Air blast injuries likely killed the crew of the Hunley
The mystery of the Hunley‘s last crew has been solved. A paper by University of Florida researchers supported by the US Army MURI program and others has come to the conclusion, after repeatedly setting blasts near a scale model of the human-powered submersible, that the crew was killed by the blast wave from their torpedo, crushing their lungs and giving them TBIs. That explains why they were all found at their stations, with no broken bones, and the submarine was relatively intact.
The Hunley set off a 61.2 kg (135 lb) black powder torpedo at a distance less than 5 m (16 ft) off its bow. Scaled experiments were performed that measured black powder and shock tube explosions underwater and propagation of blasts through a model ship hull. This propagation data was used in combination with archival experimental data to evaluate the risk to the crew from their own torpedo. The blast produced likely caused flexion of the ship hull to transmit the blast wave; the secondary wave transmitted inside the crew compartment was of sufficient magnitude that the calculated chances of survival were less than 16% for each crew member. The submarine drifted to its resting place after the crew died of air blast trauma within the hull.