Tag Archives: Maritime

A Seasoned Salt: Part 3


At the end of the war with England, John Paul found himself a naval officer without a ship. The Congress decided the country did not need naval ships in peace time. This was when John Paul accepted a commission as an admiral in the Russian Navy, on the condition that he was allowed to keep his US citizenship and position in the United States Navy.

In the Russian Navy John Paul was made an admiral and was quite successful against the Turks in the Black Sea. Successful enough that several officers spent more time trying to destroy John Paul than they did the Turks. They were partially successful in that John Paul was recalled to Moscow and faced charges of rape, but the charges were eventually dropped. He was awarded the Order of St. Anne, and left a month later an embittered man.

John Paul returned to Paris, where he lived out the rest of his life. On his death his body was escorted by a small group of servants, friends, and family to a small cemetery used by the French royal family. Over the years the cemetery was sold and used for a variety of purposes.

One hundred fifteen years later the United States Ambassador to France made it a one-man mission to find the grave of John Paul. After six months of dedicated work he was successful. The body of John Paul was sent back to the United States aboard the USS Brooklyn, three other United States cruisers and a squadron of French Naval vessels. On approaching the coastline of the United States the fleet was joined by seven battleships of the United States Navy. The body was temporarily interred at Bancroft Hall at the United States Naval Academy until his permanent tomb could be finished. In 1913, his body was interred in its final resting place at the Naval Academy Chapel in a vault under the altar.

The name that John Paul chose when he left British service was Jones. And that is the name by which he is known in the United States, John Paul Jones, the father of the United States Navy. His ship the Poor Richard, you have probably her of his ship under its French name, the Bonhomme Richard.

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Captain James Cook – Part Two


In the navy, the commander of a ship is always referred to as Captain, regardless of his/her actual rank. Captain Cook, after his first world voyage, was promoted from lieutenant to commander. On his first voyage, Cook had shown that New Zealand was an island and, by charting the east coastline of Australia, he had shown that Australia was continent sized. However, the Royal Society did not believe that Australia was the fabled Terra Australis. The scientists at the time believed that the landmasses in the northern hemisphere were countered by landmasses of equal mass in the south. This was the Royal Society’s basis for believing that Terra Australis existed. Finding this fabled continent was the reason for Cook’s first voyage, and the reason the Royal Society and His Majesty’s Navy sent Cook on his second voyage (1772-1775).

Cook set sail in command of the HMS Resolution, with Tobias Furneaux commanding the HMS Adventure. This voyage he circumnavigated the world at a higher southern latitude. Cook also became the first man to sail below the Antarctic Circle, reaching 71 degrees and 10 minutes South. Cook turned back before reaching the Antarctic mainland, and became separated in fog from the HMS Adventure. Furneaux then sailed the HMS Adventure back to England.

Before leaving the Pacific, Cook visited Easter Island, Norfolk Island, and several other islands. Then he sailed round Cape Horn and across the South Atlantic, claiming islands (for Britain) while exploring, surveying, and mapping; before turning north for South Africa and England.

Cook’s reports in England put to rest the belief in the fabled Terra Australis, he was made a fellow of the Royal Society, promoted to post-captain and retired. Once again, Cook was honored and praised upon his return, painted by noted portrait artist Nathaniel Dance-Holland, awarded medals, and praised by Parliament. Cook resisted retirement, but had little choice.

Cook’s greatest accomplishment, for the seafaring community at least, was his use of Larcum Kendall’s copy of a John Harrison marine chronometer. In Cook’s day, finding a ship’s latitude, north or south, was a simple act of taking a sighting on the sun (daytime) or star (at night) and performing the mathematical calculations to arrive at your ship’s north or south position. East and west longitude was not so easy to calculate. The common way mariners navigated was to steer a course for an island with a known longitude and latitude, upon sighting the island they would sail for another known island. This way the navigator could do a fair job of plotting his ship’s progress. This method caused ship’s captains to sail much longer routes. What navigators needed was an extremely accurate timepiece, a chronometer. Many kingdoms around the world were offering prizes for the first person to create just such a marine chronometer, one that was portable and would stand up to the rigors of life at sea.

