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Sat, 24 Jul


By Zoom

In The Waves: The Mystery of the HL Hunley

Our War on the Water theme continues in July with one the great unresolved mysteries of the Civil War at sea.

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In The Waves: The Mystery of the HL Hunley
In The Waves: The Mystery of the HL Hunley

Time & Location

24 Jul 2021, 13:00 – 15:00

By Zoom

About the Event

The diminutive, hand-powered HL Hunley was the first submarine ever to sink an enemy ship in combat, the USS Housatonic in Charleston harbour on 17 February 1864. The little Confederate submarine disappeared immediately after its historic victory, leaving behind only a few muddled eyewitness reports and not a single physical clue to the cause of its own demise. It was recovered from beneath the ocean floor decades later, in the year 2000, but the puzzle of its disappearance only deepened when the hull was opened to reveal that the remains of the crew were still seated peacefully at their battle stations, and seemed to be unharmed.

While a PhD student at Duke University, blast and ballistic trauma researcher Rachel Lance read about the mysterious crew deaths and decided to investigate. To her, the most likely suspect was the massive black powder bomb that the men set off only a few feet from their own bow.

This talk will tell the story of the science behind the explosions, gunshots, asphyxiation, and myriad other physiological insults that could have affected the crew of the Hunley that cold night in February 1864. Doctor Lance’s research finally answers one of American history’s most haunting questions: What sank the HL Hunley?

About the Speaker

Rachel Lance is an Assistant Consulting Professor at Duke University where she conducts research out of their Hyperbaric Medicine facility . She earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan, and a PhD in the same field from Duke University. She specializes in injury biomechanics, is especially fascinated by the trauma patterns from blast and ballistic events, and is currently focused on the development of novel methods to enable human survival in extreme environments, like underwater and outer space.

A native of Detroit, Michigan, Dr Lance now lives with her husband and two lovable rescue dogs in Durham, North Carolina.

The event is free but we welcome donations to enable us to continue our education and conservation projects on both sides of the Atlantic.


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