Friday, April 28, 2006

Submarine not coming to Newport


The Cincinnati Post
By Peggy Kreimer and Tom O'Neill
April 27, 2006

The plan to bring a decommissioned nuclear submarine to the Newport riverfront has sunk, but the in-school education program partnered with it will steam on.

Peter Kay, board chair of the nonprofit National Submarine Science Discovery Center, confirmed Wednesday how the deal for the submarine's procurement collapsed.

In short: Organizers needed to raise about $2 million locally, and came up $1.5 million short.

The plan to bring the submarine USS Narwhal to Newport - with local money kick-starting a $25 million national fund-raising campaign - was announced with much fanfare in 2003.

The boat, to be berthed near the Newport Aquarium, was envisioned as a tourist attraction, a science museum and a science lab for students. The Narwhal would have become the first modern-era sub to be displayed outside a Navy facility.

The center was expected to draw 300,000 visitors a year and have a $20 million economic impact annually, according to a study commissioned by the Discovery Center organization.

But the fund-raising campaign "didn't even come close," Kay said. "We're focusing totally on the education program now. We've decided the region is not going to support the submarine."

The financial struggle is due in part, he said, to simple supply and demand. It's hard to keep afloat, and financially viable, any entity that can't rely on repeat visitors. He cited the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, which earlier this year revealed that it had run up a $5.5 million deficit since opening in August 2004.

With a deadline of July, and only about $500,000 in hand primarily from local corporate and foundation donations, optimism for the submarine venture waned.

"We got $75,000 from Toyota, $65,000 from the Dearborn Community Foundation in Indiana, and $50,000 from Cinergy," Kay said, adding that Scripps Howard, which publishes The Post, also contributed.

That money is virtually gone, spent on feasibility studies and the educational program at Holmes High School in Covington.

That program, which has been a growing success, costs about $150,000 to $200,000 a year to operate, Kay said. Even though a two-year grant from the Stillson Foundation expires this year, organizers are confident funds will be available to keep it going.

But the submarine that would have served as a "lab" for the region's fifth- and sixth-graders in the program will either go elsewhere or stay moored in Puget Sound near Seattle.

Last month, Kay quietly notified Navy officials that the deal was dead.

"We just couldn't come up with the money," Kay explained. "The Navy said they understood."

There were logistical problems, too, in securing the sub. The nation's shipyards are full of workers focusing on the needs from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, so the Navy simply didn't have the time to cut up into three pieces a decommissioned submarine for community use, Kay said.

The process would have required burying the center part of the boat where the nuclear reactor was housed. But that can only happen twice a year, when the Columbia River is high enough to accommodate the transfer from Puget Sound to the nuclear burial site at a Department of Energy site in Hanford, Wash.

The rest of the sub would have been assembled around a museum and education center on a barge. That's where Newport was to come in.

"Even if we had the money in hand now, it probably couldn't happen until 2010," Kay said.

A year ago he predicted the sub could be in Northern Kentucky in 2007.

The submarine simulator at Holmes remains the part of the program that has been successful, hosting students almost daily during the school year.

About 600 students went through the year-long program in 2005, and 860 are expected to graduate this year, Cyndi Etsler, who developed the educational program, said Wednesday.

Students come from as far north as Mason and as far south as Walton and Verona, Ky.

Students learn aspects of physical and life sciences - density, buoyancy, polar coordinates and marine parameters - but also must apply what they have learned in math and social studies. The hope was to use the sub to bring those lessons alive for students.

"It's a good way to get kids hyped up about science," Etsler said. "Who's going to be our scientists in the years to come?"

Etsler, a 30-year veteran teacher and assistant director of the Elementary Science Support Center at Purdue University Calumet in Hammond, Ind., runs the simulator classes. She helped create the NavOps Deep Submergence curriculum in Indiana, which features a submarine simulator and uses submarine operations to teach math and science concepts to students.

The Northern Kentucky program used the Indiana project as a model.

Kay is still raising money and interest for the education program.

"Toyota recently donated $50,000 to Aquatic Ventures, which is being done in conjunction with the aquarium and other entities," he said

The submarine simulation project was launched as a pilot project in 2004, designed to serve 300 to 500 fifth-grade students in the Covington, Campbell County, Fort Thomas, Southgate and Cincinnati school systems.

The plan was to expand the program to reach 40,000 to 50,000 area students in grades five through eight.

The education program was to be paired with the National Submarine Science Discovery Center, showcasing the Cold-War era submarine and exhibits covering everything from astronomy to cell developmentCincinnati businessman R. Thomas Schram launched the project in 2003, saying it hinged on two key elements - money and a decision by the Navy.

The Navy had to agree to donate a submarine for the project. Then the organization had to raise the money to accept the donation and develop the center.

Total development costs were estimated at $60 million, including $24 million pledged by the Navy to restore the sub and land valued at $10 million which was to be donated by Newport to locate the center at Newport on the Levee. That left about $26 million to raise.

Last year Schram stepped down as executive director of the National Submarine Science Discovery Center because the project hadn't brought in enough money to pay him.

That's when Kay took over fund-raising and promotion.

It's been an upstream battle ever since. Upstream also might describe any trip tri-staters might have to make to see the Narwhal.

Kay said the Carnegie Foundation is considering bringing it to Pittsburgh.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Families come together in sunken sub's memory


Manitowoc Herlad Times
By Charlie Mathews
April 25, 2006

Service set for USS Lagarto, discovered after resting 60 years under the sea
MANITOWOC — Nancy Kenney, from Michigan, and Art Keeney III, from North Carolina, have never met face-to-face, but they share a powerful bond.

Their fathers were among the 86 men on board the Manitowoc-built submarine, USS Lagarto, when it was sunk in May 1945 in the Gulf of Thailand in the final weeks of World War II.

There will be a special memorial service at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 6, at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum for family members and friends, honoring the submariners.

"We will be brought together by this one singular event, the demise of the Lagarto," Keeney, 62, said Monday. "Our fathers perished together in service to our country."

"What we share is very special. We have become like a second family, how much we all care for each other," Kenney, 63, said.

The local museum has hosted memorial services for the Lagarto before.

But this will be the first one since the discovery of the submarine on May 18 by Jamie MacLeod and Stewart Oewhl of M.V. Trident, a Thai-based diving expeditions company.

MacLeod will be attending the memorial service and reunion, showing video and photographs from the final resting place of the Lagarto, believed to have been sunk by a Japanese minelayer.

For 60 years, the families had not known definitively what happened to the Lagarto. The boat was found sitting upright in 225 feet of water, and was found to have engaged in battle to the end.

The British divers' assessment of the condition of the boat included a large rupture in the portside bow area, apparently made by a depth charge. An open torpedo tube revealed a torpedo had been fired.

'Owe so much'

Rear Adm. Jeffrey B. Cassias, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet's Submarine Force, will come from Pearl Harbor to give the keynote remarks.

"We owe so much to the generation that came before us," said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis, spokesman for "Sub Pac" in Hawaii. He also will attend the service.

"The World War II submarine generation took tremendous personal risk to carry out their job," Davis said. "They did it so successfully, with 1.5 percent of the nation's naval manpower sinking one-half of the Japanese tonnage."

Fifty-two submarines were lost, including three others built in Manitowoc, and 5,200 submariners died in combat.

The memorial service will include Cassias' remarks, the tolling of a captain's bell for each crewmember, a mariner's chorus singing several hymns, and the tossing of a memorial wreath into the Manitowoc River.

Kenney's mother is still alive, though not well enough to attend the memorial service. Her father, Signalman William Mabin, participated in lake trials with Lagarto crewmates while his wife and toddler, Nancy, lived in Manitowoc for a few months in early 1944.

Keeney's mother will be attending the memorial service for her late, first husband, Arthur H. "Bud" Keeney Jr.

"When my mother remarried, it was in the same area where my father was from in Connecticut, so I got to know his parents, along with aunts and uncles," said Keeney III, president & CEO of East Carolina Bank.

His late father was a 1941 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and transferred from the battleship North Carolina to the Lagarto.

All submariners were volunteers.

"It took a very different breed of cat. These guys really had to battle their nerves," Keeney said, noting the extremely cramped conditions.

He said he's eager to view the underwater photographs and video from his father's "watery grave."

"I am going to enjoy meeting the other people who are kin to somebody who knew my father," Keeney said.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tenn. researchers work on Hunley mystery


Centre Daily
April 24, 2006

CHARLESTON, S.C. - A team of scientists from Tennessee, including experts from the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, are looking at the mystery of the sinking of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship.

The group, which also includes scientists from the University of Tennessee and the Y12 National Security Complex, was here Monday examining the sub.