The way a marine chronometer is used to find the ship’s longitude is a simple matter. The chronometer is set to the time at a known place, on English ships this was Greenwich, England (known as Greenwich Mean Time or GMT). The ship would sight the sun with a sextant at the local noontime for the position they were in, this is the time when the sun is at its highest peak in the sky. The time for local noon would be noted, and the ships clocks would be reset to local noon, all clocks except the marine chronometer that is. Then the difference between local noon and Greenwich noon would be noted and the difference would be the difference in longitude.

If the local noon happened when it was 1 PM in Greenwich, then the ship was 60 minutes west of Greenwich, which is also 1 degree west of Greenwich or at a longitude of 179⁰ W. Latitude and longitude are divided into degrees, 180⁰ of west and 180⁰ of east longitude. Latitude is divided into 90⁰ north and south latitude. Time on a clock and position in latitude and longitude is directly proportional. One hour in time equals one degree in distance, minute for minute, and second for second. Each degree is divided into 60 minutes, and each minute is divided into 60 seconds; so that 23⁰ 45’ 8” N 119⁰ 17’ 11” W is read, “23 degrees 45 minutes 8 seconds north 119 degrees 17 minutes 11 seconds west.” What the marine chronometer did was to free ships to sail the most direct route from any point on the earth to any point on the earth, in some cases shortening sea voyages by months. This was a huge savings in supplies a ship would have to carry, and for the merchant marine, less travel time meant more voyages and more income. This also meant that ships could now sail anywhere in the world, and know precisely where they were, something never possible before.

A year later, a voyage was planned to find the fabled Northwest Passage. Cook, chafing in retirement, volunteered to lead the expedition. This was Cook’s third and last expedition, one from which he would never return. But, oh what an expedition it was. For now though, we will leave Cook in his unwanted retirement.

Have a great week and take care of yourself,

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Spence VS Cussler: Who Found the Hunley?


Dr. E. Lee Spence with priceless, ruby studded...

Dr. E. Lee Spence with priceless, ruby studded, over one kilo, 22 kt gold sword handle once owned by 19th century pirate kings of Bali. It was part of a hoard of treasure hidden from the Dutch forces who invaded Java for the purpose of driving out the pirates. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

August 3, 2016. I just came into information today that leads me to believe that some of this information in this one article might be incorrect. I have a mountain of research to do on this and will let you know the end results and will make corrections to this article if the results of my research warrant it. Thank you for you patience and understanding.

Clive Cussler

Clive Cussler (Photo credit: Travelin’ Librarian)

The controversy over who found the Hunley has gone on for almost two decades. Both men have many supporters who have continued the arguments and added some of their own. Many of these arguments treat opinion as evidence and fact, and attempt to attribute causes of the combatant’s opinion to actions of the opponent. To sort out all of the claims and counter claims could take years of research, and some would never be satisfactorily resolved because they are based in partisan opinion. So, where do we start?

The August 23, 2008, article in the Charleston Post and Courier by Brad Nettles concisely states each side’s case in an unbiased fashion, and gives us our starting point (this is the link to Brad’s article http://www.postandcourier.com/article/20080823/PC1602/308239956 ). The article was written at the time Cussler dropped his lawsuit against Spence. Since the US Navy, the National Park Service, and the Hunley Commission all credit Clive Cussler as the founder of the Hunley (see the article), Dr. Spence is in the role of the challenger. This is a good place to start.

We could start with the appeals Dr. Spence has filed with the Hunley commission over his discovery, but we will go back to Dr. Spence’s discovery in 1970 instead. We will also cover the claim of ownership of the Hunley by Dr. Spence. This will be enough to settle the matter. However, we will also address some of the opinions of the controversy. An area I do not normally go into, in the case of the Hunley I find it unavoidable, as opinion has begun to overshadow fact in some areas of the controversy.

One more important point before we begin an analysis of the evidence; Mr. Cussler and Dr. Spence work in two very different worlds. Doctor Edward Lee Spence is an academic. Spence’s discoveries and underwater archeological work is funded by universities, foundations, and governments. Universities, foundations, and governments that receive their funding from donations and tax dollars. Dr. Spence does not have to show a profit. However, to be successful and recognized in the academic world, his work needs follow the standards of, and be acceptable to the academic world.

