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Confederate submarine found

The first submarine to sink a warship in action has been found intact off South Carolina, where it sank more than 130 years ago, writes Christopher Bellamy. The US National Underwater Marine Agency plans to raise it.

The Hunley (pictured above during the American Civil War) was one of a number of underwater craft built by the Confederacy to fight the Union's blockade during the war (1861-65). Some were steam-powered, but the Hunley was driven by hand-cranks. On 7 February 1864 it approached the Housatonic off Charleston and attached a "torpedo", which went off as the submarine was disengaging from the warship. The warship and submarine both sank. The remains of all the nine-man crew were found in the wreck, preserved by silt.

The team which found the Hunley included Clive Cussler, an author and diver who had been searching for it for 15 years. "It's intact and covered with silt," said Dean Foster, a spokesman for the non-profit Marine Agency. "With a limited amount of money the boat can be raised."

The Hunley was a true submarine and Cussler said he was surprised how advanced it looked. It differed from the David-class submersible torpedo- boats, which usually travelled "awash", with their tops just level with the surface. The Hunley is 40 feet long and has a beam of 6 feet. Divers dug through three feet of silt and found what they believe to be one of its conning-towers.

Another Confederate submarine tried to sink the Union warship Mew Ironsides off Charleston the previous year but the torpedo failed to explode. During the war, considered the first great industrial conflict, the Confederacy developed submarines and ironclad surface ships to counteract the Union navy's superiority in conventional craft. But in spite of that ingenuity, Union numbers and industry proved superior.