Photograph of P.T. Barnum
Many people over the years thought they found the Hunley, so when underwater archaeologist Harry Pecorelli actually did find the Hunley, he himself didn't believe it. Upon touching the sub, he radioed back to the boat, "I don't know what it is, but it is definitely not the Hunley." After this we affectionately call Harry, "The first person to have never found the Hunley."

On the night of February 17, 1864 history was made. At the same moment, a mystery was born. The Hunley became the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship, but why had she suddenly disappeared? What caused her to sink? And would she ever be found?

Since the end of the War Between the States, explorers and treasure seekers have scoured the sea around the site of the fallen Housatonic, hoping to discover the Hunley and her crew. Early in the Twentieth Century, a reward of $100,000 was even offered by the great showman, P.T. Barnum to encourage mercenaries to find the lost vessel. But as the years passed by, the story of the Hunley remained shrouded in mystery with her secrets hidden and her resting place unknown for well over a century.

The world would have to wait until the tools of modern technology would begin to unlock the secrets of the Hunley.

Writer, Archaeologist, Adventurer. Discoverer!

Best selling author Clive Cussler established the National Underwater Marine Agency and spent fifteen years searching for Hunley. The world's first sub to sink a ship in battle was finally discovered on May 3rd, 1995 by N.U.M.A. archeologists Ralph Wilbanks, Wes Hall, and Harry Pecorelli.

The Attraction Results in Discovery

With a magnetometer, the Cussler crew located a metal object off the coast of Sullivan's Island. After diving in nearly 30 feet of water - they removed three feet of sediment to reveal one of the Hunley's two small coning towers.

At first we thought we only had a piece of old debris," said Hall. "But while groping through the silt my hand came upon the hinges of the hatch cover."

The NUMA team towed the magnetometer behind a boat as they criss-crossed the water guided by a set of grid-like coordinates. Using this method, Cussler and his team discovered many other shipwrecks in their search for the sub, including Confederate blockade runners.

As if stuck in time - she lay on her starboard side with the bow pointing almost directly toward Sullivans Island - four miles away. The same direction she was heading that historical, fateful and mysterious night.

Buried relatively soon after she sank, the Hunley was covered over completely with silt. It is estimated that this process comprised approximately 25 years. This "quick burial" has protected the rusty hull from the salt-bearing currents that normally erode sunken ships.

The 1996 assessment of the site did not find any areas of the hull that appeared to be weak. The only noticeable damage was the missing viewport from the forward conning tower. Archaeologists believe that the sediment within the ship may have helped preserve the bodies of Lt. Dixon and his crew.

Financed with the royalties of his underwater action novels, Cussler estimates that he spent $130,000 searching for the Hunley. Since the inception of N.U.M.A. in the late 1970s, Cussler and his not-for-profit organization have discovered over 60 shipwrecks. Cussler's book "Sea Hunters" chronicles his undersea adventures and discoveries, including his most significant find - H.L. Hunley.

For more information on NUMA and Clive Cussler, check out the the official NUMA website at

Related Pages:

Finding The Hunley
Obstacles to Recovery
A Plan Evolves
Recovery Team
Recovery Animation
Photo Gallery
   Recovery Efforts
   Recovery Day
   Hunley Close-ups

Copyright (c) 2014 Friends of the Hunley.
All Rights Reserved.