Thursday, January 31, 2008

Germans unleash U-boats on this day in 1917



Germans unleash U-boats on this day in 1917: January 31, 1917, Germany announces the renewal of unlimited submarine warfare in the Atlantic, and German torpedo-armed submarines prepare to attack any and all ships, including civilian passenger carriers, said to be sited in war-zone waters. Three days later, the United States broke diplomatic relations with Germany, and just hours after that the American liner Housatonic was sunk by a German U-boat. None of the 25 Americans on board were killed, and all were later picked up by a British steamer.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

New building will give artifacts room to shine

By Robert C. Burns
January 19, 2008

The World War II Navy submarine USS Silversides has become a familiar sight along the Muskegon Channel since its arrival from Chicago's Navy Pier two decades ago.

But there's a great deal more to the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum -- an outfit whose Navy and World War II-era artifacts number in the thousands, many of which have been stashed away in storage areas for lack of space to display them.

That is a situation the museum's board of directors is well on its way to correcting. A new $2 million channel-side museum is scheduled for opening in mid-June, rounding out a visitor destination center that is expected to attract more than 50,000 visitors annually.

It includes the highly popular Silversides, now a National Historic Landmark, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter McLane. Built in 1927 as a Prohibition-era "rum chaser," it later saw service in World War II and came to Muskegon in 1993.

Both vessels have been restored largely through many hours of volunteer effort.

Besides bringing the Silversides' propellers and torpedoes and other outdoor exhibits in out of the weather, the sizable 16,500-square-foot museum building will properly display an actual control system taken from a nuclear-powered incarnation of the USS Silversides, since its decommissioning.

Acquisition of a nuclear submarine periscope to go with it is "in the works," said museum chairman Robert Morin Sr.

And besides adding greatly to exhibit space, the recently christened Robert G. Morin Sr. Building will include two exhibit areas, a research library, classrooms, a 72-seat theater, on-premise storage space for artifacts, offices, a banquet and conference area overlooking the Muskegon Channel and an expanded gift shop.

It also will have a staging area for tours and for those participating in the museum's popular Overnight Encampment Program before going aboard the submarine or the Coast Guard cutter for the night.

The building also will become a training location for the U.S. Navy Sea Cadet, Power Squadron and museum education programs.

Finding space for all those different displays and activities called for a large building, and it is -- too large, say disgruntled neighbors like Randy Bandstra, 3520 Fulton.

The building will be 28 feet tall, enough to obscure his view of the west end of the Channel and Lake Michigan.

"It's a big commercial building that doesn't belong in a residential neighborhood, and an ugly commercial building at that," says Bandstra, who said the structure would be better suited for the city's downtown lakefront.

Morin contends that the building was set back as far as possible from the channel to prevent blocking the view from houses along it.

"There's no way to please everybody, but we tried," Morin said, adding that the building will look much different after the windows, trim and front entrance are added to the marine blue siding.

"I think it's going to be a beautiful building when it's done," Morin said.

The idea of the large museum is not to cram in every last artifact the organization has in its possession, says the museum's registrar and collection manager, Denise Herzhaft. An exhibit committee will be selecting which of several thousand artifacts to display and which to leave out, she said.

But the new building will give curators an opportunity to rotate the exhibits each year to keep things fresh.

"We have tourists and groups that come here once a year, every year," she said, "so we like to change the exhibits periodically."

Community outreach and education are a part of the museum's mission as well. A curriculum is now being written by Toni Seyferth, a communications teacher for the North Muskegon school district, and Pat Gabriel, a retired teacher from Jenison.

Researchers will find books, documents, workspace and an Internet feed to Navy archives. The library includes volumes on military history, particularly the World War II era. About a year and a half ago, Virginia Marsick, of Kankakee, Ill., donated an estimated $12,000 worth of books on the war -- and another $1,000 for bookcases to shelve them.

Already considered Muskegon County's second-most popular tourist destination, the Silversides organization got a boost with the start of Lake Express cross-lake service in 2004, in the form of a steady increase in tours and gift shop sales.