Clive Cussler on the other hand works within the commercial world. Clive Cussler is a novelist, and before that, he worked in advertising. Mr. Cussler’s work in underwater discovery is his hobby. I say hobby because it is his passion and not his job. To say his work in this field is a hobby does not undermine his contributions to the field. Clive Cussler has been awarded an honorary doctor’s degree for his work in discovering underwater wrecks.

Cussler makes his living in the public, first in advertising and then as a writer. Cussler uses profits from his novels to pay for his underwater explorations. Cussler’s background also insures that he understands the importance of public relations and marketing can have on income and recognition (which also impacts income). Cussler uses his position as a bestselling author to help his searches for underwater wrecks. He also uses his discoveries of underwater wrecks for public attention, which helps to promote his books. In the business world, this is smart, killing two birds with one stone. In the academic world, this is frowned upon and considered vulgar by some. In the commercial world of advertising and writing, this is just part of another day’s work.

We Take The Field …

Just like Angus Smith in 1876, Dr. Spence said he found the Hunley, but gave us no proof other than the position where he claimed the Hunley rested on the harbor bottom. Dr. Spence provided no photographs or artifacts from the Hunley. Dr. Spence has people willing to testify he found the Hunley just as Angus Smith did (but PT Barnum never paid Smith the reward), in the academic world a good article in a peer-reviewed magazine is enough to seal a legacy. Outside the academic world, you need to follow accepted procedures recognized by the public and international judicial system. A good example is the RMS Titanic.

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10,...

RMS Titanic departing Southampton on April 10, 1912 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does anyone in the world doubt that Dr. Robert Ballard found the Titanic? No. Why? Because Dr. Ballard brought back photographs from his discovery. However, RMS Titanic Incorporated owns the Titanic because they were the first to bring an artifact in front of a federal judge and claim ownership of the Titanic. Unlike Dr. Spence, Dr. Ballard kept the location of the Titanic secret from everyone not just the public. Dr. Ballard was afraid that treasure hunters would remove artifacts from the Titanic if he made the location public.

English: Arlington, Va. (Feb. 26, 2009) Deep-s...

English: Arlington, Va. (Feb. 26, 2009) Deep-sea explorer and underwater archaeologist, Dr. Robert Ballard, best known for his historic discovery of the RMS TITANIC, speaks to military and civilian personnel at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) about the future of deep sea exploration and its application for the fleet. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr. Ballard’s one regret is that he did not bring back an artifact from the Titanic (see Dr. Ballard talk about this himself at this link http://youtu.be/mPSzZKTN2G0) and claim the Titanic himself. Outside the academic world to claim ownership of a wreck (historic or a fishing boat lost last week) you remove an artifact from the wreck and report to the nearest admiralty court (federal court in the United States). In an admiralty court an archeological dig on an historic sunken ship is treated no different than a salvage operation on a modern ship lost last week. If the ship is considered abandoned (which usually means the insurance company paid the claim and wrote off the wreck as a loss on its financial books), you declare to the judge the position of the wreck you claim and present the artifact as evidence. The judge then gives you ownership of the wreck. Dr. Ballard did not have any artifacts from the Titanic and could not claim ownership, which would prevent other people from being able to remove artifacts.

Dr. Spence, on several of his web sites, repeatedly points out that he filed a claim for ownership of the Hunley in federal court. He goes on to state that since no one spoke out against his claim this means he owns the Hunley. What Dr. Spence does not mention is that his claim of ownership in federal court was dismissed by the judge. In the academic world, if no one disputes your claims, and you are a respected academic (which Dr. Spence is) your claims are accepted. In admiralty court, you need hard evidence to support your claims, which Dr. Spence does not have, and so the judge dismissed his claim of ownership.

Painting of the sinking of the Central America

Painting of the sinking of the Central America (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the world of treasure hunting, the race to the nearest admiralty court can resemble a race scene from a Three Stooge’s movie. The first person in federal court with an artifact is awarded ownership of the wreck. When the SS Central America was found, a helicopter was waiting to fly an artifact to the federal court in Norfolk. Good thing, as several rival treasure hunting groups were following the searchers hoping to get to a federal court first so they could claim the SS Central America. Dr. Spence also filed a lawsuit claiming he found the SS Central America, which was again dismissed by the court (Dr. Spence never tried to claim ownership of the SS Central America, only that he found it). Dr. Spence seems to have had many of his lawsuits dismissed by federal judges.

