The South Carolina State Museum will once again present its ”Mystery of the Hunley" program on February 9. The program is part of the Museum’s Civil War Sesquicentennial observance.
The program is presented by Stonewall J. “Stoney” Hilton of Camden. Hilton is a retired US Navy submariner who served on the USS Nautilus when it crossed the North Pole in 1958. He is currently a volunteer with both the S.C. State Museum and the Friends of the Hunley.
Hilton’ presentation deals with both the history of the CSS Hunley along with the mechanics of how the sub actually worked. He also gives an update on the conservation work being done at the Warren Lasch Conservation Lab in North Charleston.According to Hilton, the Hunley has to be kept in a tank to avoid corrosion. “It would turn into a very fine powder if it wasn’t” Hilton said. He also said that the ongoing conservation work will take another 5-8 years before the Hunley will go on exhibit in a new museum in North Charleston.
The Hunley was the first submarine to sink an opposing ship, the USS Housatonic , on February 17, 1864. While the Housatonic sank, nothing more was heard from theHunley,according to Hilton, bonfires were burning all night on Sullivan’s Island to give the Hunley a bearing. The sub never returned and was not discovered until 1995. It was found in 40 feet of water under 3 feet of silt by an expedition conducted by author Clive Cussler. To this day, Hilton says, no one knows why it sank.
Hilton's presentation on the Hunley is given at the museum on a monthly basis. “The Mystery of the Hunley” takes place on the 4th floor of the State Museum at the Hunley exhibit hourly from 1-4 p.m.. It is part of the Museum’s regular admission.
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