Charleston, SC – February 28, 2003 – When scientists open the gold pocket watch belonging to Lt. George Dixon, what will it tell us? “Obviously the time on the watch has all of our interest, it could be very telling,” said Hunley Project Director, Dr. Robert Neyland. The excavation of the watch will begin on Wednesday, March 5th and Neyland says it could easily take two days to complete the excavation process.
Archaeologists and conservators at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center removed the ornate, gold pocket watch from a sediment block excavated in the lab last June. Before the watch could be opened and excavated, it was x-rayed in order to gain a better understanding of its condition and internal structure. This allows the scientific staff to safely open the watch while protecting the artifact and any information it may hold.
The x-ray images also helped the scientific staff determine, if perhaps the watchcase had trapped a pocket of 19th century air within it. A sample of this air could provide important data to scientists studying atmospheric changes. “We now know that the watch does not appear to contain trapped air, nor is it a sealed container. Upon careful inspection of the watchcase and the x-rays, we were able to tell that the interior latch that holds the case shut seems to have corroded, and left the front cover very slightly ajar,” said Hunley Project Senior Archaeologist, Maria Jacobsen.
The pocket watch belonged to Lt. George E. Dixon, the Captain of the Hunley. It is decorated on both sides and includes a chain and an ornate fob, both made of gold. The chain of the watch was intertwined with very fragile, waterlogged textiles, meaning Lt. Dixon probably kept the watch in the right hand pocket of a vest or coat.
Senator Glenn McConnell, Chairman of the Hunley Commission, said of the upcoming event, “Not only is the time on the watch significant, but there may be an inscription on the interior of the watch that may help us understand who Lt. Dixon really was. The elegant outside appearance of the watch and chain has already given us a sense of Dixon’s personality.”
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.