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Mystery Of Confederate Submarine Finally Solved After 150 Years

During the American civil war, a Confederate States of America submarine made one successful attack against a warship before being lost. Eight crewmen went down with the submarine, including Horace Hunley, the man who invented the submarine and for whom she was named. Since 1863, exactly what happened to the submarine has remained a mystery. Now, it's finally solved.

The Hunley was lost to the sea in 1864, so all anyone could do was speculate about the fate of the crew members. Interest in the vessel waned, but was renewed in 1995 when the wreckage was discovered by a diver. The submarine was buried under several feet of silt, which made it difficult to spot for more than a century off the coast of South Carolina. Contents of the sub were valued at more than $40 million.

The sub was raised in 2000, and scientists believed that the mystery could be solved. Unfortunately, figuring out what sank the Hunley wasn't as easy as they'd hope. Skeletons of the crewmen were found at their stations. They didn't appear to suffer from any broken bones. The air hatches were closed, and the bilge pumps hadn't been used, and only one small window and a hole in one part of the ship showed damage. Other than that, the sub was fairly intact.

For 17 years, two scientists have painstakingly worked to collect the remains of the crew members and restore the vessel. They've also tried to piece together the puzzle of how the submarine might have sunk. They finally believe they know the answer.

Rachel Lance, one of the researchers assisting with the study of how the crew died, says that the mathematics work out to show that it was a 'blast lung' that likely killed them. A blast lung comes from high explosive detonations. Scientists believe the Hunley's own torpedo exploded. The force of the explosion would have traveled through the soft tissue of the crew members, causing fatal lung trauma. With no crew, the then-crippled sub simply drifted and sank.

"You have an instant fatality that leaves no marks on the skeletal remains. Unfortunately, the soft tissues that would show us what happened have decomposed in the past hundred years," said Lance, who believes there is an 85 percent chance that a blast would have resulted in the fatal blast lung if a torpedo exploded on the sub. Such an explosion would have resulted in a shock wave traveling 4920 feet per second in water, and 1,115 feet per second in the air.

Lance says it is something like stirring hot chocolate. "When you mix these speeds together in a frothy combination like the human lungs, or hot chocolate, it combines and it ends up making the energy go slower than it would in either one," she explained. "That creates kind of a worst case scenario for the lungs."

The H.L. Hunley seemed to be bad luck from the start. After it was built, it sank while docked, killing five of the eight crew members on board. Two months later, a crew exhibiting how the sub operated never resurfaced. The sub was found weeks later, with that crew found dead as well.

In February of 1864, the Hunley was the first submarine to successfully attack a warship. The sub sank the United States Navy ship, the USS Housatonic, killing five men. It was shortly after this that the Hunley disappeared.

Source: Daily Mail
Photo: YouTube

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