Who owns the Hunley is a complicated matter better suited to courts than web sites, but here goes.

If the Hunley was owned by the confederate government, then at the end of the Civil War it became United States government property under the jurisdiction of the GSA (General Services Administration). If the Hunley was private property, in 1970, (when Dr. Spence claims finding the Hunley) the first person in front of a judge with an artifact from the Hunley can claim and be awarded ownership by the court. In 1995, when Clive Cussler found the Hunley the Abandoned Shipwrecks Act of 1988 had already been passed which gives ownership of historic wrecks to the state in who’s waters the wreck is located.

CSS Hunley

CSS Hunley (Photo credit: AN HONORABLE GERMAN)

Seems simple, but this is where it gets complicated. A group of men who intended to use the Hunley as a privateer built the Hunley. They never intended to sell or give the Hunley to the Confederate government. A privateer, as I explained in an earlier article in this series, is a privately owned ship that is given a letter from a government to attack ships of a country it is at war with. Ok, fine, so if Cussler found the Hunley then South Carolina owns the Hunley. However, General Beauregard confiscated the Hunley after the second sinking and gave it to the Confederate Navy. Therefore, that means it was Confederate property and became United States property at the end of the war, and is under the control of the GSA. But, Captain Dixon persuaded General Beauregard to give the submarine back to the original owners, and the submarine was under the control of the original owners when it sank. Back to South Carolina right? Maybe. General Beauregard gave the submarine back to the original owners, but it is unclear whether he returned ownership or only gave them operational control of the submarine. As I said, ownership is complicated. Fortunately, the GSA turned over any interest in the Hunley to the United States Navy, which then donated the Submarine to South Carolina. So, in the end whoever had rights to the Hunley, South Carolina or the United States, it still ended up in possession of South Carolina legally.

No matter who could claim rights to the Hunley, Dr. Spence did not present artifacts to a federal judge with his claim of ownership and his case was dismissed by the judge. So, whoever had rights it was not Dr. Spence and he should have known this. If Dr. Spence did know this, then his claim of ownership is a publicity stunt to bolster his discovery claims.

Dr. Spence claimed that Cussler’s first public location was intentionally wrong to discredit his claim to be the one who found the Hunley. Cussler claims it was to protect the wreck from treasure hunters. Considering that after Cussler’s announcement the Hunley was found, hundreds of thousands of dollars were offered on the black market for parts of the Hunley, anything from the diving planes and the propeller to portholes; this makes Cussler’s claim sensible. Had the treasure hunters located the Hunley, parts of the submarine would have disappeared into private anonymous collections never to be seen again; something that has happened too many times with other shipwrecks, particularly since the passing of the Abandoned Shipwreck Act of 1988. Which is ironic since the politicians thought they were protecting shipwrecks with the act, which just goes to show that only honest men obey laws. By removing legitimate salvors and treasure hunters from the competition, that leaves only the thieves and archeologists, and the thieves have better funding.

H.L. Hunley - Downtown Charleston, SC

H.L. Hunley – Downtown Charleston, SC (Photo credit: Jason Barnette Photography)

The archeologists would have been better off getting congress to pass a law requiring archeologists on every treasure hunt or salvage. Some of the treasure hunters and salvors would have complained at first. However, with cooperation between academia and their commercial counterparts the treasure hunters and salvors would have soon found out that an archeologists could be of great assistance to them in their work. On the academic side, they would be able to collect more information working with treasure hunters and salvors than they would ever be able to get funding for through their normal channels.

Mel Fisher's Treasure Museum

Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum (Photo credit: mocr)

Mel Fisher, on his own in the 1960’s, was the first to realize the value of having a good archeologists on a treasure hunt. Unfortunately no one in the commercial, political, or academic world seems to have learned that lesson from Mr. Fisher. Political? Yes, Political. Politicians believe that it is not fair that salvors and treasure hunters should be able to make money from shipwrecks. The politicians think that objects of value are just laying around on top of the ocean floor, for someone to dive down and pick up, even though it took Mel Fisher two decades to find the wreck of the Atocha. The politicians want the state to get the money, in other words they want to be the ones who get to spend that money. Seem unbelievable? The state of Florida was so upset that Mel Fisher was finding millions “just laying on the sea floor” that they tried to defeat Mel Fisher in court and take everything he was finding.  When the courts (following salvage law) sided with Mr. Fisher, Florida created a new department in the Florida state government that was tasked with finding and recovering treasure from the sea floor. It did not take long for the state of Florida to realize that not only can it be hard to find wrecks, but also treasure hunters often spend more money to find the treasure than they recover from the wrecks. Florida quickly closed its new department and got out of the treasure hunting business.

