GOOD QUESTION: Will we ever know for sure what caused the Hunley to sink?

Good Question

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Thursday marks 19 years since the Hunley submarine was raised from the waters off the Charleston coast. In this week’s Good Question, Bill asked: “Will we ever know for sure what caused the Hunley to sink?”

It was a memory 136 years in the making – The H.L. Hunley was raised from the ocean floor on August 8th, 2000, about 4-miles off our coast.

The Confederate submarine attacked the union sloop Housatonic with a spar torpedo on February 17, 1864, sinking the vessel. But the Hunley was lost shortly after the attack along with its eight crewmen.

That much we know.

“Right now, we are in the final stage of conservation of the submarine,” said archeologist Michael Scafuri.

We have learned so much more in the 19 years the Hunley has been at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in North Charleston.

“We’ve had a lot of surprises throughout the process. Most of those surprises had to do with how well-built the submarine was and its condition.”

But as the Hunley sits in a chemical bath, one question is still not answered with 100-percent certainty – why it went down that night in 1864.

Scafuri says it’s like a crime scene investigation; gathering evidence to try and help solve the case is not an easy thing considering the Hunley was underwater for over 130 years.

“Sometimes it’s not always cut and dry. It’s not clear because, sort of the fading away of a lot of this evidence. So we get to the point where we have a pretty good idea of what maybe happened, but we can’t say for sure.”

There have been theories over the years. The crew suffocated or drowned from a faulty latch. Maybe even a shock wave from a torpedo killed them and the sub went down – the only thing we know for sure is that we may never know for sure.

“We’ll never be able to say with 100-percent certainty exactly what happened to every part of this story. What we’re hoping to do is do the best we can with the information we are gathering from the submarine and get as close as possible to the truth.”

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