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SouthBound: Rachel Lance On Trying To Solve The Mystery Of A Confederate Submarine

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U.S. Navy
The H.L. Hunley is pulled from the ocean in 2000.

On Feb. 17, 1864, a torpedo from a Confederate submarine called the H.L. Hunley blew a hole in the side of a Union ship called the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor, becoming the first combat submarine to sink a warship in history. But after the attack, the Hunley disappeared.

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Rachel Lance

It was finally found on the ocean floor in 1995, and raised from the depths in 2000. The Hunley was remarkably intact. The bodies of the eight crewmen remained inside. And they left behind a mystery: Exactly how did they die?

Rachel Lance may have solved that mystery. As a grad student at Duke, with expertise in explosions and the trauma they cause, Lance set out to learn whether the same blast that sank the Housatonic may have killed the Hunley’s own crew. She has published the story of her research in a new book called “In the Waves.” It’s both a serious work of scholarship and a fun look into history, mystery, and the joy of blowing stuff up.

Let's keep the conversation going. Who do you want to hear from next on the SouthBound podcast?

Submit your idea in the box below. You can also send a tweet to @tommytomlinson or @wfae, and email me at ttomlinson@wfae.org.

Show notes:

Other music in this episode:

  • Pictures of the Floating World, "Waves"
  • Rest You Sleeping Giant, "Slow Moving Waves"

New episodes of SouthBound come out every other Wednesday. Subscribe:

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SouthBound is a production of WFAE. Our host is Tommy Tomlinson. Our audience engagement manager is Joni Deutsch, and our main theme comes from Josh Turner.

Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary that airs every Monday. He's the author of "The Elephant in the Room," a memoir about life as an overweight man in a growing America. He spent 23 years as a reporter and local columnist for the Charlotte Observer, where he was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in commentary. He has also written for publications including Esquire, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Illustrated, and Garden & Gun. He’s a graduate of the University of Georgia and was a 2008-09 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. Tommy and his wife, Alix Felsing, live in Charlotte.