Florida’s lesson has not distilled the disdain academics and politicians have for amateurs and professionals (despite the fact that amateurs have made so many discoveries in so many fields see my articles on my research methods). One of Dr. Spence’s articles on his blog starts off in big bold letters (this is a direct quote) “Comment by Dr. E. Lee Spence on Dr. Clive E. Cussler and his Alleged Discoveries. For Heaven’s Sake, Cussler Writes Fiction For a Living!” Dr. Newell, the academic who replaced Dr. Albright at the University of South Carolina also seems to have considerable disdain for non-academics. While researching this series I found several different articles which claimed to quote Dr. Newell. I discovered that the quotes claimed anything from — a joint expedition with NUMA — to a SCIAA (University of South Carolina’s Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology) expedition to confirm Dr. Spence’s claim paid for in part by NUMA, during which Cussler was not even present (they seem to ignore the fact that the 1995 discovery followed the 1980, 81, and 94 searches). I went back and looked at these claims chronologically and realized that the first claims seem to match Cussler’s, but as time goes on the claims seem to change lessening Cussler’s involvement in the hunt for the Hunley.

There are two other things I noticed concerning Dr. Newell’s and Dr. Spence’s claims concerning NUMA and Clive Cussler.

First, when Dr. Newell’s statements about the joint expedition are examined and compared with past expeditions of NUMA and Cussler the claim is inconsistent with Cussler and NUMA’s past expeditions. The claims are also inconsistent with the 1980 and 1981 searches for the Hunley (under Dr. Albright, Dr. Newell’s predecessor) and the 1994 search for the Hunley when Dr. Newell was already heading SCIAA .

Second, Dr. Spence also claims that Ralph Willbanks had a copy of his just released book (which gave Dr. Spence’s location of the Hunley) with him on the search boat when Ralph found the Hunley. Here is the problem with that statement. The book in question is Treasures of the Confederate Coast: The “Real Rhett Butler” & Other Revelations by Edward Lee Spence published January 1995. The Hunley was found by Ralph Willbanks on 3 May 1995. So from the end of January to the beginning of May, basically February, March, & April, three months. The publish date is when the book goes to the printers. Publishing, with all the high tech advantages including the internet, is faster today than it was in 1995. When I am planning my publish date for a new book of mine I start with the date I would like my book to be available with online retailers and count back five to six months. That earlier date is the deadline for when I need to have my book with my distributors (e-books are much quicker). I also know that from the time I up load my book to my distributor to the earliest date I can get the first copies for myself is ten to twelve weeks.

So, you can see the time problem with Dr. Spence’s claim, that a book published in January 1995 was hand delivered by him to Ralph Willbanks before Ralph discovered the Hunley on May 3, 1995. It would be difficult for me to have a book published in January of 2012 and hand deliver copies to someone by 3 May 2012, even with the advancements that have taken place in book publishing since 1995. Though it may be possible (I believe more likely) that Dr. Spence gave Ralph copies of his newly published book shortly after Ralph found the Hunley.

CONCLUSION:

If Dr. Spence would have brought back with him an artifact from the Hunley, then if he had taken that artifact into a federal court to claim ownership of the wreck, there would be no controversy surrounding who found the Hunley. Also, Clive Cussler would not have spent $130,000 looking for the Hunley in 1980, 1981, 1994, and 1995. Mr. Cussler would also not have had to have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a seven year court battle with Dr. Spence.

Did Dr. Spence find the Hunley? I do not know. I do know that Dr. Spence believes he found the Hunley. I also know that Clive Cussler did not know where the Hunley was when he started his search. Clive Cussler’s men brought back photographs and video. Also, by looking at his past work, if Cussler had been given the location to the Hunley he would have dove on the sub and listed it under “wrecks surveyed” and not under “wrecks discovered” at the NUMA website and in his non-fiction book’s index.

