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Confederate sub righted

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - 10:46 am

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — Scientists in South Carolina began the painstaking job Wednesday of righting the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, which sank on its side during the Civil War after becoming the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship.

Workers rotated the famed submarine by about 10 degrees by midafternoon Wednesday in a delicate effort that is expected to take two days to complete.

The Hunley was resting on its side at a 45-degree angle when it sank off Charleston in 1864 and was raised in slings that way 11 years ago. The hand-cranked sub and its crew of eight went down after sinking the Union blockade ship Housatonic, but why it sank remains a mystery.

Rotating the sub upright and removing the slings will reveal the entire hull for the first time in nearly 150 years and may provide clues as to its fate.

But Paul Mardikian, the senior conservator on the Hunley project, doesn’t expect to see any obvious clues once the sub is upright.

He said any new clues will probably have to wait until the sediment encrusted on the hull is removed, a process that will take a year or more.

When the sub was raised, there were 15 slings supporting it.

At the time of its development, the Hunley was considered a secret weapon developed to try to break the Union blockade that held the South in a stranglehold. It would not be until World War I that subs were commonly used in warfare.