"The Silversides is the first thing to welcome visitors and the last to wish them goodbye," said Herzhaft.

A fundraising drive for the new facility is about 80 percent of the way toward its goal, said Mark Fazakerley, treasurer of the organization. Of the $2 million overall cost, a $400,000 savings has been realized through cost reductions and various in-kind services. Of that, $1.3 million has been raised to date, Fazakerley said. That leaves $300,000, which Fazakerley said he fully expects to be in hand by the end of this year.

"The (fundraising) momentum just keeps getting better and better."

That money will cover completion of the second-floor library and offices. The museum will open in June, he said. "It can be a functioning museum with what we have right now."

Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum When: It opens in mid-June.
Cost: $2 million.
Location: 1346 Bluff, near the channel.
Size: 16,500 square feet over two floors.
Inside: Two exhibit areas, 72-seat theater, classrooms, research library, artifact storage, banquet and conference areas, gift shop, staging area for tours and overnighters, training for U.S. Navy Sea Cadets, Power Squadron and museum education programs.
Information or to make a contribution: Call (231) 755-1230 or go to the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum Web site.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Scientists pumped about Hunley clues


The Post and Courier
By Brian Hicks
January 18, 2008

Pulling answers out of the H.L. Hunley has never been easy, but on Thursday it took a crane.

Scientists, however, may have just snagged the answer to one of the Confederate submarine's most perplexing mysteries: whether the crew drowned or ran out of air.

After weeks of work and years of planning, conservators and archaeologists on Thursday removed the sub's heavy aft pump, one of two such devices that emptied its ballast tanks.

Encased in a rock-hard casing of sand and shell, the pump might not look like much, but it might soon answer a lot of questions.

"The whole reason it was taken out was for conservation," archaeologist James Hunter said, "but now that it's out, we'll be trying to figure some things out."

The settings of the pump's valves will tell whether the crew was trying to pump water out of the ballast tanks or the sub's floor when they died. If they were pumping, it would mean they were trying to surface or the sub was filling with water.

If they weren't, it could suggest the Hunley's crew simply ran out of air. The Hunley disappeared shortly after it sank the USS Housatonic four miles off Sullivan's Island on Feb. 17, 1864.

"Once we know the pump's setting, it will help us close in on discovering what prevented the Hunley and her crew from returning home," said Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston, chairman of the state Hunley Commission. "It will help us eliminate some of the existing possibilities."

The answer has always been there, but the pump sat in a place that made it just about impossible to X-ray its valves. Now that it's out, conservators say they hope to get a better look to the internal workings of the pump in a couple of weeks.

Philippe de Vivies, a Hunley conservator, said the pump was heavier than they thought — the estimate is between 120 and 180 pounds — and they had to drop one of the sub's keel ballast blocks to get it out.

Hunter said some of the primary things archaeologists want to know — beyond the obvious — is how the pump system worked and whether it was built from the ground up special for the Hunley.

"For the submarine, it's a fairly complex piece of machinery," Hunter said.

Right now, it looks like the pumping system was fairly intricate. There was one pump for the each of the two ballast tanks on the sub, but the piping system on the sub suggests that either the forward or aft pump could drain either ballast tank, like a fail-safe, Hunter said.

One or both of the pumps also might have been able to pump water from the floor of the sub's crew compartment.

The aft pump is famous in Hunley lore for nearly killing the crew in January 1864. It became clogged with seaweed during an underwater test, forcing William Alexander, who helped build the sub and crewed it for a while — to take the pump apart in the dark, unclog it and reassemble it before the crew suffocated.

Now, the pump might serve another purpose: revealing what happened to the Hunley's last crew.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Divers discover U-boat wreckage


January 14, 2008

A German U-boat sunk off Scotland's coast more than 90 years ago has been discovered by two divers.

Jim MacLeod, of Bo'ness, and Martin Sinclair, from Falkirk, found the wreckage of the U12 about 25 miles from Eyemouth at the weekend.

They had been looking for the 60-metre U-boat for the past five years.

The precise location has now been reported to the German authorities as 19 sailors died in the sinking and relatives will be informed.