The visit is the result of the university's relationship with best-selling crime author Patricia Cornwell who in February announced she would donate at least $500,000 to the Hunley project.

The scientists, who were to remain through Tuesday, will be looking at ways to remove the encrustation from the hull of the hand-cranked sub.

"This is a crime scene and you are doing an autopsy on that submarine," Cornwell told The Associated Press last February.

Cornwell has been a supporter of the university and the National Forensics Academy, said Mike Sullivan, director of the Law Enforcement Innovation Center, part of the university's Institute for Public Service.

Cornwell regularly visits Knoxville to talk with crime scene investigators attending training programs at center's National Forensics Academy.

Sullivan said Cornwell recently contacted him to see if scientists from the university and the federal facilities might be able to help with the Hunley.

"About a month or so ago, I took Patricia Cornwell to Oak Ridge National Laboratory to help her get acquainted with the tremendous forensic science capabilities there," Sullivan said.

Cornwell and Maria Jacobsen, an archaeologist leading the Hunley excavation, also recently visited Knoxville to talk with scientists from the three institutions.

The scientists from Tennessee have expertise in metals and metallurgy. Scientists think the hull may provide clues what caused the Hunley to sink in 1864.

The eight-man sub used a spar to attach a black powder charge to the Union blockade ship Housatonic off Charleston. The Housatonic sank but the Hunley sank as well.

The wreck of the sub was found off Charleston 11 years ago and raised in 2000.

Cornwell, whose works include a book about Jack the Ripper and a series of thrillers featuring the fictional medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta, often conducts research in working labs to give her books added realism.

There are generally two theories about the Hunley sinking.

One is that the glass port in the conning tower was shot out during the attack, allowing water to rush into the iron vessel. The other is that the crew ran out of air as they tried to crank the sub back to shore.


Monday, April 24, 2006

The Secret of the Pearl Islands


By Sven Röbel
April 21, 2006

For the past 137 years, a mysterious wreck has emerged at low tide each day on a beach off the coast of Panama. Researchers now know that it's the presumed lost "Sub Marine Explorer," one of the world's first submarines and a vessel that would ultimately kill its German inventor.

The tower was the first thing Jim Delgado saw. Inch by inch, it emerged from the deep-green surf of the Pacific Ocean -- an encrusted piece of black metal covered with barnacles, rust and seaweed, a ghostly apparition slowly rising from the sea.

Delgado was sitting on the roots of an ancient palmetto tree, staring at the water as if transfixed. Aside from the hermit crabs digging in the sand at his feet and the brown pelicans screeching in the treetops, Delgado was alone -- the only human being on this godforsaken island known as San Telmo, somewhere southeast of Panama City.

Jim Delgado rediscovered the Sub Marine Explorer off the coast of Panama.

Low tide came slowly and sluggishly, eventually exposing the mysterious rust-eaten wreck a fisherman had described to Delgado. The man believed it was a Japanese submarine that had been on a mission to attack ships near the Panama Canal during World War II, only to fall prey to the treacherous waters of the Pearl Archipelago.

But the more the tide retreated, the more Delgado -- director of the renowned Vancouver Maritime Museum -- was convinced that the fisherman's story couldn't possibly be true. This thing appearing before his eyes had to be older, much older.

The design reminded the scientist of an "iron cigar," and he instinctively thought of the "Nautilus," that legendary underwater vessel author Jules Verne described in his novel "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea." Delgado had devoured the book as a young boy.

But could something like this be possible? Delgado was mesmerized. Years ago, working as a marine archaeologist, he had recovered the wreck of the "General Harrison," a ship from the days of the California gold rush, from San Francisco Bay. He was also involved in the raising of the "H.L. Hunley" from the harbor entrance at Charleston, South Carolina -- the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship, during the American Civil War in 1864.

And now, on this isolated beach on a tropical island -- during his vacation, no less -- he had apparently happened upon the most spectacular find of his career.

Without any equipment, and wearing nothing but boxer shorts, Delgado swam out to the mysterious wreck. He cursed when he scraped his left leg on the sharp-edged metal -- and because he didn't have a measuring tape to document the object's exact dimensions. The size, shape and condition of the chambers corresponded to none of the vessels he was familiar with -- and Delgado thought he knew just about everything that had ever floated. But this craft's technology seemed much more modern that that of the "Hunley." The shape of the hull was more reminiscent of the fantasy forms he'd seen in old science fiction books. Why on earth, he wondered, had he never heard about this vessel?

When Delgado heard the sound of the approaching rubber dinghy that had come to take him back to his cruise ship, he quickly took a few shots with his camera -- hardly able to believe his luck at having decided to pass on the dull bird-watching outing the other passengers had taken. His few hours on this remote island had truly been worth it.

Historic find

That was five years ago, and by now it's become clear that Delgado made a sensational historic find. He discovered the lost "Sub Marine Explorer," one of the world's first functioning underwater boats, designed by a brilliant German engineer whose invention eventually brought him an agonizing death.

A look at the workings of the submarine.

The well-preserved wreck off the shores of San Telmo offers an unprecedented glimpse into the maritime past. Even though the beginnings of manned underwater vessels aren't so distant, the pioneer days of submarines remain filled with unanswered questions. Old construction plans often diverge from the actual designs, and many boats were either lost or destroyed. In some cases it remains unclear as to exactly how -- and whether -- the vehicles actually worked.

The San Telmo discovery could provide answers to many questions about the first submarines. Some of Delgado's colleagues believe that the wreck in the Pacific is a unique example of a handful of submarine prototypes that have remained preserved. They are craft in which daring men -- essentially the Space Shuttle pilots of their age -- ventured into the unknown world beneath the ocean's surface in the 19th century. Only five diving machines from the years before 1870 have survived the ravages of time:

- The "Brandtaucher" designed by German inventor Wilhelm Bauer, now in a museum in Dresden.

- A nameless submarine used by the Confederates in 1862, during the American Civil War, now on display in New Orleans.

- The "H.L. Hunley," built in 1863 and currently being restored in Charleston, South Carolina.

- The "Intelligent Whale," a submarine built in 1866 and now in a New Jersey museum.

- And the "Sub Marine Explorer" off the coast of San Telmo in the Pacific, built in 1865.

The "Explorer" marks a high point in maritime engineering, but also a tragic one. Equipped with a cleverly designed system of ballast chambers and a compressed air tank that allowed for pressure compensation, it also had two hatches beneath the hull enabling divers to exit the craft underwater. But about 130 years ago, when the vessel was being used to collect oysters and pearls from the ocean floor off the coast of Panama, the condition known as "the bends," or decompression sickness, was largely unknown. The condition can cause an agonizing death when divers rise to the surface from deep water too quickly. Technical progress had fatally outpaced medical science, costing the inventor and team of the "Explorer" their health and their lives.

But on the evening following his discovery, as he sat excitedly in the dining room of his cruise ship, Delgado had no idea of the tragedies that must have transpired in this iron coffin in the Pacific's pearl beds. Instead, he couldn't stop describing the details of the strange wreck to his wife Ann.

Back home in Vancouver, the scientist had the pictures he took on San Telmo developed and promptly e-mailed the images -- together with a description and a request for further information -- to colleagues around the world.

One man, Richard Wills, an expert on American Civil War submarines, wrote back to inform Delgado that his data were a perfect match to a description Wills had discovered in a scientific article from 1902. The piece even included a precise drawing of the largely unknown diving device. This couldn't possibly be a coincidence -- the vessel had to be the "Sub Marine Explorer."

Inside Kroehl's craft.

Little known inventor

Little was known at the time about the man who designed the craft, a German inventor named Julius H. Kroehl who had emigrated to the United States. He built an iron fire watchtower in Harlem in 1865 and was then hired by the New York magistrate to demolish -- unsuccessfully, as it turned out -- a reef that obstructed shipping in the East River. But how did the mysterious German hit upon the idea of designing such a progressive diving ship? Delgado decided to get to the bottom of the story. A search through historical archives revealed that the "Sub Marine Explorer" last belonged to an outfit called the Pacific Pearl Company, which planned to dig for oysters off the coast of Panama in the 1860s.

As far back as the days of the Conquistadors, divers had been digging up treasures from the depths of the "Archipiélago de las Perlas." Black slaves had once fished the famed "La Peregrina" pearl -- a magnificent, softly shimmering 50-carat jewel -- from the waters of the archipelago. The shells also held the promise of fortune, offering wealth in the form of mother-of-pearl, a highly sought-after luxury material used in the fashion of the day.

According to old business records, one of the partners in the company with offices near New York's Wall Street was a certain W.H. Tiffany, apparently a member of the eponymous jewelry and lamp dynasty.

