Sunday, January 01, 2006

Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H. L. Hunley


June 16, 2005

WALKER, SALLY M. Secrets of a Civil War Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H. L. Hunley. Carolrhoda, 2005 112p illus. with photographs ISBN 1-57505-830-8 $18.95 R Gr. 5-8.

As she did in her outstanding Fossil Fish Found Alive (BCCB 4/ 02), Walker again takes up an offbeat topic and transforms it into a first-rate tale of scientific and scholarly sleuthing. The first submarine to destroy an enemy vessel, the Confederate sub Hunley established itself as a death trap from the start, as two crews sank and died during her trial runs. On her first true mission-a rousing success that delivered a torpedo into the hull of the Union ship Housatonic-she sank for the third time, but in murky waters from which she could not be immediately raised.

Rediscovered in 1995, she entered a new phase of her history as a trophy coveted by treasure hunters, an artifact coveted by rival federal and state governments, an engineering challenge to the team that would raise her, an enigma to maritime historians who study and conserve her, and a crumbling coffin for the remains of the men trapped within her. Walker begins with the ship's known history, printed on buff-colored pages, and then shifts to white page stock for the Hunley & contemporary period. She is as adept at explicating the technicalities of submarine design, the physics of diving, and the intricacies of raising the corroded vessel as she is at recounting the battle and following the tracks of forensic anthropologists who try to reconstruct the crew's last minutes. Plenty of color photos of the Hunley and her caretakers, text notes, glossary, index, and reading lists round out the volume. Beside reveling in the pure pleasure of a well-told shipwreck tale, readers will expand their appreciation of the many sciences and skills required to retrieve and restore fragments of our past. EB Copyright University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Graduate School of Library & Information Science, Publications Office Jun 2005

Source: Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.



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