The site has been declared an official war grave and it will remain untouched.

Its final resting place was thought to have been found in 1984 by noted international historian Clive Cussler.

However, dives around the area proved fruitless.

The Scottish divers enlisted the help of a researcher who was able to get log books from destroyers HMS Ariel, Acheron and Attack involved in the sinking of the U12 to help pinpoint the site.

They then used Eyemouth firm Marine Quest Dive Charters to visit the location where they found the boat lying 150ft down on the seabed.

It was the first time the wreck had been visited since it was sunk in 1915.

"It has taken a lot of effort and perseverance but it has finally paid off," said Mr MacLeod.

"It was the first ever submarine to launch a plane at sea.

"We are delighted with the find."

Shipwreck expert Kevin Heath, from Stromness, Orkney, said it was an important discovery.

"The U12 had been targeting cargo ships off the east coast of Britain and had been as far north as Peterhead," he said.

"It had sunk a boat the previous night but on 10 March, 1915, it was hunted down by the three British destroyers HMS Ariel, Acheron and Attack.

"It attempted to dive under the surface but it was rammed by HMS Ariel."

'Diplomatic incident'

The submarine then surfaced and was shelled by two of the destroyers and sank with the loss of 19 lives although there were 10 survivors.

"They surrendered but it led to a diplomatic incident," added Mr Heath.

"They were treated as pirates by the British for the way they were targeting cargo ships and put into solitary confinement.

"This angered the Germans who did the same with British prisoners of war and the situation had to be dealt with by the Swiss."


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Hunley expert to speak at Historic Effingham banquet


Savannah Morning News
January 13, 2008

An expert from the Hunley Commission will be the guest speaker at the annual banquet of the Historic Effingham Society.

The event will be at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 2 in the Great Hall at New Ebenezer Retreat Center.

Randall Burbage will speak on the history, recovery and restoration of the Confederate submarine the H.L. Hunley, which was lost off the coast of Charleston, S.C., after successfully attacking the USS Housatonic on Feb. 17, 1864.

This action during the Civil War was one of the most remarkable events in Naval history, as it was the first submarine to successfully sink a ship in military action and was not repeated again for another 50 years.

Historic Effingham spokeswoman Susan Exley said guests to the event will be in for a wonderful presentation.

"A lot has happened over the last few years in the restoration of the Hunley since Mr. Burbage first spoke at our banquet," Exley said. "His presentation then was so interesting that few checked their watches while eagerly anticipating the next photograph or remark. We look forward to more of this fascinating story."

Burbage is a native of Charleston and is owner of Randy Burbage Equipment Co. He is married to the former Judith Rabun of Hanahan, S.C., where they live. They have six children.

He is a life member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and, among other accomplishments, has been commander of the South Carolina Division of the SCV since 2006. He was awarded the Order of Palmetto by Governor Carroll Campbell in 1993. In 1995, the governor appointed him to the Hunley Commission. He was chairman of the Hunley Funeral Committee from 2002 to 2004.

The banquet will begin with a fellowship time at 5:30 p.m., and dinner will be served at 6 p.m. The event is by reservation only and is open to the public as long as tickets are available. Tickets cost $20 and are on sale at the Effingham Museum, 1002 N, Pine St., in Springfield or from members.

The Effingham Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 2 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Tickets must be purchased by Jan. 28.

Tickets also can be reserved by mailing a check or money order no later than Jan. 25 to: Historic Effingham Society, P.O. Box 999, Springfield, GA 31329. Call the office at 912-754-2170, or Exley at 912-754-6681 for more information.

For more information about the Historic Effingham Society, visit For more information about the Hunley, visit



WHAT: Historic Effingham Society annual banquet and dinner

WHEN: 5:30 p.m. Feb. 2 with dinner served at 6 p.m.

WHERE: New Ebenezer Retreat Center, 2887 Ebenezer Road, Rincon.

DETAILS: Banquet is by reservation only. Tickets may be purchased in advance for $20 at the Effingham Museum, 1002 N. Pine St., Springfield, or from any member of the Historic Effingham Society. RSVP by Jan. 28.