The story was becoming more and more fascinating, and after making two more trips to San Telmo in 2002 and 2004, Delgado had finally collected enough material to justify launching an expedition to delve into the final secrets of the "Explorer" and its inventor.

Accompanied by SPIEGEL, an international team of scientists set out for the waters of the Pearl Archipelago on February 18. According to expedition leader Delgado, he had "assembled the best people" -- people like Australian Michael McCarthy, 58, a world-renowned underwater archaeologist, Larry Murphy, also 58, a specialist in corrosion studies, and metallurgist Don Johnson, 79, a proven expert in the study of materials and rust processes. One of the most pressing issues for the team was to determine how much longer the rare wreck would withstand constantly being submerged in salt water. They also wanted to find out what materials were used to build the craft and how it actually worked.

The sub has resurfaced every day at low tide for 137 years.

Armed with GPS navigation gear, multi-parameter probes and laser-guided distance measuring devices, the researchers tackled the archaic technology of the 19th century. "It was as if we were looking through a portal into a forgotten era," Delgado raves. He and his team found themselves constantly surprised by the ship's design and its technical intricacies.

The upper half of the ship's double hull, which once housed the compressed air tank, was made of pressure-resistant cast iron, while the lower half consisted of wrought-iron plates connected with rivets. The heads of the rivets were on the inside of the hull, apparently in an effort to make the boat, which was moved by a propeller driven by muscle power, as streamlined as possible.

In the fine layer of sand that covered the floor of the work chamber, with its two hatches for recovering oysters, Delgado found a depth gauge filled with mercury and the wooden handle of a manual pump, which was apparently used to improve the air in the small enclosed space. Spraying a fine water vapor was meant to bind the carbon dioxide in the air onboard the vessel. After all, the boat contained up to six men collecting oysters in candlelight, in what amounted to hard labor on the ocean floor.

All of these characteristics closely matched an old newspaper article Delgado's research assistants had previously dug up in archives. In the summer of 1869, the "Mercantile Chronicle," a Panama paper, using the florid language of the day, described how the revolutionary submarine worked. "Before submersion," wrote the paper, "enough air is filled into the compressed air chamber," using a "pump with the power of 30 horses" mounted on another boat, "until the air in the chamber reaches a density of more than 60 pounds," which corresponds to pressure of about four bars. Once the compressed air tank has been sealed, "the men enter the machine through the tower on the upper side" and "as soon as the water is permitted to fill the ballast chambers, the machine sinks directly down to the ocean floor," where "a sufficient amount of compressed air is promptly fed into the working chamber until it possesses sufficient volume and power to resist the enormous pressure of the water," so that the men can "open the hatches in the floor of the machine" and begin recovering oysters.

The writer continued: "When they have been underwater for a sufficient period of time and all shells within reach have been collected," compressed air is pumped into the ballast chamber "and as this air then forces out the water, the machine safely rises to the surface."

Ignorant of diving dangers

Kroehl, the designer, couldn't know how important gradual, controlled pressure compensation is during surfacing. Nowadays, when underwater researcher Delgado, himself a practiced diver, climbs into the narrow chamber -- bathed in a pale, green light from the midday tropical sun -- he surveys the rust-covered valves, rudder levers and handles and tries to imagine what it must have felt to work "in this iron coffin." What it must have been like to hear the hissing of compressed air with ears aching from the pressure, and how sour the air must have smelled when almost all the oxygen had been consumed and the candles were slowly being flicker out.

Delgado waxes philosophical at such moments and talks about the "great flow of history that extinguishes the individual." He has been studying the "Explorer" for five years now, and yet he doesn't even know what its inventor looked like. Although Kroehl himself was said to have been a passionate photographer, not a single portrait of the man has been found.

The biography of the forgotten engineer, compiled from the rudimentary recollections of his descendants and the records of his military service with the Union army, is still filled with gaps. Kroehl was born in 1820 in the East Prussian town of Memel, now Klaipeda in Lithuania, and as a child moved with his family to Berlin. Old address books reveal that his father, businessman Jacob Kröhl, lived at Hausvogteiplatz 11 between 1829 and 1833.

Jim Delgado in the tower of the "Explorer."

In 1838, after having served in an artillery unit in the German military, the young Julius apparently boarded one of the many emigrant ships that were then taking countless Germans to the shores of the New World. American records show that Kroehl became a US citizen in 1840. New York City commercial records from 1855 list him as an engineer in Lower Manhattan, an area filled with docks, iron foundries and plenty of German immigrants.

By then, Kroehl had filed a patent for the "Improvement of iron-bending machines," and he was apparently fascinated by the diving bells that had recently been developed for use in bridge construction.

In November 1858, Kroehl married 26-year-old Sophia Leuber in Washington, and beginning in 1863 he spent a year and a half fighting in the American Civil War. He served in the Union navy as an underwater explosives specialist and later as a scout in the Louisiana swamps. There Kroehl apparently contracted an illness that kept him bedridden for months. Between bouts of fever, the inventor must have repeatedly worked on the idea for his underwater machine. His thoughts probably revolved around a sort of diving bell, but one that was self-propelled and able to move freely -- and could therefore be used to attach mines to enemy warships.

But by the time he had finished the plans and regained his strength, the navy was less than enthusiastic. The war was over and Kroehl's project was too costly. The military simply failed to recognize the enormous potential of this type of submersible battle machine. Attempts with a few other devices had been less than encouraging, but Kroehl's submarine was technically superior to everything that had preceded it.

Refusing to give up, the inventor in 1864 became chief engineer and a partner in the Pacific Pearl Company -- a company that made headlines two years later. In the spring of 1866, the New York Times reported on the first sensational dive of the "Sub Marine Explorer." On May 30, at about 1:30 p.m., Kroehl, accompanied by three friends, entered his underwater device and dove to the bottom of the harbor at North Third Street. Bystanders spent an hour and a half waiting anxiously before the steel monster reappeared at the surface and the hatch slowly opened. Kroehl, clearly in the best of spirits, casually puffed away at his meerschaum pipe and proudly presented a bucket of mud, freshly collected from the bottom of the harbor.

The Pacific Pearl Company's investors were apparently impressed by the demonstration. That same year, they paid to have the disassembled "Explorer" shipped from New York to Panama's Caribbean coast, where it was loaded onto a train and taken through the jungle to Panama City on the Pacific. At the time, the town was a mosquito-infested pit, full of shady bars, corrupt officials and feverish fortune-hunters en route to California -- a way station on the new transit route between New York and San Francisco.

Arrival in Panama

On December 8, 1866, the news of the arrival of an incredible diving apparatus caused a sensation in the chaotic city. The device was apparently being assembled at the train station and would soon be ready for use. About six months later, the "Panama Star and Herald" reported that the work was finally complete. Engineer Kroehl, the paper wrote, had personally supervised the hoisting of the "Sub Marine Explorer" into the adjacent dock, and in a few days the boat would begin its first diving trips off the coast of islands owned by the Pacific Mail Steamship Company.

The trial runs, which lasted several weeks, apparently proved to be Kroehl's undoing. Completely confident in his invention and obsessed by the possibilities of working deep underwater, he couldn't possibly know that nitrogen molecules expand into small gas bubbles in the body when a person surfaces too quickly, essentially causing the blood to foam.

When Julius H. Kroehl died, on Sept. 9, 1867, doctors made the usual local diagnosis and the US consul made it official, writing to Kroehl's widow that her husband had died of "fever." None of them could have known about the deadly decompression sickness. The funeral, the consul wrote, was held by the local chapter of the brotherhood of Freemasons at the "Cementerio de Extranjeros," or Foreigners' Cemetery, in Panama City's Chorrillo district.

For two years after Kroehl's death, there were no further reports of the "Explorer," until the New York Times published a story about a pearl diving expedition to an island it called "St. Elmo." On an August day in 1869, at about 11 a.m., the boat apparently dove down into the waters off Pearl Island, remained submerged for four hours and finally surfaced with 1,800 oysters on board. The process was repeated on each of the next 11 days, until the crew had collected 10.5 tons of oysters and pearls worth $2,000.

But then, wrote the paper, "all divers succumbed to fever," which ultimately led to the undertaking being abandoned. The devilish machine, according to the Times, was taken to a protected bay off the island, where the crew soon planned to return -- but this time with "local, acclimated divers" supposedly immune to the "fever."

It was in precisely this bay, in the green waters off San Telmo, that Jim Delgado found the "Explorer" surfacing at low tide, as it has been doing every day for the past 137 years.

Translated from German by Christopher Sultan


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Memories of crew stay on surface


The Oregonian
By Margie Boulé
April 20, 2006

All anybody knew for 60 years was that the USS Lagarto, a U.S. Navy submarine, disappeared sometime between May 3 and May 4, 1945, in the Pacific.

