Charleston, SC – February 20th, 2003 – Scientists conserving the H. L. Hunley have completed excavating a wallet found onboard the vessel. Unfortunately, after being underwater for 139 years, time has taken its toll on anything that may have been in the wallet. Hunley Project Director, Dr. Robert Neyland says, “We found a very thin gray layer of what could be decomposed paper mixed with sediment inside the wallet. The sediment seems to be organically rich, which could be from decomposed paper. It is unclear what the material actually was; it could have been money or some other type of paper. We may never know.” “It is impossible at this point to differentiate a possible degraded organic material such as paper and the surrounding sediment, two samples will be sent to Clemson University to be analyzed,” said Paul Mardikian, Senior Conservator. Hunley staff were hoping to find some information that would provide clues to the crewman’s identity.
The 3-fold style wallet itself is in good condition, and has a leather strap that goes around the wallet to fold into a loop to keep it closed. There were no markings or initials found engraved in the leather. There was some fabric attached to the wallet, supporting the idea that the crewmember more than likely carried the wallet in his jacket pocket.
As work continues on the project, next month, scientists will excavate the gold pocket watch belonging to Lt. George Dixon, captain of the Hunley. There is much anticipation to discover the time the watch displays, which may hold clues to why the Hunley disappeared after becoming the first successful submarine in world history. Also there may be engravings inside the watch that will help tell Lt. Dixon’s story.
Senator Glenn McConnell, Chairman of the Hunley Commission said, “This had been the ongoing story of the Hunley, another mystery opens as soon as one is solved. Once all research and excavation activities are completed, we will know why the Hunley never returned home after her historic mission. The watch will no doubt provide a key clue towards solving that mystery.”
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.