Friday, November 22, 2013

H.L. Hunley: The Civil War Submarine

My son loves the "You Wouldn't Want to....." book series. They are a great introduction into history for young children. One of the first books we discovered in this series was You Wouldn't Want to Be in the First Submarine!: An Undersea Expedition You'd Rather Avoid. Through this book, we were first introduced to the amazing story of the Civil War era submarine, the H. L. Hunley. The Hunley is significant in that it was the first submersible to sink an enemy vessel. While it played only a small role in the American Civil War, it was a major technological advancement of the era. Tragically, three crews of men perished in the operation of this vessel including it's final successful mission against the Housatonic.

After reading You Wouldn't Want to Be in the First Submarine!, my son was interested enough in the story to want to read other books on the subject including Shipwreck Search: Discovery of the H. L. Hunley (On My Own Science) and Secrets Of A Civil War Submarine: Solving The Mysteries Of The H. L. Hunley. I even found an audio version of Raising the Hunley: The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine (American Civil War) for the whole family to listen to during a family trip. This book covered the 150 year old historical facts around the development and deployment of this remarkable vessel as well as it's recent discovery and recovery off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. It was during the conclusion of this book that I learned about the Friends of the Hunley.

Friends of the Hunley is a non-profit entity that was set up by the Hunley Commission to help raise money for the recovery, conservation, and ultimately the exhibition of the submarine. After a quick internet search, I found that the recovered vessel was housed in Charleston and tours to the public were available. So we decided to make a point of visiting Charleston for the express purpose of seeing the Hunley for ourselves. The tour was well done. Having read and listened to the various sources listed above, though, the tour was mostly a review of what we already knew with the marked distinction that we could see the actual objects mentioned including the steal hull of the Hunley itself.

The Hunley as it appears today
The Hunley is currently housed in a large warehouse looking building where scientists from Clemson University are working to stabilize what remains of the ship so that it may eventually be displayed in an open air exhibit. On the premises of this research site is a gift shop and small interpretive area with models and a full scale replica of a section of the Hunley as well as props from the 1999 TNT movie The Hunley (Tvm).
Inside the full-scale replica; the Hunley was operated by hand cranks
The openings for getting in and out were quite small
The the size of a cross section of the Hunley
If you have any kind of interest in Civil War history, naval history, the history of Charleston, or submarines in general, you will find the facts surrounding the H.L. Hunley most fascinating. You wouldn't want to.... miss out on learning about this enthralling piece of American History and innovation.
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