Excavation on Hunley Resumes
EXCAVATION ON HUNLEY RESUMES
September 28, 2001
The archaeologists and scientists at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center are getting back to work on solving the mysteries of the H. L. Hunley submarine. The next phase of the excavation will resume Monday, October 1st with 1-2weeks of x-rays. According to Dr. Robert Neyland, Project Director, there are three areas left to excavate in the central compartment of the sub: the area under the bench, the forward part of the central compartment, and the after part of the central compartment. What is extremely exciting about this phase of the excavation is what secrets can be told. “The most difficult task is excavating under the bench where the Hunley crew sat. We believe there could be a number of personal effects from the crew under here, because it’s really the only place on the sub where the crew could have stored their personal items. There is a lot of corrosion in this area, which makes the sediment very hard, so we will have to proceed with caution,” said Dr. Robert Neyland. The x-rays will help to determine what kind of artifacts the scientists will encounter and their positions. “Already we have discovered from x-ray images a pocket watch that belonged to Lt. George Dixon. Also two pencils were found onboard that indicate we may find a notebook or logbook. Additionally, x-ray images of Lt. Dixon shows a number of interesting facts, one according to Dr. Neyland, could be a metal clasp for a notebook,” said Senator Glenn McConnell, Chairman of the Hunley Commission. Geological tests will also be conducted, which could tell us about the internal environment in the submarine when the Hunley sank.
Most of the remains of the crew have been removed, and so far the forensic scientists have confirmed they have the remains of eight men. “But we may have a ninth person, we won’t know until we excavate forward of the front conning tower,” said Dr. Neyland. Dr. Doug Owsley and Rebecca Kardash, both from the Smithsonian Institution’s forensic department, are part of the excavation team and are responsible for the analysis and identification of the crew members, are helping with identifying the victim’s of the September 11th terrorist attack on America. Because of this, Dr. Neyland says it will have an impact on the excavation schedule, and future forensic research such as facial reconstruction and DNA analysis.
“This phase of the excavation should be completed by Christmas,” said Warren Lasch, Chairman of Friends of the Hunley. “After the excavation in the central compartment, the ballast tanks will be excavated. In the future the submarine could possibly be dismantled. So I would urge the public to go see the historical Hunley as she’s in her original condition.”
Over the next year, a variety of scientists will join the project to conduct forensic and other analysis and to discuss conservation and procedures. The burial of the brave crew of the H. L. Hunley is tentatively scheduled for 2003, pending on the availability of the forensic team.
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