Charleston, SC (June 2, 2007) – Reminiscent of the recovery of H. L. Hunley in 2000, a submarine again traveled through Charleston to make its way to the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, home of the ongoing archaeological and conservation work on the legendary submarine. In May, the 34-foot Pioneer submarine replica was lifted from the second floor of the Charleston Museum and then transported to the Hunley lab on a 22-foot open trailer through the streets of downtown Charleston. The full-scale model of the Pioneer, the first prototype that led to the development of the Hunley, is now part of the suite of exhibits on display during weekend tours.
The Pioneer: The story of the Hunley began in 1862 in New Orleans, Louisiana, when Horace L. Hunley eagerly joined James McClintock and Baxter Watson in their venture to build a stealth weapon that traveled underneath the water. Their first attempt was a vessel called the Pioneer, which was ready for testing in February 1862.
The Pioneer proved seaworthy, but was never put into service. Final tests were underway when, in the Spring of 1862, Union forces closed in on New Orleans. The designers were forced to scuttle the Pioneer to prevent the enemy from confiscating the new technology.
Fleeing New Orleans, the Pioneer’s inventors went to Mobile, Alabama determined to design another submersible vessel. There the Hunley was built and later sent to Charleston where she would alter the course of military history.
After taking control of New Orleans, the Union found the Pioneer and studied the vessel. In 1868, the remains were offered at public auction, where she was sold for $43.
The Pioneer and the lessons learned from her testing helped the Hunley accomplish her mission.
Over a century later, the Pioneer’s symbolic contribution to the development of submarine technology was honored with the creation of a full-scale replica by Robert Bosch Corporation. Bosch tasks it engineers with constructing historically significant objects as part of training apprentice program. The model was built by members of Apprentice Team 20, class of 2000.