Researchers unveil crew quarters of Civil War submarine that changed the tide of naval warfare

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Over 150 years ago, when the United States used Navy ships that looked more like the USS Constitution than the gigantic super aircraft carriers of today, and the Civil War still waged raging, a glimpse of the future slipped beneath the surface of Charleston. Harbor.

Above the surface, the USS Housatonic began its regular patrol. Its responsibility was to enforce the Union blockade along the South Carolina coast, helping to strangle the Confederacy of the supplies it needed to extend the war effort.

From his vantage point on the deck, John Crosby, the ship’s acting captain, spotted something in the distance to starboard forward. The dark figure first appeared being a “porpoise, rising to the surface to breathe,” but Crosby had been warned of the possibility of an attack from what he called the Confederate’s “infernal machine”. He quickly sounded the alarm, bringing the ship’s crew to the deck and unleashing a flurry of small arms fire at the mysterious body approaching from beneath the surface.

Under the ravages and gunfire, eight men regrouped in a new invention, the submarine, and continued their approach. Four weeks earlier, the USS New Ironsides had been attacked and damaged by a semi-submersible Confederate ship, but their ship, the HL Hunley, was a full-fledged submarine. It was dangerous to simply operate, as thirteen men, including the inventor of the ship, had already died in training exercises, but the captain of the small ship, Confederate Lieutenant George Dixon, was not discouraged. Unbeknownst to him, he and his crew were destined to join this figure of sailors lost in the depths that night, but not before changing the course of naval history.

The Housatonic’s cannons were useless as the Hunley was approaching almost completely below the waterline, and the shotgun and shotguns fired at it were not up to the Hunley’s armor. A sixteen-foot rod protruded from the nose of the submarine with a spar torpedo mounted at its end. It struck the Housatonic in its starboard quarter, right next to its powder magazine and the ensuing explosion would send the Housatonic into the depths of the harbor: the first warship ever to be sunk by a submarine.

Most of the Housatonic’s crew managed to escape by lifeboats that night, but the plight of Confederate sailors who set in motion an appreciation of combat submarines that extends to nuclear submarines Advances to today’s global strike remained a mystery until its wreckage was discovered in 1995, when the National Underwater and Marine Agency novelist Clive Cussler found it buried under the sands of the harbor.

Five years later, the wreckage was removed from port and placed in a 90,000 gallon freshwater conservation tank at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston, and four years later the crew were exhumed from their battle stations and was buried correctly. On Wednesday, researchers at a laboratory in North Charleston, South Carolina, unveiled the crew compartment to the public for the first time since the Hunley embarked on this historic voyage 153 years ago.

“It’s that ‘wow’ moment where you take a step back and realize what you’re doing,” Johanna Rivera, one of the restaurateurs, told CNN.

Inside, the team found textile remnants and a thin metal casing placed around the crank that seven of the ship’s crew would turn to propel the ship under the waves.

“When you turn an iron bar in front of or below you, you will need something to prevent your hands from rubbing them or rubbing them raw,” said archaeologist Michael Scafuri. Recount journalists.

Paul Mardikian, left, senior curator, and Philippe de Vivies remove sediment from a piece of the submarine

Although their work sheds light on how the crew members lived when they worked inside the submarine, the mystery of why they died remains. A number of things may have prevented them from making the return trip: They may have suffered damage in the attack, the ship may have malfunctioned and sank, or a mistake could have doomed the eight-man crew. A latch on the Hunley’s forward turret was found open when it was discovered in 1995, which could have caused the ship to sink, but it is not known whether the latch may have opened in the century it was sitting on. the seabed.

Work on the Hunley is expected to continue for at least five to seven years, and the researchers involved continue to hope for a conclusive answer to the mystery of what sank the Hunely – but even if the mystery remains, the Hunley’s place in the history the books cannot be questioned: the first submarine to achieve a victory in a naval battle.

Images courtesy of Friends of Hunley, Emerging Civil War

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