Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A visit to the H.L. Hunley, legendary Confederate submarine

While it is being restored, the H.L. Hunley is kept in a massive holding tank
 in a huge warehouse-like building. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
Visitors may view the Hunley from behind Plexiglass.
The vessel is kept in a water and sodium hydroxide solution while it is being restored.
Eight members of the Hunley crew died in the sub's final voyage.
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Tour exhibit of gold coin found among remains
 of a Hunley crew member.
In October in North Charleston, S.C., I spent 30 minutes with the H.L. Hunley, the famous Confederate submarine that sank three times. (It was raised and put back into service after the first two sinkings.) On its final voyage, on Feb. 17, 1864, the Hunley went to the bottom of Charleston Harbor, drowning all eight of the crew, after it sank the Union blockader USS Housatonic with a torpedo. (Really a large, explosive charge mounted on a spar -- a long pole.) Although subject of intense speculation and study, the reason for its demise remains unknown.

Raised in 2000, the nearly 40-foot long vessel is undergoing careful, and tedious, restoration in a massive tank of water and sodium hydroxide solution -- think Drano -- to help preserve the world's first attack submarine to sink a warship.

Want to visit? The Hunley is kept in a warehouse-like building about 10 miles north of  historic downtown Charleston. Tours are available only on weekends, and adult admission is 16 bucks. You can view the Hunley from behind Plexiglass. In a small exhibit at the end of the tour, you'll find the "legendary" gold coin discovered with the remains of one of its unfortunate occupants. Its history is explained on a placard next to the coin display.

Visitors can also sit in a replica of the sub, slightly larger inside than the original, near the gift shop, where the usual assortment of T-shirts, sweatshirts and other Hunley souvenirs can be purchased. (Claustrophobics should avoid the replica sub.)

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