Confederate submarine set upright for first time since 1864

Confederate submarineThe H.L. Hunley made history back in 1864 when it became the first submarine to successfully attack an enemy ship. Launched by the Confederacy as a way to break the Union blockade of Southern ports during the Civil War, it sank the USS Housatonic on 17 February 1864 and itself mysteriously sank shortly thereafter.

Crew members hand cranked the propeller to make the sub move forward and its one weapon was a bomb set at the end of a long pole. The idea was to ram a ship with the bomb, which would then explode and leave a hole below the waterline. That’s what happened when the H.L. Hunley attacked one of the warships blockading Charleston harbor, but the sub never returned from its mission.

The Hunley was later found and brought to the surface. Now after several years of restoration the Confederate submarine has been placed upright for the first time since its sinking. The sub had been found resting at a 45 degree angle in a layer of silt and was kept in the same position until now. Moving it to the upright position has given researchers a look at a side of the ship unseen since 1864.

The researchers have found some holes on that side but are unsure if they are natural erosion or the cause of the Hunley’s sinking. Analysis of the bones of the eight crew members showed they died of a lack of oxygen. Interestingly, they were all at their posts as if nothing was going wrong.

You can visit the lab where this historic sub is being studied. The Warren Lasch Conservation Center is located in North Charleston, SC. You can also see a different Confederate submarine at the Louisiana State Museum in Baton Rouge.

Confederate submarine

[Photos courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

Blackbeard’s pirate ship gives up its anchor

pirate, pirates, Blackbeard
A pirate ship owned by the notorious Blackbeard is being investigated by archaeologists, who have just retrieved one of its anchors.

The Queen Anne’s Revenge, was grounded in 1718 while trying to enter Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina. Blackbeard had just come from blockading Charleston until he received a ransom. Currently the wreck lies in only 20 feet of water, as easily accessible to archaeologists as Captain Kidd’s pirate ship, which will soon become an underwater museum.

The anchor, which is 11 feet long and weighs 2,200 lbs, is only one of thousands of artifacts recovered from the ship in recent years.

While Blackbeard transferred to another of his ships and continued pirating, he didn’t survive for long. He was hunted down and killed in a fierce fight in late 1718, shown here in a painting by Jean Leon Gerome Ferris, courtesy Wikimedia Commons. Blackbeard was decapitated and his head hung from the bowsprit.

Blackbeard was one of the kinder pirates. There’s no record that he hurt his captives or his crew. He could be violent when opposed, though, and in reality no pirate fit the heroic adventurer stereotype of Hollywood and Johnny Depp. That’s just a romanticism. One wonders what tales people will spin about the Somali pirates 300 years from now.

For more information about this amazing dig, check out The Queen Anne’s Revenge Shipwreck Project’s website.

Daily Pampering: Betrothal Butlers at Woodlands Inn help you pop the question

Betrothal ButlersPlanning to pop the question? Woodlands Inn, a five-star, five-diamond Salamander Hospitality property in Summerville, South Carolina (just a short drive from Charleston) has enlisted a team of Betrothal Butlers to be at your beck and call as you plan your perfect proposal.

This special service is launching for Valentine’s Day, but will be available throughout 2011, so if you’re considering an “engagement-cation” this year, but overwhelmed by the planning it requires, this may be exactly what you need! Here’s just some of what the Betrothal Butlers can do to help in this gorgeously traditional setting:

  • Provide expert advice with all aspects of proposal planning. People propose at hotels all the time. These guys know what’s up and what works best.
  • Special delivery of the ring. Hiding the ring can be hugely stressful when all you’ve got is a suitcase. Let the Betrothal Butlers help you out — they can even deliver the ring in a glass of champagne, movie-style.
  • Creative dinner menu choices. Obviously, you want your beloved to have pretty much the best dinner ever. Inject extra romance with personalized selections.
  • Capture the moment on camera. So many of us wish the moment of our engagement could have been captured on camera! The Betrothal Butlers are totally on this. And they’re discreet.

