Friday, March 23, 2001
News headlines this month have focused on the U.S. Navy's
investigation into the death of nine people in the Feb. 9 collision between an
American nuclear sub and a Japanese fishing vessel off Hawaii.
And yesterday authorities announced they had found evidence of
nine more people killed in another February submarine disaster. But the
parallels end there. This disaster happened in the Atlantic Ocean and it took
place a little earlier...136 years earlier.
On Feb. 17, 1864, the confederate submarine H.L. Hunley became the
first submersible to sink an enemy ship when it rammed an explosive spar through
the hull of the USS Housatonic, one of the fleet of Union ships blockading the
Charleston, SC harbor (see Design News, www.manufacturing.net/magazine/dn/archives/2000/dn1120.00/new.html#12).
But after watching the 1,240-ton Housatonic (www.history.navy.mil/branches/org12-6e.htm)
burn and sink, the 7.5-ton Hunley signaled it would return to base, then
It was found in 1995, lying under 28 ft of water in Charleston
harbor. And in August, 2000, engineers lifted the 40-ft boat onto a barge. The
operation demanded extensive finite element analysis, performed with ANSYS
version 5.6 (www.ansys.com), and required
that divers fill the hull with a bouyant foam called Froth Pak, from Flexible
Products Inc. (www.flexibleproducts.com).
Now, finally, the Hunley (www.history.navy.mil/branches/org12-3.htm)
is beginning the secret of its mysterious sinking. Archeologists are carefully
chipping sand and sediments off her pumps and ballast valves. And yesterday they
recovered three human ribs, a piece of cloth, and part of a leather belt,
presumably from the nine-man crew that had powered the boat with hand-turned
cranks. Check out www.hunley.org/html/frame.htm
for updates and further research.