INFO: For more information, call the museum office at 912-754-2170 or Susan Exley at 912-754-6681.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Shipwreck divers share tales of the deep with Oyster River students


Foster's Daily Democrat
By Rebecca Hamm
January 12, 2008

DURHAM — John Chatterton and Ritchie Kohler, described as being among the most accomplished wreck divers in the world, spoke to a group of high school students about their discovery of a sunken World War II-era German submarine 60 miles off the U.S. coast.

The students in Judy Kucera's Readings in Nonfiction class at Oyster River High School met with the deep-sea explorers on Friday morning.

The men recounted aspects of their dives to the U-869, which was the subject of Rob Kurson's New York Times bestselling book, "Shadow Divers." Having read the book, the class asked the divers questions about their seven-year quest to identify the mysterious U-boat, dubbed "U-Who" by the dive team.

In 1991, Bill Nagle, captain of the diving ship The Seeker, led a team of recreational divers, including Chatterton and Kohler, to the site of a sunken submarine off the coast of New Jersey.

Chatterton and Kohler became friends during the expedition and the two have partnered for dives many times since.

The submarine, located 230 feet under the waves, contained the remains of 56 men. Neither historians nor the U.S. Navy or German Navy had any evidence of a U-boat located so close to American shores.

For six years the men, with the elite team of divers, made numerous dives down to the U-boat in a mission to solve its identity. The dive team made it a quest to discover the identities of the men whose bodies they found on the sea floor and how the sub came to rest there.

"They had no record of it. The answer was not going to be found in a history book … There were people on this submarine and it fell through the cracks of history," Chatterton told the group of students.

Although there were some hardships — the men faced harrowing underwater conditions and lost three fellow divers in the course of the expedition — Kohler said overall the experience was a dream come true.

"As a diver, this is something you hope for. You go to bed at night and dream of a virgin shipwreck."

When asked by a student what his favorite dive had been, Kohler said, "It kinda sounds flip, but it's the next one. We're always looking for the next one. As divers, we're always going a little bit further and a little bit deeper," he said.

The men said there a lot of challenges involved with deep shipwreck diving because divers are often in situations where time is of the essence and they need to stay calm.

"There are a lot of psychological elements. This is a hostile, intimidating environment and you're going where other people have never been. But, you can't be intimidated and you can't panic, because if you do, you're going to lose your life," said Chatterton.

The men underlined the perils of diving and said they meticulously prepare their equipment before every dive and make sure they coordinate a diving plan with each other before descending.

Although they generally donate most of their artifacts they find on the ocean floor to museums or to families of shipwreck victims, the men brought in a bowl with a swastika imprinted on the bottom, a browning pack of cigarettes and box of matches they found on the U-869 to Kohler said it's not uncommon to stir up sediment while diving, which can cause the diver to lose the sense of sight. "It looks just like chocolate milk. It's what you call a brown dive. You have to be an incredibly comfortable diver when you lose one of your senses like sight. Actually, you end up losing several senses. You can't smell because there's the mask and there's no tactile sense because the gloves are too thick."

He said divers eventually acquire a skill to maneuver out of those situations when all senses are impaired.

"Nothing starts your heart quicker than when you think there's an exit and it's a wall," Chatterton said. "If you touch something you never know if it's going to come loose. If you stir something up, you could lose visibility."

Despite the danger, the men have been on many of the most famous wrecks in the world.

Chatterton was a member of the first technical diving expedition to Ireland and the legendary RMS Lusitania in 1994. Several years later, at a depth of 400 feet, he was the first diver to use rebreather diving technology on the wreck of HMHS Britannic, near the island of Kea in Greece. He was also the sole American on a British expedition, sponsored by the U.S. Holocaust Museum, looking for the historic shipwreck Struma in the Black Sea near Istanbul.

Kohler has explored the SS Andrea Doria, and the RMS Titanic. Diving from the Russian research vessel Keldysh, he has also made multiple dives of more than 12,000 feet in the MIR submersible to explore the wreck site.

