Charleston, SC – February 17th, 2003 – Scientists conserving the H. L. Hunley announced today they will begin excavation of a wallet found onboard the vessel.
The announcement coincides with the 139th anniversary of the disappearance of the H. L. Hunley, after she became the first submarine in the world history to sink another ship. Excavations to date have revealed that the technology the Hunley embodied was ahead of her time, but now the excavation and on-going research is revealing more personal details of the crewman. The wallet may hold clues to the personal life of the crewman as well as pictures, documents, and other artifacts from the Civil-war era.
The wallet is made of leather and is approximately 3 by 5 inches. Leather is very durable, even under extended periods of submersion in water. Paul Mardikian, senior conservator on the Hunley project, said, “There are endless possibilities on what kind of information this wallet may hold. It is just too difficult to imagine that someone would carry a wallet with nothing in it.” In the past, Mardikian has worked on wallets recovered from the Titanic that held documents, currency, and business cards, which had legible writing on them.
The wallet was found near a crewmember’s shoulder bone, which means he possibly carried it in his jacket pocket. Warren Lasch, Chairman of Friends of the Hunley said, “It is timely to begin such important work on the week of the Hunley’s anniversary, as we pause to remember the crewmen and the impact their sacrifice had on naval history.”
Any information the wallet may hold will add to personal details about the crew, which are starting to emerge as a result of ongoing forensic and genealogical research. Senator Glenn McConnell, Chairman of the Hunley Commission said, “This is an incredible opportunity to put facts into the identity of this man. As we enter this year, we will be focusing on the crew more than ever using personal items as clues to put together the jigsaw puzzle of the true identity of each crewman as well as learn their physical appearance. We will lay these men to rest before the clock strikes the hour of the 140th anniversary. We should expect many fascinating revelations in the month ahead.”
One of the main goals of Friends of the Hunley is to learn as much as possible about the history of the crew before they are laid to rest at Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina. The crew will be buried alongside 13 other crewmen who bravely lost their lives while operating the world’s first modern submarine in 1863.
The H. L. Hunley was located in 1995 by Clive Cussler’s National Underwater Agency (NUMA), a 501c3 non-profit organization. The hand-cranked submarine was raised in 2000 and delivered to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, where an international team of scientists are at work excavating and conserving the historic vessel and its artifacts.
Hours of operation for public tours and the Hunley gift shop are from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p. m. on Saturdays and from noon to 5:00 p. m. on Sundays. All proceeds go to support the Hunley conservation and excavation project. To purchase tickets call toll free 1-877-4HUNLEY (1-877-448-6539) or log onto the Internet at www.etix.com.