At first the Navy didn't list the submarine, with its crew of 86 American men, as missing. "When they don't hear from a submarine for some reason, but it's on its way somewhere else, they wait until it is due," says Nancy Kenney. Nancy's father, Bill Mabin, was on the Lagarto. "It's because they would get in situations, especially in submarines, in which they had to maintain silence."

But by May 25, 1945, when the 1,500-ton, Balao- class submarine still hadn't arrived in Australia, where it was headed, the Navy realized all was not right. It sent letters to the crew's families, saying the crew was officially missing in action.

Portlander Violet Heaton remembers when her father and stepmother got the letter. "My father called me," she says. Violet's brother, Alvin Enns, was on board the Lagarto. Vi, as she prefers to be called, and her siblings were all born in Dallas, Ore., but when their mother died in childbirth, her dad remarried and moved the family to Oklahoma.

Alvin didn't like farm life, Vi says. When WWII began, "he enlisted. He didn't wait to get drafted." Alvin joined the Navy. From the beginning, she says, "he wanted to get on a submarine so bad. The trouble was he was too tall, over 6 feet." Finally, "he stooped down low enough to make him look shorter, and he finally got on the Lagarto."

Today Vi has photographs Alvin sent home just before the Lagarto left for duty in the Pacific. "You can see him in these pictures," Vi says. "He's half-a-head taller than any of the rest of them."

Alvin must have known it was dangerous duty. In WWII, submariners had the highest mortality rates of any branch of the military -- 21 percent died. But Vi's big brother knew he wanted to sail beneath the seas.

When the Lagarto went missing, it stayed missing. To this day, crew members are officially listed as missing in action.

But many of the families refused to accept that the men had died. "I have letters exchanged between my mother and other wives and mothers," says Nancy Kenney, who lives in Michigan today. "Many of them were hoping after the war they would find the crew on an island. Some of them even wrote of hoping they might be held as prisoners of war."

But none of the men came home. In fact, Japanese military records indicated a mine-layer had attacked a U.S. submarine near where the Lagarto had last been located. But no one could confirm what ship had been hit, and whether it had sunk.

Nancy Kenney's mother died, never knowing what happened to her husband in 1945. Vi Heaton's father died, never knowing what had become of Alvin.

And then, in May of last year, a British diver was exploring waters 100 miles off the coast of Thailand, where for decades local fishermen had reported something was snagging their nets. The diver found a sunken submarine. It was the USS Lagarto.

The news did not make a big splash around the world. Nancy Kenney's son learned the ship had been discovered while doing an Internet search last summer.

Nancy decided other family members needed to know the ship had been located. So she's spent the last year tracing relatives of the 86 victims. Two weeks ago she called Vi Heaton, in Portland.

Vi was glad to have answers, 61 years after her brother disappeared. "It's brought back all kinds of memories," she says. "When my brother went to war I was so proud of him I couldn't believe it. I was uniform-crazy myself, and he looked so handsome." Alvin was young -- not even 20 years old, Vi says. She was 18.

"He came home once on leave, and he was so happy to be on that sub," Vi says. "I think he thought of it like he was a kid with a toy. Even though it was huge and there were over 80 men on board."

She remembers their growing-up years, when Alvin would tease her, and they'd get in trouble. "He liked to get me upset," she laughs.

Violet is 79 today and in poor health. So she won't be able to travel to the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowok, Wisc., where the sub was built, for a memorial service for the men of the Lagarto. The commander of the Pacific Submarine Force of the Navy, the governor of Wisconsin and the diver who discovered the sub will be there, and all family members are invited.

"We've found relatives of 47 or the 86," says Nancy Kenney. She's still looking for family members of shipmate William Graves, who grew up in Portland.

"Every time I get tired, I think of my father," Nancy says. "He had a little diary he left, from an earlier patrol. He talks of being underwater for long periods of time, and how hot it was. He talks of being depth charged, hearing bombs all around them exploding. And he talks about the fear among the men, and how the older crew members tried to be stoic for the younger crew members.

"They went through so much, and they died for our country. It may have been 61 years ago, but I think we owe them something."

Vi Heaton agrees. "It was 61 years ago, but my brother was so young. It still makes me sad."


Friday, April 21, 2006



Asbury Park Press
By Vince Miller
April 20, 2006

Professional divers discover German submarine

Professional deep-sea divers Richie Kohler and John Chatterton had 360 seventh-graders enthralled at Ocean Township Intermediate School April 7 with stories of their discovery of a World War II German submarine and inspection of the ill-fated Titanic on the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

Kohler, Brick, and Chatterton, of Harpsbelle, Maine, are known as the Deep Sea Detectives on television's History Channel, and have been consultants for CBS and co-authored the book, "Shadow Divers." Chatterton told the audience the book was on the New York Times' top 10 list and is being printed in many foreign languages as it makes its way around the world.

Principal Larry Kostula opened the program by explaining the original plan was for the divers to talk only to the seventh-grade class of Kohler's daughter, Nicolette, 13. But when Kostula, a scuba diver himself, learned who the divers were, he asked them if he could invite all seventh-graders in the school.

"My career started when I was your age," Kohler said. "It started when I saw on television a man walking on the moon. I decided to become an explorer. Growing up in Brooklyn, there wasn't much opportunity to become an astronaut, so I became an underwater diver and spent the next 25 years diving off New York and New Jersey coasts."

Kohler said in their quest to find virgin shipwrecks, they investigated a boat captain's complaint that his nets were being caught on some object on the bottom. They dove to the bottom and found a German submarine, just 60 miles off Manasquan. That was in 1991.

"We reported the find to the U.S. Navy and the German history office, but neither could tell us anything about the discovery," Kohler said.

There were more dives 230 feet to the bottom during a six-year period. Kohler said he found two bowls with imprinted swastikas, proving it was a

WWII German submarine. On his next dive to take a souvenir bowl, Kohler said he saw a shining object that he thought was the bowl he had sought. It turned out to be a human skull.

"The sub's entire 56-man crew had perished with the U-boat," he said.

Asked if they probed further to find other human body parts, Kohler said, "No. We respected human life and looked no further.

"However, John (Chatterton) later discovered that the sub was the U-869. People don't realize the war was fought right off shore.

"Knowing the sub's identity, we were able to contact some of the victims' families, and they were very grateful to learn their loved ones' fates. They were finally able to make closure on the tragedy," Kohler said.

The divers' next challenge was to investigate the remains of the ill-fated Titanic, which went down in the North Atlantic on April 15, 1912, after striking an iceberg on its maiden voyage.

"Diving isn't just a man's profession," Kohler told his young audience. "There are many excellent female divers, including my wife, Carrie (in the audience)."

Photos she had taken of Titanic dives were used to complement the divers' story.

In response to a question by Paula Franco, 12, Chatterton said passengers on a nearby "ghost ship" that never was identified, thought flares from the sinking Titanic were merely shot into the air by celebrants having a party.

It took the rescue ship, Carpathia, three hours to reach the scene, but by that time 1,500 passengers were in the water.

The pair used two small submersible subs rented from a Russian boat in August 2005 to investigate the Titanic, and in the process found two pieces of steel they said proved the ship had broken apart before sinking, not as previously thought.

Films taken by Carrie Kohler showed that after being submerged 93 years, some written directions on the hull were still quite legible.

Kohler and Chatterton spent a total of 11 hours on each dive, Kohler said.

"It took 2 1/2 hours to drop 12,400 feet to the bottom and five hours to look around before going back up again. It was pretty cramped in one of those 6-foot spheres," he said.

There were many questions from the rapt audience. One came from Kohler's daughter. She asked Chatterton what his emotions were during the dives.

Despite the fact that he "felt very comfortable in the water," Chatterton said he felt fear when diving.

In that vein, another student asked what the divers did to alleviate their concerns.

"We checked all our gear before any dive, and we always made sure there was a backup to help in any emergency," Kohler said.

Chatterton concluded the hourlong program by inspiring the students to "be what you want to be. We believed we could do it. You can do the same thing. You just need the determination and dedication."


Monday, April 17, 2006

WWII submarine route commemorated on riverfront


By Chris Pagano
April 16, 2006

Paul W. Wittmer, left, and Jack Tolliver conducted a tolling
ceremony for the 52 U.S. submarines lost during World War
II, at the close of the dedication Saturday of a storyboard
display erected at the River Campus of Southeast Missouri
State University. A photograph shows the sideways launch
of a Manitowoc, Wis.-built submarine on the Manitowoc River.
(Fred Lynch)

The river turned another tale Saturday when about 30 people, including members of U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II, gathered at the Southeast Missouri State University River Campus gazebo to dedicate a commemorative storyboard and toll the bell for 52 U.S. submarines lost during the war.

