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Forensic Sci Int. 2016 Mar;260:59-65. doi: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2016.01.008. Epub 2016 Jan 16.

Did the crew of the submarine H.L. Hunley suffocate?

Author information

1
Duke University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, 1427 CIEMAS, 101 Science Drive, Box 90281, Durham, NC 27705; Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Code E15 Underwater Systems Development and Acquisition, 110 Vernon Dr, Panama City, FL 32407. Electronic address: Rachel.lance@duke.edu.
2
Duke University Medical Center, Department of Anesthesiology, DUMC 3094, Durham, NC 27710.
3
Independent Researcher, www.VernianEra.com.
4
Duke University, Department of Biomedical Engineering, 1427 CIEMAS, 101 Science Drive, Box 90281, Durham, NC 27705.

Abstract

On the evening of February 17th, 1864, the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley attacked the Union ship USS Housatonic outside Charleston, South Carolina and became the first submarine in history to successfully sink an enemy ship in combat. One hypothesis for the sinking of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley is that the crew, in the enclosed vessel, suffered a lack of oxygen and suffocated. This study estimates the effects of hypoxia and hypercapnia on the crew based on submarine gas volume and crew breathing dynamics. The calculations show the crew of the Hunley had a minimum of 10 min between the onset of uncomfortable hypercapnia symptoms and danger of loss of consciousness from hypoxia. Based on this result and the location of the crew when discovered, hypoxia and hypercapnia do not explain the sinking of the world's first successful combat submarine.

KEYWORDS:

Hunley; Hypercapnia; Hypoxia; Sinking; Submarine

PMID:
26821202
DOI:
10.1016/j.forsciint.2016.01.008
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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