The Charleston City Paper reports that considerable progress has been made in removing rust and undersea concretions and revealing the original surfaces of the CSS H.L. Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel but which was also lost herself mysteriously in the aftermath of the successful attack in Charleston harbor 17 February 1864.
For the first time since the disappearance of the H.L. Hunley, experts are closer than ever before to seeing the Confederate submarine as it originally appeared in 1864.
Following a lengthy and ongoing effort to restore and preserve the first successful combat submarine, a team at Clemson Universityâ€™s Warren Lasch Conservation Center revealed the inner workings of the Hunley on Wednesday. Soaking the vessel in low concentrations of sodium hydroxide has allowed researchers to slowly break away the tough layers of sand, sediments, and corrosion that accumulated on the Hunley over the 136 years that it spent submerged off the coast of Charleston. This effort has revealed the structural features of the Civil War submarine and provided experts with a better view of the interior of the vessel.
â€œThe hull is exposed in its entirety on the exterior, so theyâ€™re going to be able to see the submarine as it was originally constructed. It looks like a submarine now as opposed to a corroded artifact,â€ said Clemson archeologist Michael Scafuri, who has been working on the Hunley since 2000. â€œThe design of the submarine will be visible. The features that were hidden before are now exposed. Basically, it looks like a submarine now more than ever.â€ …
While the ultimate goal at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center is to restore the Hunley to its original state and display the submarine to the public, there remains a considerable amount of mystery surrounding the sinking of the vessel following an attack on the Union ship USS Housatonic.
â€œThereâ€™s still a lot of thing we donâ€™t understand about how the submarine worked and about what happened the night of the attack on Feb. 17, 1864. Weâ€™re still trying to answer a lot of the questions that we have,â€ says Scafuri.