Located at the base of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge, the storyboard depicts the tale of U.S. submarines built in Manitowoc, Wis., which were transported down the Mississippi River, commissioned in New Orleans and sent to the Pacific Theater during the war.

Twenty-eight Manitowoc-built submarines passed Cape Girardeau from 1942 to 1945. Four of those were later lost at sea with their crews.

Vance Combs of Cape Girardeau, who served on the USS Cobia as a radio operator from 1943 to 1946, attended with local family members and a granddaughter from Kentucky.

Combs said his reasons for volunteering to be a submariner were simple: ego and hazardous duty pay. Because only the top 5 percent were picked from U.S. Navy Radio School, it was an honor to be a part of this elite group responsible for "special missions," including conducting reconnaissance, landing guerrillas, laying minefields, searching for enemy minefields and rescuing aviators.

"After the war I found out we were six times more likely to die," he said. "But we were young, and although there was lots of boredom traveling across shipping lanes, trouble was all part of it."

He said only a fourth of the volunteers got into sub school to begin with because of the intense psychological and physical testing to determine the tolerance for pressure.

Tom Crites, now of Indiana, formerly of Sedgewickville, served on the USS Pargo 264, which saw a lot of battle. His vest tells the story. One large patch depicted 14 merchant ships sunk, nine damaged, an island bombarded and a military ship damaged by his ship.

U.S. Submarine Veterans of World War II state commander Paul W. Wittner and past national president Jack Tolliver recognized Lisa Howe, project manager and engineer, as one of the two most instrumental in seeing the storyboard become a reality. The other was Art Randall, vice president of the Ill.-Mo. Squadron and central region director of U.S. Sub Vets Inc.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

World War II veterans will hold a submarine dedication in Cape

April 15, 2006

United States World War II veterans will hold a storyboard dedication April 15th at 2 pm at the River Campus Gazebo. The storyboard highlights the 28 Gato-class submarines that were built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin between 1942-1945.
Associate Member of the Illinois-Missouri Rebel Squadron Gary Bridges says the subs passed through different locks and canals as they traveled down the Mississippi River. He says they were towed in barges to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, and then through the Panama Canal. Once in the Pacific the subs were then taken to Pear Harbor.
Bridges says crowds would gather and hold patriotic programs as the subs traveled down the Mississippi River. 15-50 submarine veterans are expected to attend and perform a bell tolling in memory of the 52 submarines lost during World War II. The gazebo is located on Aquamsi Street at the base of the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge. The ceremony is open to the public.


Friday, April 14, 2006

Headstones placed on tombs of final crew of the Hunley


The Post and Courier
By Brian Hicks
April 14, 2006

For 142 years, the final crew of the H.L. Hunley has rested in one unmarked grave or another.

On Thursday, the Confederate Heritage Trust, including several Sons of Confederate Veterans camps and local re-enactors, remedied that historical slight. With care, they placed headstones over the graves at Magnolia Cemetery.

As Randy Burbage, a member of the Hunley Commission and the Trust noted, all of them were descendents of Confederate soldiers; they take care of their own.

The markers are identical to those of the first crew - discovered in unmarked graves beneath The Citadel's football stadium in 1999 - and paid for by the Veterans Administration.

The second crew, which included Horace Hunley, lies in the same plot shaded by live oaks.

The new headstones come four days shy of the two-year anniversary of the crew's burial.

The delay between the crew's burial and placing the markers was meant to give researchers more time to positively identify the men.

While the names of most of the eight are fairly well-documented, some questions linger about a few. Lt. George E. Dixon, the sub's captain, first officer Joseph Ridgaway, James A. Wicks and Frank Collins are almost certainly among the men. Arnold Becker and J.F. Carlsen are likely two of the others.

The remaining graves will be marked "Lumpkin" and "Miller," two of the names most often associated with the Civil War sub's final crew. Burbage said they decided to give all the men markers with the best information they have.

"We thought that would be better than 'unknown,' " Burbage said. "We felt like it was time."

A $500,000 donation from best-selling mystery novelist Patricia Cornwell will help fund forensic genealogist Linda Abrams' ongoing research of the crew in Europe, from which half of the crew hailed.

"If we have to change a couple of the headstones later, we will," Burbage said.

The crew, recovered in the submarine in August 2000 in the Atlantic, was laid to rest in a service on April 17, 2004.

For 136 years, these men lay in a hidden grave under the sea, lost to history. Now, their place in history is secure; their graves will never again be unmarked.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Disaster in the Deep


American Heritage
By Jack Kelly
April 10, 2006
The Thresher at sea in July 1961.
(Naval Historical Center)

“Experiencing minor difficulty.” It was 9:13 on the morning of April 10, 1963—43 years ago today—when Captain John W. Harvey relayed this message from his submarine, the USS Thresher. Harvey had steered out beyond the undersea cliff that marks the edge of the continental shelf, 220 miles east of Cape Cod. He was spiraling down to a “test depth” of some 1,000 feet. If anything went wrong that far down, the Thresher would be beyond help.

The ocean floor was now more than 8,000 feet below the boat. And things were going very wrong. The Thresher, which had been described by one admiral as “the most advanced operational attack submarine in the world,” had lost power. Unable to maneuver, its ballast tanks full of sea water to assist diving, the vessel was beginning to sink. The sea was exerting tremendous, groaning pressure on its hull. It would very soon reach a point where its steel skin would rip open. Harvey had to do something quick.

“Have positive up-angle. Attempting to blow . . .” was the rest of the message picked up by the escort vessel that floated almost a quarter mile overhead. Harvey had angled the sub’s fins to bring its nose toward the surface and was trying to empty the ballast tanks. His life and the lives of 128 other men depended on the success of the maneuver.

The Thresher represented the cutting edge of America’s military might. When Rear Admiral Hyman G. Rickover had proposed a nuclear-powered submarine immediately following World War II, skeptics had scoffed. The standard atomic reactor of the day occupied two city blocks. That it could be miniaturized to fit into a 32-foot-wide boat seemed preposterous.

But Rickover persisted; he proved the concept with the launch of the USS Nautilus in 1954. The Cold War value of the submarine, whether in its traditional attack role or as a platform for firing nuclear missiles, spurred an intensive development effort. The Thresher was a big step forward. Its teardrop-shaped hull and powerful nuclear turbine allowed speeds up to 40 knots underwater. Advanced quieting technologies let it run in virtual silence. It could detect and destroy hostile submarines from unprecedented depths.

Launched in 1960, the boat represented the first of a new class of subs. After testing the vessel at sea, the Navy ordered it to drydock in 1962 for an extensive overhaul. Assigned a new skipper, the submarine was on April 10 conducting its first trials following those repairs.

“The most dangerous condition that exists in the Thresher,” said its first captain, Rear Admiral Dean Axene, “is the danger of salt water flooding while at or near test depth.” The remark highlighted a crucial issue. The pipes that brought seawater into the ship for cooling had to withstand tremendous pressure when the vessel submerged. The joints in this system had passed tests that subjected them to even greater pressure. But a new testing method, using ultrasound, had found flaws in the workmanship of 14 percent of a sample of them. These controversial results did not prompt further repairs. Navy analysts later speculated that one of those joints gave way in the Thresher’s engine room. Spray probably shorted out electric-power components, automatically shutting the reactor.

With full power, Harvey could have muscled the boat to the surface even with its ballast tanks full. But once the reactor “scrammed,” it would take him at least seven minutes to restore power. During that time, the boat would continue to sink, quickly reaching a “crush depth” where its hull couldn’t withstand the pressure.

A roaring hiss of compressed air resonated through the sub as Harvey tried to force water out of the ballast tanks. The process was too slow. Tests later showed that it was impeded by ill-planned screening that caused ice to accumulate on a valve.

The Thresher, powerless and unable to blow ballast, began to accelerate toward the bottom. At 9:17, listeners on the escort vessel heard a garbled message that might have been “Exceeding test depth . . . ” Almost immediately, they picked up what was described as a thud or “the sound of a compartment collapsing.”

The Thresher’s hull gave way. Inrushing seawater spiked air pressure, quickly killing the crew. The pressure also ignited the sub’s diesel fuel, causing an explosion that tore the high-tech vessel to pieces.

Four months later, the bathyscaphe Trieste descended into the black depths and found an area of debris “like a large automobile junkyard.” Operators recovered a twisted piece of pipe marked with the Thresher’s name, ending the search for the ill-fated vessel. The loss of the Thresher, coming only months after the Cuban missile crisis, dealt a serious blow to U.S. power and prestige. The accident threw years of technical planning into question. Morale in the submarine service plummeted.

