H.L. Hunley Expedition, 1996
Charleston, South Carolina
15 May 1996
The South Carolina Hunley Commission and the U.S. Navy/Naval Historical Center initiated on 29 April a jointly funded survey of the wreck believed to be the remains of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley. The principal goals of this survey are to confirm the identity of the submarine as Hunley, ascertain its condition, and to calculate the feasibility of a future recovery project. The principal parties tasked to carry out this expedition are the National Park Service-Submerged Cultural Resource Unit (NPS-SCRU), South Carolina Institute of Anthropology and Archaeology-Underwater Archaeology Division (SCIAA), Naval Historical Center-Underwater Archaeology Program (NHC), and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Mr. Dan Lenihan, of the National Park Service-Submerged Cultural Resource Unit is the Principal Investigator for the project and Mr. Larry Murphy is his Deputy. The U.S. Coast Guard, the Naval Weapons Station, and Naval Criminal Investigative Services are providing site security. South Carolina Educational Television has been selected by the State to document all phases of the project. Several private companies and not for profit groups are donating to the expedition their unique expertise and an array of the latest in state of the art technology for remote sensing and global positioning, geology, sedimentology, and corrosion engineering. These groups include Marine Sonic Technology, Inc., Edgetech Corporation, Oceaneering, Inc., Geometrics, Jim Graham and Associates, and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology.
From 29 April through 6 May, the NPS-SCRU and SCIAA carried out Phase One of the H.L. Hunley Expedition. This Phase consisted of non-invasive, remote sensing using a marine magnetometer and fathometer, side-scan sonar, and sub-bottom profiler. This sophisticated magnetic and acoustic sensing equipment relocated the site believed to be Hunley, defined the limits of this archaeological site, discovered other areas possibly associated with the site, and profiled the depth of the submarine below the sediments.
On 7 May, Phase Two, the excavation of the site was begun and is scheduled to continue until 24 May. The excavation intends to uncover and positively identify Hunley by discovering and recording several of the hull features unique to Hunley, such as the two towers with their hatches and portholes, braces placed forward of the two towers, torpedo spar, bow diving planes, airbox and snorkel, propeller, rudder, and iron ballast. While areas of the hull are exposed and being recorded, corrosion engineers from Jim Graham and Associates will conduct studies of the corrosion levels of the metal. Phase Two is progressing , although anchoring and diving on the site is being hindered by high winds and heavy seas.
Once the excavation, documentation, and corrosion studies are completed the submarine will be recovered with protective sediments. The analysis of the data gathered during this expedition will take many months to evaluate. When all of the studies have been completed a final report of the expedition and recommendations for the preservation and recovery of H.L. Hunley will be delivered to the South Carolina Hunley Commission and U.S. Navy.