On a chilly February night in 1864, eight men climbed into the HUNLEY, an experimental vessel designed to travel beneath the water’s surface. Their mission: to break the naval blockade at Charleston Harbor by sinking the USS Housatonic. After a stealth underwater approach to the target, the HUNLEY rammed her spar torpedo into the Housatonic, which sank in a matter of minutes. She survived long enough for the crew to signal to shore that they had a successful mission and then vanished into the darkness of the sea. Maritime history changed forever that night. The era of the military submarine was born. At the same moment, a mystery was born: what happened to the HUNLEY? Why did she simply disappear? That question remained shrouded in mystery for over a century.
THE GREAT DISCOVERY
Then, in 1995, news began to spread around the world. Clive Cussler had located the legendary submarine, lying on the ocean floor, just off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. In 2000, the HUNLEY was successfully raised, completely intact, with the bodies of her crew resting at their stations. It was an amazing discovery: the vessel was literally a time capsule. In 2001, an international team of scientists began the process of carefully excavating her contents at a high-tech laboratory facility in North Charleston. And one of the most breathtaking discoveries came early.
A COIN OF GOLD
For generations, a story was told about Lt. George Dixon, the HUNLEY’s commanding officer. According to legend, a young woman from Mobile, Alabama gave him a gold coin as a good luck charm. Reportedly, the coin in his pocket saved his life during the Battle of Shiloh by absorbing the impact of a bullet. Was this legend true? Did the coin really exist? For generations, no one knew. During the excavation of the HUNLEY, a gold coin was found next to the remains of Lt. Dixon. Deeply indented from the impact of a bullet, the coin is inscribed with the following words: Shiloh – April 6th 1862 – My life Preserver – G.E.D. That discovery alone captured the imagination of the world. Since then, many more fascinating artifacts have been discovered, teaching us about life in the 19th century.
SOLVE THE MYSTERY
Today, archaeologists are conducting a comprehensive forensic investigation to learn why the HUNLEY disappeared. They are piecing together — one clue at a time — evidence that will ultimately allow us to know why the vessel and her crew were lost at sea. The HUNLEY project continues to be a dramatic voyage into history and technology. Our goal is to preserve the HUNLEY and to develop a world-class maritime museum, where our nation’s rich naval history can be taught to future generations.
Will You Help Save the Hunley?
To complete this historic journey, we must depend on donations from those who care about history. If you donate a minimum of $40 dollars, you will automatically become a member. Benefits include:
- An official FRIENDS OF THE HUNLEY baseball cap;
- Free annual members-only tours that offer a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the HUNLEY lab;
- A FRIENDS OF THE HUNLEY membership card and a decal for your car;
- The Blue Light, our newsletter containing articles, project updates and photos;
- A 10% discount on all HUNLEY merchandise; and
- Discounts on HUNLEY tour tickets.
Your donation will enable us to complete the HUNLEY’s journey. Also, FRIENDS OF THE HUNLEY is a charitable, 501(c)3 non-profit organization meaning your donation is tax deductible. We ask you to join us in preserving the HUNLEY. It will only be possible with your help.