Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Three famous vessels: Conservation scorecard and biggest remaining mysteries

H.L. Hunley as exterior is cleaned (Friends of the Hunley)

Just for fun, I asked three Civil War shipwreck conservators and a historian at last weekend’s symposium in Columbus, Ga., for a scorecard on where the work stands and the biggest questions they hope research will reveal. Here are the responses, as provided at the “Wrecks, Recovery & Conservation” program at the National Civil War Naval Museum. The scale is 1-10, with 10 indicating completion:

Jim Jobling, CSS Georgia
Wreck raised:
2015 (another casemate section recovery scheduled for 2017)
Conservation: 1-2
Interpretation: 1
Biggest questions? We are an artifact dump site. I want to know how the CSS Georgia was designed and built. I don’t think we can answer that. We have the top and none of the bottom. There is no hull or engine. We have a challenge.

Michael Jordan
Michael Jordan, CSS Georgia documentary producer
Biggest questions?
I want to know more about the crew’s lives. We are looking for a sailor’s diary. There are stories to be told. Also, more about the Savannah women who raised the money to build it.

Will Hoffman, USS Monitor
Wreck raised:
Anchor in 1983, propeller in 1998, steam engine and section of hull in 2001, turret in 2002
Conservation: 5-6 (completion by 2035)
Interpretation: 8-9
Biggest questions? Why the Monitor sank while being towed to Beaufort, N.C. It may have been failure of the hull, which had a riveted V shape. It belly flopped in the waves. Also, who were the two sailors found in the turret and how should we present the artifacts (at the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va.)?

USS Monitor turret (Courtesy of The Mariners' Museum and Park)

Paul Mardikian, H.L Hunley
Wreck raised: 2000
Conservation: 7 (About five more years)
Interpretation: 8-9
Biggest questions? What caused it to sink. We are going back to the materials; there were flaws in the metal. What was happening may not be one thing. I am confident we can pin it down. We want to solve the case.

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