There is more I could write about, such as Dr. Spence’s faith in the accuracy of navigational charts; a faith that based on my at sea use of navigational charts I do not share (nor do the men of the USS San Francisco, as well as other ships). However, I believe these 3200 words give the reader enough information to come to an independent conclusion to determine for themselves if it was Cussler, Dr. Spence or both men who found the Hunley.

Hunley

Hunley (Photo credit: sfgamchick)

To learn more about the discovery of the H.L. Hunley by Clive Cussler we recommend The Sea Hunters, by Clive Cussler and Craig Dirgo.

To learn more about Dr. Lee Spence’s discovery of the H.L. Hunley we recommend Treasures of the Confederate Coast: The ‘Real Rhett Butler’ and Other Revelations by Edward Lee Spence.

Our Other Hunley Articles:

The Submarine H.L. Hunley

Clive Cussler’s Hunley

The Hunley Blue Signal Light

Dr. E. Lee Spence’s Hunley

Back to the H.L. Hunley

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Dr. E. Lee Spence’s Hunley


English: Dr. E. Lee Spence, VP & owner, Intern...

English: Dr. E. Lee Spence, VP & owner, International Diving Institute (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lee had been searching for the Hunley for some time in the area between the Housatonic and Sullivan’s Island. After sinking the Housatonic, the Hunley would have passed through this area as it returned to its pier. For over 100 years, people had searched this corridor, and a few had claimed to have found the Hunley. P. T. Barnum had something to do with the many people who claimed to have found the little submarine. Each one wanting to claim the $100,000 Barnum had put up for the Hunley. Barnum intended to put the submarine in his museum in New York City. Though many claimed to have found the sub, no one ever presented proof of their find, and Mr. Barnum kept his money.

In 1970, Dr. Spence was taking a break from his search for the Hunley, and enjoying a day of fishing when one of the party’s traps snag on something on the harbor bottom. He knew that there should not have been anything in the immediate area for a trap to snag on. Lee borrowed Joe Porcelli’s diving gear; he did not have his gear with him (they were fishing from Joe’s boat, the Miss Inah). After looking at the chart and their location, Lee felt it must be something from the Housatonic that snagged the trap. Now Lee’s curiosity was up, he had to see what the trap was caught on. Diving in cold water without a wetsuit or even a dry-suit can be life threatening, but Lee was going.

Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley, suspended f...

Confederate Submarine H.L. Hunley, suspended from a crane during her recovery from Charleston Harbor, 8 August 2000. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The visibility was poor, but soon Lee saw the trap caught on what looked like a limestone ledge. The bedrock limestone, in this location, should be 100 feet or more under the sand; it did not make sense. Then his many years of experience in the field of underwater archaeology paid-off,  he realized he was looking at Civil War era encrusted iron. The currents had swept away enough of the sand from the wreck that Lee believed he was looking at the Hunley. There was nothing else this size from that time period it could be. He was so excited he ignored all the diving safety rules and raced all the way to the surface screaming, “I’ve found the Hunley!” Unfortunately, Lee did not have a camera that could take photographs in the poor visibility, nor did he bring up anything from the wreck (I will go into this more in next week’s article Spence VS, Cussler: Who found the Hunley?). I can understand Doctor Spence’s frustration. While on a pleasure snorkeling trip in Jamaica, I discovered a ballast pile that is probably an unknown wreck, but I too did not have a camera (I will write about this in the future).

The 1970’s were a pre-GPS era. So, Lee took sightings from various landmarks on shore using a magnetic compass. Then as the Miss Inah went back to the dock, he carefully recorded the boats heading, speed, and time on each course, so he could get back to the site again.

The following week two divers went out to confirm that Spence’s discovery was indeed the Hunley. In early 1971, Spence went with Mike Douglas and David McGeehee to photograph the wreck. But, unfortunately the ocean currents had again covered the wreck of the Hunley. Spence did report the find of the Hunley to the government and the university, which he considered the proper authorities. Unfortunately, Lee did not report the find to the press. Which, (apparently his opinion seems to consider) would have been a “misguided publicity stunt”. (See the quote from Dr. Spence’s article below.)

