Civil War submarine may have been destroyed by its own torpedo

During the Civil War, the Confederate army fielded a submarine called the H.L. Hunley. After sinking an enemy ship called the USS Housatonic in 1864, the submarine disappeared after signaling a successful mission. Exactly what caused the Confederate submarine to sink has remained a mystery.

However, scientists studying the ship have discovered new evidence that may shed light on what caused the submarine to sink and how the sub and its crew were able to sink the union ship. The sinking of the union ship made the Hunley the first successful combat submarine in history. New evidence discovered during the study of the submarine suggests that the submarine was less than 20 feet away from the torpedo when it exploded, sinking the union ship.

According to the researchers, new evidence suggests that the torpedo was bolted to a 16-foot-long spar. This discovery was made during an investigation of what remained of the two-foot-long torpedo. According to the researchers, the torpedo held 135 pounds of gunpowder and was not designed to separate from the spar as previously believed.

Previously it was believed that the torpedo was placed against the ship's hull and then detonated remotely. New evidence suggests that the submarine was no more than 20 feet away when the torpedo was detonated. As close as the submarine was to the ship when the torpedo exploded, the researchers believe that the concussion from the explosion may have damaged the submarine and injured the crew. The submarine was discovered off the South Carolina Charleston Harbor in 1995 and return to the surface in 2000.

[via USA Today]