Governmental inquiries parceled the blame widely. In effect the sub program had leapt into a new technological realm without establishing adequate quality control. As an institution, the Navy had echoed the sentiments of former Thresher crewman Keith Johnson. “We felt invincible,” he said. “We never thought we were going to die.”

The Navy brass learned from its costly mistake. Rickover ordered a redesign of the reactor system to allow for a faster recovery from a shutdown. A new, more adequate system for blowing ballast was installed in submarines. More important, the government introduced a system, the SubSafe Program, that tightened specifications and quality assurance dramatically. Begun a few months after the Thresher’s demise, the program has yielded an exemplary safety record ever since. Sixteen American subs had sunk for non-combat reasons up to the time of the Thresher; only one has been lost since—the USS Scorpion, which sank in 1968 and had not been certified by the program.

We sometimes forget that the Cold War had costs that are both painful and difficult to reckon. The human toll of the Thresher accident was grievous. Even today, the Thresher’s nuclear reactor, with its complement of radioactive isotopes, remains at the bottom of the ocean, along with those of other sunken Soviet and American subs. With no effort currently envisioned to clean up this deadly detritus, the final bill is almost certain to be left to generations yet unborn.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bold attack that brought war to Scotland's shores

By Brendan O'Brien
April 06, 2006

The first significant loss of British lives in the
Second World War came with the sinking of
the HMS Royal Oak.

As the natural fireworks of the Northern Lights lit up the night sky on Friday, 13 October 1939, German submarine U-47 lay submerged and undetected in the darkness of the North Sea just off Orkney's east coast, poised to launch one of the most daring naval attacks of the Second World War.

The submarine strike on the British navy's principal home base at Scapa Flow led to the loss of 833 lives and one of the most heavily armed gunships in the British fleet, the HMS Royal Oak. Had the German attack been launched earlier as the Home Fleet lay anchored and unprepared off the northern Scottish isle, it could have altered the course of history.

U-boat commander Captain Günther Prien entered Scapa Flow through narrow channels strewn with sunken wrecks to deter enemy attacks. But Prien, who had been hand-picked by the German navy for this top-secret mission, was an accomplished sailor. Using all of his skill, the commander slowly steered his vessel through dangerous passages, some only 15 metres deep, the hull scraping so violently against the barriers that his crew thought they had struck mines. In total darkness, the sub wound its way along the deadly channels for several hours.

Sailors stand at attention on the deck
of the Royal Oak. See a video account
of the sinking.

Sometime after midnight, the U-boat emerged in the heart of Britain's naval defences at Scapa Flow, believing they had already been spotted and preparing to face the full might of the Home Fleet in what must have seemed a suicide mission. They remained undetected and were surprised to find that, instead of the largest complement of warships in what was then still the world’s most powerful navy, only one battleship and a barge lay moored on the bay. The British navy, fearing a German air attack, had already ordered the other ships to evacuate. The decision, though made on a false premise, was to prove wise. Had the British fleet not left, Prien could have struck a mortal blow for Germany.

He approached the HMS Royal Oak just before 1am and fired the first salvo of torpedoes. The initial strike woke some of the crew, but the ship did not register that it was under attack. The Royal Oak, a Royal Sovereign class Dreadnought battleship, was presumed to be immune to submarine attack. After reloading, Prien launched another three torpedoes at the British vessel. They struck with deadly accuracy.

Prien described the devastation in his log: "After three tense minutes comes the detonation… There is a loud explosion, roar and rumbling. Then come columns of water, followed by columns of fire and splinters fly through the air."

The Royal Oak listed sharply to starboard as seawater rushed in through the gaping wounds, the immense 29,000 ton ship sinking in around ten minutes and dragging the barge moored alongside her down to the depths as her crew fought for survival. The war was just six weeks old, the Royal Oak being the first battleship sunk.

The Royal Oak now rests in a watery
grave in Scapa Flow, off Orkney.
Picture: Peter Rowlands, PR Productions

Able Seaman Don Harris, who was rescued, recounts the terrible event: "All lights went out, and in a matter of minutes she had listed... I hauled myself out of the hammock and into my shoes. A further sudden list made me realise the situation was getting desperate. The piano grazed me as it slid past and crashed into the combing-fitting to hold six-inch shells. Had I been standing a foot closer it would have crushed me against the bulkhead.

"Slowly - and how interminably slowly it seemed - I made my way to the ladder at the bottom of which stood the first of many heroes I was to know that night."

Sailors swam out of potholes into the pitch black of the sea as the saltwater rushed in, some made it to shore nearly a mile away, but many drowned as the bone-chilling water sapped their strength.

U-47 commanded by U-boat ace Gunther Prien,
receiving a salute from a German Cruiser after
returning from Scapa Flow.

Prien returned to Germany to a hero's welcome, but 833 men from the Royal Oak crew of 1,234 - including its commander, Rear Admiral Henry Blagrove - would never return. However, thanks to the heroic efforts of the tiny auxiliary vessel Daisy 2, 386 men were rescued from the water's icy grasp and a total of 401 men survived. Many of those who did not are now buried nearby at the naval cemetery on Lyness, on the island of Hoy.

A buoy now marks the remains of the 180-metre long Royal Oak, now lying 30 metres below sea level with the upturned keel reaching to within five metres of the surface, the most intact naval wreck in shallow waters in the Northern Hemisphere. The remains are now an official war grave off-limits to divers, but survivors hold a ceremony at the wreck site on every Friday the 13th - a dark date in our military history.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Hunley Boom


The Post and Courier
By John P. McDermott
April 09, 2006

Restoration could launch technology industry
The painstaking restoration of the Civil War submarine H.L. Hunley already has unlocked valuable clues about Charleston's past. Now, leaders from the academic, business and political worlds hope to parlay that effort into a high-tech research center that could reshape the region's future.

The lofty, long-term goal is to make the Lowcountry the nerve center of what has been termed "the restoration economy," a massive but highly fragmented industry that includes urban design, historic preservation, the development of cutting-edge building materials and the rehabilitation of natural habitats.

Storm Cunningham, executive director of the Alexandria, Va.-based Revitalization Institute Inc. and author of "The Restoration Economy," estimated the sector generates $1 trillion to $2 trillion a year in economic activity worldwide.

"It's a growth business," he said last week.

Using a laboratory on the former Navy base as its springboard, the Charleston region is positioned to capitalize on that growth by creating the world's first major research and development hub, Cunningham added. "You've got the opportunity to be the Silicon Valley of the restoration economy."

Part hands-on research, part economic development, the ambitious plan is being led by the two-year-old Clemson University Restoration Institute, which is helping finish the Hunley preservation project.

"This is an academic, economic and technological opportunity for us in this community," said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, who also is chairman of the South Carolina Hunley Commission.

If the institute lives up to expectations, the university predicted it could generate as many as 4,700 jobs and infuse $500 million into the local economy over the next 10 to 20 years. The goal is to "build industry around the work we're doing," Clemson President James Barker said at a presentation last Monday in North Charleston.

The first major effort will be the renovation and expansion of the Warren Lasch Conservation Center, site of the Hunley work, with $10.3 million it has requested through the state Research Infrastructure Bond Act.

The rest of the research campus would be developed as needed on about 65 acres the city of North Charleston has agreed to provide Clemson around the existing lab. It likely will be several years at least before any major new construction begins.

"We're trying very hard not to create false expectations," said Janet Schach, the institute's director and dean of Clemson's College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

The former Navy base is a natural setting for the restoration program, Schach said. Clemson has maintained a presence at the Hunley lab for years, helping scientists come up with

techniques to restore and preserve the iron submarine. Also, the location places researchers near one of the largest inventories of historic structures in the country. Moreover, the site will allow faculty and students to collaborate with the developer of the nearby Noisette Project, which embraces the same environmentally sensitive building methods the institute plans to immerse itself in.

An early start-up chore, Schach said, will be to attract other Hunley-like marine artifact projects to North Charleston to replace the ongoing submarine work. To do so, the institute plans to promote the anti-corrosion treatments that have been developed there.

"The idea is to take on many more projects and make this an international conservation center," she said.

Beyond that, the Hunley-inspired metallurgical know-how could be put to practical uses, such as extending the life of existing and future bridges, buildings and other structures, she said. Similarly, local research in wood-preservation methods also could find real-world applications, Schach said.

The construction trade is one of Clemson's main targets.

"We only have so many natural resources," Schach said.

With certain building products in short supply, the institute hopes to help fill that gap by developing alternative and better construction materials through its graduate- and post-graduate-level research. One likely strategy is to study and borrow innovations pioneered by other industries, such as aerospace and automotive, Schach said.

"The demand for steel, for example, has grown to the point where projects are delayed and costs are rising. ... Unless we look for some alternatives and new materials and ways to extend the life cycles of current structures, we're not going to be able to meet the need," she said.

