This fascinating account of the development and ensuing disasters of the Civil War submarine is told with just enough detail and well-incorporated primary sources to capture good middle school readers. Diagrams show how ballast enabled the boat to sink while towing a torpedo so that the moving missile would ram and explode while the submarine was well off on the other side of the boat. However, the experiment was not without problems. The first version had to be scuttled, the second developed problems, and the third sank accidentally in the harbor, killing five sailors. The fourth sank killing all aboard. But still, others persevered and the torpedo actually sank a Union ship, the Housatonic, but the submarine sank, never to be found. While many looked for the lost ironclad submarine, it was not until author Clive Cussler took an interest that divers using high-powered tools and scanners discovered the silted-over ship in 1995. The book discusses the problems that then arose: ownership, safe recovery, excavation, and conservation. Maps, diagrams, photos of the Civil War participants, and photos of the actual ship and artifacts aboard are compelling. A satisfying account of the humans on boardthere were skeletal remains plus teeth which provided a beginningshows how researchers work with historians to verify the identities while forensic experts use this information to recreate possible appearances in clay. An intriguing look at a wide variety of scientific fields and scientists at work, a sidelight through Civil War history, and the mysteries of the ocean floor are all hooks to interest readers in this well-conceived book. 2005, Carolrhoda Books, Ages 11 to 14.
Susan Hepler, Ph.D.
Gr 6-10-Walker brings a little-known story of the Civil War to life in this fascinating book. When the Union blockade of all ports in the South stopped supplies from reaching the Confederate Army, Horace L. Hunley decided to create a submarine that would be able to sneak up on enemy ships and blow them up. After many years of trial and error, the H. L. Hunley actually succeeded in sinking the USS Housatonic in February of 1864. But the submarine never returned to port, and her crew perished in the Charleston Harbor. This is a finely crafted account of the Hunley from its inception to the modern archaeological quest to exhume her from the water. It is divided into chronological chapters complete with pictures, maps, and primary sources. Half of the book discusses the construction and design of the submarine, in addition to its practice runs and its first and only mission. The second half consists of the process of locating and excavating the Hunley, as well as piecing together the puzzle of exactly what happened on that fateful night in 1864. The archaeological process is well documented in both words and pictures, and the conclusions are interesting and even surprising. Highly recommended for school and public libraries.-Anna M. Nelson, Collier County Public Library, Naples, FL Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.