The Betrothal Butler service is complimentary for dining and overnight guests of Woodlands Inn — and we love its formalization as a “service;” sometimes you feel like you’re driving a hotel crazy or like you’re the first person who’s ever requested help with a proposal when asking for help. This is one of those few situations where you do deserve special treatment, and so does your intended!

If you are intending to head to Woodlands Inn for Valentine’s Day, they have a Romance Package for Febraury 11-14, which includes overnight accommodations, champagne and chocolate upon arrival, a three-course dinner for two with wine, and breakfast for two the next morning (in the room or the resturant) starting at $599. Not too shabby. Call (800) 774-9999 to book the package.

Marriott introduces first LEED green hotel prototype

South Carolina is now home to the first Marriott LEED green hotel prototype. The Courtyard Charleston/Summerville will be the hotel’s flagship green property, in partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC).

The new Courtyard hotel will open in early 2010 and will introduce the first phase of The Parks of Berkley, a community consisting of 5,000 acres and one of the largest planned developments in the Southeastern United States.

Marriott has set its sights on 300 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) hotels by 2015, and all the hotels to come will follow the South Carolina prototype. Last fall, the hotel group announced plans to develop a green hotel prototype for its Courtyard brand that will save roughly $100,000, six months in design time, and up to 25 percent energy and water savings for its owners.

Currently, Marriott has nearly 50 hotels across all brands that are LEED-certified or registered by the USGBC, including:

  • The Inn & Conference Center by Marriott at the University of Maryland, the first LEED-certified hotel in North America
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte in North Carolina, LEED Gold-certified
  • Courtyard Chevy Chase in Maryland, LEED Gold-certified
  • Courtyard Portland City Center in Oregon, LEED Gold-certified
  • Fairfield Inn & Suites Baltimore Downtown/Inner Harbor, LEED Gold-certified
  • Atlanta Marriott Gateway, applying for LEED certification upon opening
  • SpringHill Suites Atlanta Airport Gateway, LEED-registered, applying for certification
  • JW San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa, LEED-registered, applying for certification
  • JW Marriott Hotel Los Angeles LA Live, LEED-registered, applying for certification
  • The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles at LA Live, LEED-registered, applying for certification
  • The Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe, in Nevada applying for certification
  • TownePlace Suites Baltimore BWI Airport, applying for LEED-Existing Building certification

Five essential Memorial Day destinations

Memorial Day marks the cultural beginning of summer, the start of the warm months. The picnics and the parties and the celebration of the impending summer have sort of become the point of Memorial Day for many, a kind of superimposition of recreation over the intention of the holiday.

We love beer and hot dogs as much as the next guy, but for those interested in the history and meaning (or, in destination 5 below, the traditional pageantry) of Memorial Day, here are five destinations for Monday that might prompt greater reflection on the holiday itself.

1. Charleston, South Carolina. Hampton Park in Charleston was once the site of the Washington Race Course, which served as prison camp for Union soldiers in the last year of the Civil War. Here, in 1865, former slaves provided a proper burial and commemoration of fallen Union soldiers, followed by sermons, prayer, and picnics, under the name of Decoration Day. Yale history professor David W. Blight has championed this event as the first ever Memorial Day celebration.

2. Boalsburg, Pennsylvania. About five miles from State College, Boalsburg is one of a number of other locations claiming to be the birthplace of Memorial Day. Tiny Boalsburg is also home to the Pennsylvania Military Museum.

3. Waterloo, New York. Waterloo, in the Finger Lakes region, hosts the National Memorial Day Museum. Waterloo was recognized by the federal government as the birthplace of Memorial Day in 1966, one hundred years after the city first celebrated the event.

4. Arlington, Virginia. Arlington National Cemetery is the arguably the best-known cemetery in the US. Administered by the Department of the Army, the cemetery hosts a National Memorial Day Observance open to the general public on a first-come first-seated basis. Admission is free.

5. Speedway, Indiana or Concord, North Carolina. While stock car racing can’t be tied to the history of Memorial Day, these two iconic races (the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Coca-Cola 600 at the Charlotte Motor Speedway) have coincided with the holiday for decades, and have in turn become Memorial Day tradition. The Indianapolis 500 was first held on Memorial Day in 1911, and the Coca Cola 600 dates back to 1960.