The institute already is starting to work with the Medical University of South Carolina on improving the way hospitals and other health care facilities are laid out. For instance, they are looking at designing and equipping patient rooms in ways that promote faster healing, Schach said.

Clemson also sees itself playing a role in the sprawl debate by establishing an "urban ecology" beachhead at its North Charleston campus. Those researchers would look to improve methods of restoring natural habitats, such as creeks and other waterways, and cleaning up polluted urban properties, known as brownfields, so they can be redeveloped.

"Of course, our campus is a brownfields site, so it provides us with a real-life laboratory," Schach said.

She said Clemson's research won't duplicate the established preservation programs offered at the College of Charleston and the American College of the Building Arts. That's by design. "We're working very hard to integrate ... all of those programs to make sure they all complementary."

The institute's plan to leverage its Hunley work reflects the growing interplay between private businesses and universities that conduct marketable research. The effort ties back into the state's "clustering" strategy, which was adopted in 2004 to bolster South Carolina's largest and most viable industries. One of the cornerstones of that plan is greater town-and-gown collaboration.

Steve Dykes, director of economic development for Charleston County, described the restoration economy in the Lowcountry as "a cluster in waiting." He also said Clemson's effort can only help nurture it along.

"On the face of it, this has the promise of becoming a research hub, in that you have all this innovation and collaboration of scientists," Dykes said. "That's probably going to lead to the spin-off of some small companies, much like the type of thing that goes on at the medical university."

The institute also could become a distinct calling card for the Charleston region, he said. "This is the type of thing you can hold up and say, 'This doesn't exist everywhere. This is unique,' " Dykes said.

Clemson has launched a similar initiative in the Upstate with its International Center for Automotive Research. Known as ICAR, the relatively new facility already has attracted major corporate involvement from the likes of BMW Manufacturing Co., IBM Corp., Michelin and Microsoft Corp.

While still years behind ICAR in terms of progress, the restoration institute also will require financial backing and research assistance from the business world. To that end, Schach is now starting to make the rounds with local Clemson supporters, as well as those companies and nonprofit groups that might have an interest in setting up their own labs at the campus.

"These kind of projects take all of these players coming together," she said.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Tales from a watery grave: Speaker shares story of CSS Hunley


The Post & Mail
By Chris Meyers
April 07, 2006

The story of the CSS Hunley is one of triumph and tragedy, success and failure.

The Hunley, the first submarine ever used during combat in the United States, was a Confederate submarine that sank two times and went through two crews before the third and final sinking that left it, and the crew, on the bottom of Charleston Harbor about one and a half miles out to sea.

Telling the story of the Hunley and its three separate crews was Civil War expert Bob Willey, a member of the National Park Service who was at Charleston when the Hunley was raised from the water for the first time.

“It was a most awesome site,” he told a crowd of at least 60 people at the Whitley County Historical Society's banquet Thursday night at the Eagles Nest.

“I don't know how I did this, but I stood there for 45 minutes looking at that black silt,” Willey said.

The silt had filled much of the submarine while it was on the bottom of the ocean for 140 years.

The story begins during the Civil War. The Hunley was originally designed to tow a mine behind it and dive under the ship it was attacking, pulling the mine into it to destroy it.

The crew hoped the destroyed ship would shield the submarine from the explosion.

After its first mission, Lt. John Payne accidentally stepped on a lever that made the ship dive, but the hatches were still open.

Five of the eight crew members drowned - Payne was one of the survivors.

The loss did not deter the Confederate Navy. The Hunley was raised and another crew recruited.

This time tragedy struck once again when the ship sank while on a routine dive and all men on board drowned.

It was recovered once again after resting on the bottom of the ocean for five days.

The submarine was found with it's bow buried in the muck and still at the same 30 degree angle it took to the bottom.

After this recovery, the design for how the Hunley would attack was changed.

A long, pointed pole was put on the front so the sub could ram its target and stick a torpedo into it, retreat and detonate the torpedo remotely by copper wire that stretched from the torpedo to inside the sub.

The commanding officer would then activate a Civil War-era battery that sent the detonating charge.

The third and final crew recruited for the Hunley not only joined because of patriotism, Willey said, but also because of the reward offered to the crew members if they sank a Union ship.

That reward today would equal about $1.7 million, he said.

Their fateful mission was to sink a Union ship in the Charleston Harbor.

If the mission was successful, the crew was to shine a blue light toward fellow soldiers on land, who would shine a white light back so the Hunley crew would know where to dock.

“They were successful, but nothing's known after that,” Willey said.

He said records show the blue light was used and the white light returned, but the ship and crew were never seen again.

Fast forward to May of 1995 as explorers and on-lookers stood in awe as the sub was carefully brought to shore.

The recovery team had to use inflatable straps under the sub that were carefully monitored and adjusted so no harm would come to the ship.

“They thought there was a possibility it would break apart as it was raised,” Willey said.

Fortunately, the sub surfaced intact and for the first time since it set to sea on that fateful night, human eyes saw the first innovations in naval warfare.

The sub was about 40 feet long, 3 1/2 feet wide, 4 feet tall and weighed about 58,000 pounds. The only light for the eight-man crew was one candle.

“It was essentially just a big iron boiler with tapered ends,” Willey said.

He said that before the sub was raised, the scientists who discovered it went to a local museum that had a scale model of what the sub was supposed to look like and compared what was right and wrong.

“They went down to the museum at midnight and ran around the Hunley (model) yelling that's wrong, that's wrong,” Willey said.

After it was raised, scientists found a broken window on one of the conning towers, but that should not have been enough to sink the ship.

“I don't think there's a chance we'll ever know for sure,” Willey said of what caused the sinking.

Inside the ship were the remains of the crew, clothing and their possessions that included coins, wallets with money still in them and smoking pipes.

“All 16 shoes of the eight crewman contained human remains as did the skulls which still contained brain material,” Willey said.

He said nothing has been lost that was found inside the ship and everything has been kept in a climate-controlled environment, processed and refurbished to as close to mint condition as possible.

He said the bench that the crew sat on to turn the propeller was removed and told an interesting story on its own.

“There were three layers of paint, which leads them to believe it was repainted before each sinking.”

The submarine is kept in a tank of water at 43 degrees Fahrenheit and when it's removed from it, it must have a constant mist sprayed on it so it won't deteriorate.

This will have to happen for another few years until the material is stable enough to be displayed in a different way.

On April 17, 2004, a long procession of tens of thousands of people, including surviving relatives of the crew, gathered at the unusually calm waters of Charleston Harbor to give the crew a proper burial at Magnolia Cemetery.

“For the Hunley crew, their 140-year journey had finally ended,” Willey said.


Russian Who Prevented Nuclear Sub Explosion Nominated for Nobel Prize

April 06, 2006

Russian Nikolai Batarev has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for preventing an explosion which could have started a nuclear war in 1961.

Batarev, now 68, was a member of a Soviet nuclear submarine crew.

In 1961 K-19, the first Soviet nuclear submarine, was taking part in military exercises, her role being to imitate enemy actions, when an accident took place on board on July 4. The sub was 100 miles from a U.S. naval base in the North Atlantic.

The submarine’s reactor system broke down. A separate accident had disabled her long-range radio system, so the sub could not contact Moscow. The main danger was the possibility of a uranium leak into the water, while in case of an explosion both the USSR and the United States could have considered it as an attempted attack.

Nine crew members died during the operation to repair the reactor — Batarev was among those who prevented the nuclear explosion.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Submarine Museum is an asset to the city


Tribune & Georgian
April 05, 2006

Last Friday, the St. Marys Submarine Museum honored its 10-year anniversary with several hundred spectators listening to invited speakers in the Howard Gilman Memorial Waterfront Park.

The organizers couldn’t have asked for better circumstances.

The weather was warm, but not too warm; the sun shone brightly in the sky as it made its way beneath the horizon; and the wind blew just enough to keep the dreaded sand gnats away.

It was almost an omen from above, telling St. Marys, “You did a good thing.”

The museum is full of history — 106 years’ worth of it, from the first submarine in the early 1900s to the most recent, nuclear and fast-attack submarines that make up our country’s force today.

Sheila McNeill, the first president of the museum, welcomed speakers and guests alike and gave a rundown of the museum’s history, from start to finish.

There aren’t many such shrines out there, and not only does the museum attract passers-by who happen upon it, but it also draws former and current submariners to the area, those who come specifically to see the museum, but stay and spend their dollars in local restaurants and shops and hotels.

The main speaker, retired Vice Adm. Albert H. Konetzni, elicited laughs from the gathered crowd, setting a light tone for an evening of “war stories,” not only about the museum, but the submariner experience in general.

