For the past 10 years the “Hunley Project” has brought together mystery, history, science and technology, creating interest that is not just regional, or national, but international. What is this project of which I speak? It is the story of the world’s first successful combat submarine, which was raised from the bottom of the sea four miles from Charleston Harbour in South Carolina in the year 2000.
The H.L. Hunley was a top secret, private project built in Mobile, Alabama in 1863. It was designed by an engineer from New Orleans named James McClintock, who was hired privately by a group of investors who believed they could make a fortune getting through the blockade which the North had imposed on the South during the Civil War of the United States. On February 17, 1864 the Hunley detonated an explosive charge into the hull of the USS Housatonic, which created a hole in the ship large enough for a train to pass through. The ship sank within minutes, killing five crewmen and leaving over 100 stranded in the sea. Shortly after that the Hunley disappeared. Its whereabouts were not known for 131 years, until a diving team discovered it four miles off the coast of Charleston in 1995.
At the time of its discovery the sub was buried under five feet of sand and 27 feet of water. It took five years to recover the sub, coming to the surface after 136 years underwater, on August 8, 2000.
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Today, ten years later, the Hunley has so far earned about $120 million for the state of South Carolina as thousands of tourists from all over the world flock to gaze at it every year. As scientists and researchers continue to examine and learn from the Hunley and find ways to better preserve it, this amazing bit of history continues to reveal more about itself and the times from which it came.