"When you go into the submarine, you feel empowered," Kohler told the class.

The discovery of the U-869 has been the subject of several documentaries including "Hitler's Lost Sub" and a special on the PBS series NOVA.

Chatterton and Kohler were co-hosts on the History Channel's Deep Sea Detectives, and both are consultants in the film and television industries. A movie of "Shadow Divers" is being created by 20th Century Fox. The two are currently working on a book about the famous ocean liner RMS Titanic.

Chatterton lives in Harpswell, Maine. Kohler makes his home in New Jersey.


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Cavalla nominated for historic designation


The Galveston County Daily News
By Leigh Jones
January 10, 2008

GALVESTON — The Cavalla Historical Foundation is nominating the USS Cavalla to the National Register of Historic Places, a designation that would give the submarine federal protection.

If the Cavalla makes the list, which is maintained by the National Park Service, the federal government would not interfere with its maintenance or management but would review any federally funded projects that might effect the submarine.

Both foundation and Port of Galveston officials say the designation would not hamper plans for a new container terminal on Pelican Island, but the application is an unwelcome reminder of the recent disagreement between local preservationists and economic development proponents about Seawolf Park.

“I’m disappointed no one has come to talk to us or even asked whether this is going to become a project,” said Steve Cernak, Port of Galveston director. “But this won’t affect the project at all.”

The city council will consider endorsing the national register application today.

The ports of Galveston and Houston have been planning the $1 billion, 1,100 acre container terminal project for the past 10 years. It had widespread support from local officials, until they discovered the original memorandum of understanding between the two ports included the possibility of moving the park, where the WWII-era Cavalla and the destroyer escort USS Stewart are permanently berthed.

Members of the Cavalla foundation and the Galveston Park Board of Trustees, which operates Seawolf Park, said the park could not be moved because the land was given by the federal government to the city in perpetuity. Voters would have to agree to move the park, if port and city officials decided it was necessary.

Although both ports have said the move would not be necessary, the national registry listing could make it all but impossible.

Debbie Head, spokeswoman for the Texas Historical Commission, said the state agency would review any project receiving either state or federal funds that might materially alter a site with historical designation or even eligibility.

The commission recently prevented city officials from demolishing the Menard Park bandshell and forced them to alter plans for the recreation center that is now under construction. Because the center is partially funded with state money, the commission is requiring the city to restore the band shell at a cost of about $300,000.

But Cavalla foundation president Grady Harrison said the submarine’s application had nothing to do with the container terminal or possible protection from the state historical agency.

Harrison said after the Stewart received its national register designation on Veterans Day last year, the group decided to start the process for the Cavalla.

“We believe the viability and long-term vision of our exhibits is still sound,” he said. “We will see how we need to adapt should conditions of the (container terminal) project change. We need to ensure the attractiveness of the exhibits.”

Although port officials say the park would not have to move, they are concerned about the possible effects the terminal could have on park access and operations.

Construction on the container terminal is not likely to begin for another 10 years. In the meantime, Harrison said the foundation hoped to complete the Cavalla’s restoration and build a visitor’s center nearby.

Harrison also said he hoped city officials would pursue historic designations for the old quarantine station.

But Dwayne Jones, director of the Galveston Historical Foundation, said he had set aside plans to apply for such recognition because he wasn’t sure whether any archaeological evidence of the station existed.


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Hunley shows 'Southern ingenuity,' says preservation expert


Mooresville Tribune
By Melinda Skutnick
January 09, 2008

An educational discussion about the “Southern ingenuity” of the first submarine to sink an enemy ship brought local members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to the Mooresville Public Library Monday night.

“We’re in education and preservation,” Jack Marlar, chief technical advisor for the H.L. Hunley Commission, said of the SCV, for which he serves as a field representative. “The more people know about the South, the more they’ll like us.”

During his presentation to the members of SCV Camp 2106 of Mooresville, Marlar discussed the many technological innovations the South was making during the Civil War, which are exhibited by the H.L. Hunley – a Confederate submarine that made its debut in 1863.

