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Homepage Archives Open in new window Index (01/2004) Headlines (12/2003) Headlines (02/2004)   Vol. 38 January 2004 
Treasure In The Headlines
As seen in the January 2004 edition of W&ET Magazine


Now we may know why the South lost the Civil War: Confederate time was about a half-hour slower than Yankee time.

Archaeologists studying the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley say a clue to the sub's sinking may come from the historical fact that the Southern navy and the Northern navy used two sets of clocks to record the time of day.

The Confederate States kept Local Apparent Solar Time as the standard, while United States naval vessels maintained the Local Mean Solar Time of Washington, D.C. The difference was about 26 minutes, officials said.

Hunley scientists stumbled across the differing clock settings while investigating commander Lt. George Dixon's gold pocket watch that was found inside the sunken sub.

It was stopped at 8:23, which is a significant clue.

Hunley historians are exploring whether the sub, after attacking the blockade ship U.S.S. Housatonic on the night of Feb. 17, 1864, sank quickly instead of surviving for many moments after the battle, as some believe.

The theory that scientists are looking at is based on a bit of clock mathematics.

Sailors on the Housatonic said the attack came between 8:45 and 9 p.m. Adding the 26 minutes of Confederate lag-time onto Dixon's watch makes it 8:49 p.m. (Yankee Standard Time)- well within the Union accounts for the attack.

If the sub sank quickly after the attach, seawater most assuredly would have stopped the mechanics in Dixon's watch from functioning, officials contend.

Sub enthusiasts say the time discrepancy adds to the mystery of the sub, but they warn it is far too early to consider a watch setting as anything conclusive.

"We still don't know if the time is a.m. or p.m., or even the same day," said Warren Lasch, chairman of Friends of the Hunley.

Scientists plan to examine the watch's spring to see how far it is wound down. Doing so will tell them if the hours safely ticked on or if the watch halted abruptly for some unexplained reason.

Hunley archaeologist Harry Pecorelli said the watch's spring is iron and heavily degraded. It will be X-rayed and cleaned. Watch experts from the National Association of Watch and Clock Collectors will then try to determine if the spring is fully wound, partially wound or at its final setting.

"If we lock in on the exact time, we lock in on the time sequence of her fate," said Hunley Commission chairman state Sen. Glenn McConnell, R-Charleston.

The Hunley became the world's first successful attack sub when it rammed about 90 pounds of explosive black powder into the Housatonic. The ship sank in five minutes. The Hunley and her eight crewmen never returned.

Theories to the cause of the sinking abound. The sub could have been damaged during its attack and taken on water, or crewmembers could have suffocated at their stations trying to get back to shore. There are indications the men died in a dry environment. A blue light also was seen being waved over the ocean, which was Dixon's predetermined signal to shore of a successful attack.

The Hunley is being housed at the Lasch Conservation Lab in North Charleston where research is continuing.

The sub was discovered off Charleston in 1995 by a dive team funded by best-selling author Clive Cussler.

From The Post and Courier, submitted by Stephen & Julie Buckler, Walterboro, SC.


When the Aswan High Dam was built across the Upper Nile in the 1960s, international teams managed to rescue ancient temples and other monuments from the rising waters upstream. They were moved and restored to dry land.

A less grand but important Aswan site avoided submersion but not the neglect of years. Only recently have Egyptian archaeologists begun work on a major quarry that yielded the black granite for the sarcophagi, statues and obelisks.

Sediment and debris buried the quarry floor. Once it was cleared, archaeologists found pits in the shapes of the extracted obelisks and materials for removing and finishing the stone. They also uncovered remains of the harbor where boats picked up the stones.

On a visit to the United States recently, Dr. Zahi Hawass, director of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, reported that the discoveries were expected to provide new insights into the technology behind the splendor of the pharaohs. Hawass is also a visiting professor at the University of California-Los Angeles.

"This is telling us a lot about the cutting and moving of the huge obelisks," he said. "Graffiti on some stones tell us something about life of the people working at the quarry."

Scholars are studying an inscription from the 25th year of the reign of Tuthmosis III in the 18th dynasty, more than 3,400 years ago. It apparently concerns the pharaoh's order of two obelisks for the temple at Karnak.

Several inscriptions record the dates of work on an order and the lengths of quarried stones. The remains of seven obelisks, each 60 feet long, still rested on the quarry floor. Nearby were thousands of balls of dolerite, a stone harder than granite. Archaeologists theorize that the dolerite, imported from Nubia, was used to pound slabs free from the bedrock and put some finishing touches on the works.

Sometimes, it appears, the artisans could not resist a blank stone wall. On one wall, they left drawings of ostriches. Elsewhere, they etched a fish. If it is a dolphin, which is what it looks like, Hawass said, this suggests a Mediterranean influence.

From the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, submitted from Ron Paul Smith, Honolulu, HI.

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