Dr. Spence did not report his discovery to the press until he needed the publicity to help him persuade the GSA (General Services Administration) to allow him to recover the Hunley. If the Hunley was property of the Confederate government then the GSA had authority over the wreck (this will also be discussed in next week’s article). As a matter of fact, in Dr. Spence’s article he said the following:

“Perhaps it should be noted that between November of 1970 and June of 1975, although in frequent contact with various government officials relative to my efforts to get permission to salvage the wreck, I kept my discovery entirely secret from the media. The fact that I kept it secret and applied in conformity with the government regulations, clearly shows that my claim was not some sort of misguided publicity stunt. I did not release anything to the media about my discovery until half a decade had passed and I realized that, without public interest and pressure, GSA would never issue the necessary permit.”

(I recommend reading his article, it can be found here: http://hunleyfinder.wordpress.com/article/the-discovery-of-the-hunley-by-dr-e-lee-9a3pk7ykcgda-2/ )

Dr. Spence did get the location of the Hunley entered into the National Register for Historic Places. Dr. Spence also filed a claim in federal district court claiming the wreck (the United States does not have an admiralty court and the federal courts handle admiralty cases). In 1995, Dr. Spence donated the Hunley to the state of South Carolina. (All four of these will be discussed in more detail in next week’s article.)

Doctor Edward Lee Spence is a pioneer in underwater archaeology. His accomplishments would fill a book by themselves, but I will list just a few:

Dr. Spence found his first five shipwrecks when he was 12 years old.

In 1991 & 1992, he served as the Chief of Underwater Archeology for San Andres y Providencia, a 40,000 square mile area in the western Caribbean owned by Colombia.

"Wreck Chart" (map showing location ...

“Wreck Chart” (map showing location of the Civil War era blockade runner Georgiana, with a cross section of the wreck) This wreck is one of the many wrecks found by Dr. E. Lee Spence (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dr Spence has worked on hundreds of wrecks from ancient times to modern, all over the world.

Dr. Spence is one of five people in the world with a Doctor of Marine Histories (College of Marine Arts, 1972).

Doctor Spence’s awards and honors are numerous, and from around the world.

He has survived numerous calamities while on sites, including: being shot at, running out of air underwater, pinned under wreckage, and caught in fish nets, to name just a few.

Lee is also a published editor and author of numerous non-fiction books, and has been a magazine editor and publisher of at least five different magazines.

Dr. E. Lee Spence with priceless, ruby studded...

Dr. E. Lee Spence with priceless, ruby studded, over one kilo, 22 kt gold sword handle once owned by 19th century pirate kings of Bali. It was part of a hoard of treasure hidden from the Dutch forces who invaded Java for the purpose of driving out the pirates. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If it were said that Dr. Spence was the role model used to create the Indian Jones character, it would not be surprising.

I would like to take a moment to thank Doctor Edward Lee Spence for all of his contributions to diving, underwater archaeology, and education.

On a personal note, Doctor Spence has been a pioneer, and casts a shadow over a field that has enthralled me since my childhood, and continues to do so today.

Job well done!

To learn more about Dr. Spence’s discovery of the H.L. Hunley we recommend Treasures of the Confederate Coast: The ‘Real Rhett Butler’ and Other Revelations by Edward Lee Spence.

Our Other Hunley Articles:

The Submarine H.L. Hunley

Clive Cussler’s Hunley

The Hunley Blue Signal Light

Spence VS Cussler: Who Found the Hunley

Back to the H.L. Hunley

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Speaking of Small Submarines


All of this research on small submarines got me to thinking about photos of my daughter and me in small submarines. When she said she wanted to be a submariner when she got bigger that made me worry (she still says this).

Elizabeth & Joe Combs in an Office of Naval Research (O.N.R.) submarine, April 2008.

Then she said she didn’t want to be in the big black submarines like papa she wants to be in the small research submarines. Now I’m breathing again. HaHaHa

I hope you enjoy my article on our other small submarine, Dr. E. Lee Spence’s Hunley. This week’s article will be published tonight at midnight New York time.

The last article in the Hunley series will be next weekend, Spence VS Cussler: Who Found the Hunley?

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Filed under family, New, ships, submarines