Among the technological advances of the Hunley was a cutwater, an angled piece of metal at the top of the sub allowing it to divide the water as the vessel moved, aiding in stabilization and aerodynamics, Marlar said. There was also an air box, more commonly known as a snorkel box, providing better air flow to the submarine’s eight crew members.

The crew, which sat on a bench on the left side of the vessel, operated the sub using a crank shaft. The Hunley’s design forced the seven crew members operating the crank to bend over, putting the weight of their bodies “exactly perpendicular to the axle,” said Marlar, which helped keep the sub upright.

The Hunley, which was salvaged just off the coast of Charleston, S.C., on Aug. 8, 2000, also had a four-section ballast bar on its bottom, allowing the submarine to remain vertical while doubling as a safety device, explained Marlar.

Crew members could detach singular sections of the ballast bar to help retain buoyancy in the water.

However, noted Marlar, the ballast bar was still attached to the vessel when it was brought up from the ocean floor, “which adds to the mystery of what went wrong.”

Shortly after sinking the USS Housatonic with a torpedo on Feb. 17, 1864, the Hunley’s eight crew members perished when the submarine never made it back to shore. Years of speculation about what happened to the vessel after signaling that it would be returning to base have left researchers pondering this mystery.

“If they only made it back, (the Confederate army) probably would have made a dozen of these things,” said Marlar, adding that this single event, had the vessel returned, could have changed the war.

With innovations such as a fly wheel, a balance tube to keep actuation and many other technological advances, Marlar said the Hunley proves brilliant engineering.

Commander Mike Brewer of the Mooresville SCV said the members in attendance Monday evening gained a great deal of knowledge about the famed submarine.

“Learned a lot about the Hunley, specifically about the engineering aspects of the Hunley that I wasn’t even aware of,” he said. “Everybody I talked to really appreciated (the presentation).”

Brewer added that the organization, which thrives on studying the history of the Confederacy based on facts, has been trying to get Marlar to speak to them about the Hunley for “a couple of years, but he’s in such high demand.”

Monday’s speaker at the Camp’s monthly meeting – held at the library on the first Monday of each month – allowed for a new, interesting perspective on the way the Hunley was built, noted Brewer.

When the ship was raised and brought into Charleston in 2000, many artifacts were aboard the vessel, Marlar said, including pocket knives, Lt. George E. Dixon’s watch and a $20 gold piece given to him by his love with the inscription “Shiloh April 6 1862 My life preserver G.E.D.”

The gold piece is believed to have saved Dixon’s life by blocking a bullet when he was shot in 1862.

Two additional metal objects were found in the Hunley, a nine-diamond gold ring and a 37-diamond gold broach, both discovered wrapped in cloth under Dixon’s seat at the helm of the vessel.

All of these artifacts from the H.L. Hunley as well as the submarine itself can be viewed at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center in Charleston, S.C.


Monday, January 07, 2008

Relative wants information about 1916 u-boat attack


Scarborough Evening News
By Ian Duncan
January 07, 2008

A RELATIVE of the skipper of a Scarborough fishing boat, sunk by a German U-boat during the First World War, is wanting to find out more about the incident.

Great-great-granddaughter Lisa Farring- ton, who now lives in Lancashire, is looking for information for her family tree relating to Dave Naylor who was the skipper of the Fisher Prince, which was part of Scarborough’s fishing fleet.

It was the boat used by the submarine’s captain to hold all of the fishermen while he methodically sank the remaining vessels in 1916.

Ms Farrington said: “My gran, Doris Raper, used to tell this story exactly as it appeared in the Evening News but none of us knew if it was true.

“As a child, it made me realise that not all Germans were as evil as the Nazis seen in films.

“It was only when I read the article that I realised just what an act of bravery this was.”

The story was published again last September, under the headline Hell In High Water, and marked the 90th anniversary of the attack.

She added her gran had lived most of her life in St Mary’s Walk and was the eldest of five children.

“I would like to hear from anyone else descended from Dave Naylor, as I do have family tree details to pass on if anyone is interested,” she said.

Anyone with any information should send an email to