour after the USS Housatonic sank, killing all eight crew members on board.
But the Hunley was lifted from the ocean floor in 2000 after being finally located in 1995 and a major operation launched to retrieve it.
It was then that experts discovered that it had been sunk by its own torpedo, which exploded while deployed in combat.
For 17 years, a team has undertaken a vast operation to restore its structure and recover the remains of the dead sailors who took it away.
In 2004, the remains of the men they recovered were ceremonially buried in Magnolia cemetery, reports daily mail .
But the restoration team then found a human tooth stuck in a hardened mass of sand near the boat’s crank late last year.
They also found evidence that the submarine was powered by a set of high-tech gears that ran through the length of the ship.
It is believed to be the tooth of Confederate Navy sailor Frank Collins, who was only 24 when he died in the sinking.
Archaeologist Michael Scafuri, who led the project, told the Post and courier that the tooth got stuck in the “post-mortem” sediment.
He explained that this happened after Collins’ body decomposed and the loose tooth fused and corroded with the iron.
Friends of the Hunleys)
But the 17-year operation to remove the sediment and sand that covers the submarine is still not complete.
The team eventually hope to restore it as close to its original appearance as possible.
This involved soaking it in a mixture of sodium hydroxide and a small electric current to loosen the coating.
The team keeps the boat submerged in a 75,000 gallon water tank and chemicals about three times a week empty it before shredding the sediment covering it.
But the interior cleaning operation is far from over, and it takes years to completely dig a small cabin.
Conservator and Collections Manager Johanna Rivera-Diaz said: “It’s physically difficult to do this every day.
“You wear special coveralls and use high pH chemicals.”
The eight deceased men were commemorated in a grand ceremony 13 years ago.
They were believed to be the commanding officer of the submarine, Lt. George Dixon of Alabama, James A. Wicks of North Carolina, Frank Collins of Virginia, Joseph Ridgaway of Maryland, and four foreign-born men including very little is known.