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Australian team to salvage old U.S. sub

March 20, 2006 at 4:42 AM

PANAMA CITY, Panama, March 20 (UPI) -- A team of Australians will salvage a U.S. submarine from the Civil War era 130 years after it was beached on a Panamanian island, a member of the team has said.

Before the hand-powered submarine was identified in 2002, Panamanians believed the rusting hulk lying on the tide line off the Pearl Islands was a World War II Japanese midget submarine.

Mike McCarthy, a specialist on iron ships at the West Australian Maritime Museum, said that immigrant iron worker Julius Kroehl built the Explorer in 1865 for use by the Union navy, The Australian reported Monday.

The 59-foot submarine was built too late to play a decisive role in the Civil War and was sent to trawl for pearls in the Gulf of Panama. However, the sub was abandoned 11 days into its maiden voyage, after collecting 10 tons of pearl shell, when divers on board succumbed to decompression sickness.

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