Today's submarines run on nuclear power, yet there are so many amazing similarities to the design of the H.L. Hunley with that of today's "fast attack submarines," such as adjustable diving planes; water ballast tanks, equalized for balance; long, cigar-shaped hull; and movable snorkel tubes for drawing air into the sub while submerged.

Muscle, sweat, desperation, and courage.

The light of a single candle deep in the darkness of the unknown.

The anticipation of victory fueled this sleek, dark iron sub and innovation navigated it to her target.

Since the recovery of the H.L. Hunley, we have learned that the navigational tools were far more advanced than most experts initially thought. The H.L. Hunley truly illustrates the genius that can be spawned by a desperate time.

During the excavation of the H.L. Hunley in 2001, archaeologists uncovered a vertical steering rod approximately 70 centimeters long in the front end of the submarine. It is likely that this rod is hinged at its base to a connection device that that runs through a pipe along the interior port side of the submarine underneath the crew bench to the stern area. In the stern, the connection would exit the submarine at some point and attach to the rudder, although further research still needs to be done to document exactly how all of this was interlinked.

The vertical steering rod is similar to an airplane joystick and could move in two directions from port to starboard side. This could very well be the world's first joystick for navigating a vessel. At present, it appears to be part of an involved system of rods and/or cables used to connect the submarine rudder while neatly placing it in the limited quarters out of the crew's way.

Cutaway illustration of the H.L. Hunley showing
the crew and captain operating the submarine.
(Image courtesy of Dan Dowdy).
Maria Jacobsen, Senior Archaeologist on the H.L. Hunley project, noted that from what can be seen, the steering mechanism is both "simple and elegant representing a design for efficiency and space." More and more, the H.L. Hunley is being revealed as an engineering marvel way ahead of her time.

The two lateral fins, or "dive planes", were connected by a horizontal rod. By moving a lever inside the H.L. Hunley the dive planes could be adjusted, changing the sub's underwater position and depth.

With the incredible fortitude, sweat, fear and courage of the crew, the sub was powered manually by turning a crankshaft which in turn powered the propeller. Imagine turning it for miles. Imagine the thoughts running through your mind as the rhythm of eight iron cranks turned - "the stale air barely keeping the flickering candle alive..."

Related Pages:

Innovation & Evolution
   American Diver
   SUCCESS: H.L. Hunley
The Hunley Revealed
   The Spar
H.L. Hunley Simulator

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