The museum is an asset, but it needs community support to stay alive.

Such a structure needs donations of time and money to stay afloat — or under the water, as the case may be.

A perpetual fund set up by a generous man, Jack Schiff, who never set foot in St. Marys before offering to help fund the museum, keeps the museum from going down altogether, but local residents need to step up to the plate, as well.

Schiff’s $20,000 a year, bequeathed after his death, is merely a drop in the bucket.

Fundraisers are held throughout the year, but as with any non-profit, they are never enough to cover expenses.

The number of people who came out for the anniversary ceremony shows just how important the museum is to local residents. There were submariners from Naval Submarine Base, Kings Bay; Mayor Rowland Eskridge of St. Marys; World War II submarine veterans; government employees and officials; and just ordinary citizens who appreciate the impact the museum has made on the area.

A small group of people works tirelessly to keep the museum up and running, acquiring items and information piece by piece to preserve for anyone interested in reading or viewing it.

The museum prides itself on having records on every submarine ever built, and when possible, photos and first-hand accounts of serving on the individual boats.

The museum, 102 St. Marys St. West, St. Marys, is open for tours from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and from 1-5 p.m. Sundays.

Current president is Tony Cobb and John Crouse is the curator.

The museum can be reached by calling (912) 882-2782 or by e-mail at

For more information, call, e-mail, stop by or visit


Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hunley lab renovations first up at new Clemson institute


The Beaufort Gazette
By Bruce Smith
April 03, 2006

CHARLESTON, S.C. - An expansion this fall of the lab where the submarine H.L. Hunley is housed will be the first sign of new development at Clemson University's planned 65-acre Restoration Institute campus at the old Charleston Naval Base.
But the institute, which in a decade is expected to create 4,700 jobs with an economic impact of a half billion dollars, is about more than repairing historic homes or conserving Confederate subs.

"We're looking not only at the past and historic preservation and conservation but we're looking at how can we build our cities in the future smarter," Janice Schach, the institute's director, said Monday.

University officials say the center is the first to formally focus on the restoration economy, defined as a trillion dollar global economy focused on restoring both natural resources and existing communities.

The institute will conduct research in areas from health and hydrology to materials engineering and urban design.

"When you want to build anything anywhere you have to restore something," said Schach, also dean of Clemson's College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities.

"Our roads and our bridges and our electrical grid systems and our sewer systems and our water systems are all under stress," she said, adding that by 2030, half the buildings in the world will have been built since 2000.

"That's a huge building boom. So not only are we looking at having to keep up our existing buildings and our existing infrastructure, we have to build all that new," she said.

At the same time, there will be more worldwide demand - especially in places like China - for raw materials such as steel and concrete.

"We need to be looking at alternative and advanced materials where we conserve our natural resources because the world can't meet that demand," Schach warned.

About 100 people gathered Monday to hear remarks from Storm Cunningham, author of the book "The Restoration Economy."

He noted that historically, nations and their economies grew by finding new lands and resources - sometimes by going to war.

Nations running low on resources had the choices of restoring, relocating or receding. But relocating, because the challenges are worldwide, is not an option.

Schach said a larger lab is needed so it can expand its work of restoring maritime artifacts. The first new Clemson building on the campus is expected to be finished in about two years.

Clemson will finish preserving the Hunley - the first sub in history to sink an enemy warship - as part of the Restoration Institute plan.

"This is an academic, economic and technological opportunity for us in this community," said state Sen. Glenn McConnell, the chairman of the South Carolina Hunley Commission.

The institute "provides us with an unparalleled opportunity to expand our work in historic preservation and materials science," said Clemson President James Barker.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Torpedo boats like 'David and Goliath'

By Scott Boyd
April 01, 2006

This Confederate David-type torpedo
boat was found abandoned after the
fall of Charleston, S.C., to Union forces.

Civil War scholars take a broadside at U.S. naval history.

"PROPERLY PLACED, a torpedo could sink the largest ship in the world," asserts Ed Wiser, a Ph.D. candidate at Florida State University, in his presentation "Civil War Torpedo Boats--Ingenuity Under Fire."

Wiser was the first speaker at the third annual Civil War Naval Symposium, sponsored by the National Civil War Naval Museum at Port Columbus in Columbus, Ga. As museum director Bruce Smith put it, "Rather than settle on one topic, we decided to do 'A Broadside of Civil War Naval History.''' This aptly describes the varied and interesting presentations given.

In the Civil War, the term "torpedo" meant an explosive device consisting of a metal or wooden case filled with gunpowder intended for detonation below an enemy vessel's waterline. There were two types: the static or fixed torpedo, anchored underwater and detonated with a contact fuse or by electric current from an observer ashore (something we would today call a naval mine); and a torpedo attached to a spar (a wooden or iron pole) at the bow of a ship for ramming underneath an enemy vessel's waterline prior to detonation.

The Union Navy made only one torpedo attack during the war, Wiser said. It was the daring night-time attack on the Confederate ironclad CSS Albemarle on the night of Oct. 27-28, 1864, by a small steam launch carrying a spar torpedo and commanded by Lt. William B. Cushing. The surprise attack sank the Albemarle.

The real work and experimentation with torpedoes was carried out by the Confederates, however, as Wiser explained. The best-known Confederate torpedo boat was the CSS David (as in "David and Goliath"), built in Charleston, S.C. The David was a small, cigar-shaped steam launch, very low in the water, which depended on stealth for success. The David attacked the ironclad USS New Ironsides at night on Oct. 5, 1863. The New Ironsides was damaged, but not sunk. The attack, however, instilled a fear of attack by torpedo boats into every Union captain blockading Charleston. Numerous Davids were subsequently built in Charleston and other Southern ports.

A number of Confederate ironclads carried a spar torpedo on their bows later in the war, but none was ever successfully used in battle against Union warships, Wiser pointed out. The Confederate submarine CSS H.L. Hunley used a spar torpedo, though, and made history when it rammed and detonated it into the hull of the USS Housatonic, becoming the first submarine to ever sink an enemy ship.

"The best documentation of Confederate torpedo boats came from U.S. Navy observers after the war," Wiser said. A number of Davids were captured and photographed.

When building their ironclads, Confederate naval engineers always struggled to borrow or build steam engines powerful enough to propel their armored ships. This was not a problem for the North, with its superior industrial capability. Former Port Columbus museum curator (1973-2005) Bob Holcombe discussed this aspect of the naval war.

"The CSS Atlanta was the only operational ironclad with a foreign-made engine," Holcombe noted about the armored warship that was converted from the hull of and used the engines of the British blockade runner Fingal. "She was the best-engined of any Confederate ironclad, and the fastest."

The next presentation began with a limerick, and the reassurances of its author that it would not offend sensitive ears:

There once was a Yankee named Tift

Who had some quite marvelous gifts.

The man could make money

And build ships but: Funny,

They all wound up as "what ifs?"

After the audience laughed, Maurice Melton, professor of history at Albany (Ga.) State University, discussed Connecticut-born Charleston, S.C., resident Nelson Tift, who when the war began was eager to help the Confederacy.

The CSS Mississippi, the largest Confederate ironclad ever de-signed, was conceived by Tift and his brother Asa and was under construction in New Orleans when the Crescent City fell to Union flag officer David G. Farragut's fleet in April 1862. The brothers reportedly watched and cried as their huge, unfinished ironclad was burned to prevent its capture by the advancing Union forces, according to Melton.

Relocating to Savannah, the brothers Tift were tasked with converting the blockade runner Fingal into the ironclad CSS Atlanta, which they did successfully. After some false starts and the replacement of a timid commander with the brash, young Cmdr. William Webb, the Atlanta finally ventured into Wassaw Sound, near Savannah, where two powerful Union monitors were waiting.

"I fault Webb for having a poor battle plan," Melton lamented. Webb intended to attack and sink both Union ships and then retire to Savannah to wait for the completion of the next ironclad under construction there, the CSS Savannah. A better move, Melton explained, would have been to keep moving after defeating the Union ships, and proceed up the coast to attack the vital Union naval base at Port Royal, S.C.

"For naval officers, the worst fate is to go aground in the face of the enemy. That is exactly what Webb accomplished," Melton pointed out. The Atlanta was stuck on a sandbar, and this tilted the side of the ship facing the Union vessels in such a way that it could not bring its guns to bear. After some devastating shots from the 15-inch gun on the USS Weehawken, Webb surrendered.
So the Tift brothers had to live with the what-ifs alluded to in Melton's limerick: What if the CSS Mississippi had been completed and was present to face Farragut's wooden fleet? What if the CSS Atlanta had not been so badly handled and had broken out of Wassaw Sound?