Public lecture: Cameron Dale Bass

Woodward Conference Centre
185 Pelham Street, Carlton


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Solving the Mystery of the H.L. Hunley

Presented by Dr Cameron Dale Bass, Associate Research Professor, Duke University.

The Lecture

In a continuing historical medical mystery of over 150 years: the Confederate States submarine H.L. Hunley was the first combat submarine to sink a warship, attacking and sinking the USS Housatonic in Charleston Harbor and disappearing from history until found in 1995 on the bottom of the harbor. When found, the hull had little obvious damage from the blast. So, how did the crew of the submarine H.L. Hunley die? The remains of the crew were found at their stations. There was no obvious attempt to escape, no evidence of traumatic injuries to their skulls or bones. There are many hypotheses including hypoxia, hypercapnia, or a lucky gunshot from the Housatonic that killed the man piloting the Hunley.

This study combines modern structural, biomedical engineering, and medical assessments to evaluate the patterns of blast propagation through the vessel walls, and the physiological effects on the crew inside. Investigations include whether the crew died of anoxia/hypoxia, drowning, or blast using advanced injury risk and computational models. Dr Bass and his team shot old wrought and cast iron period weapons, exposed wall materials to shock tubes, built scale models, blew up black powder charges in ponds and lakes to solve the mystery of the H.L. Hunley.

Join us with guest speaker Dr Bass as he investigates and uncovers the mystery of the sunken submarine.

The Speaker

Dr Bass has over 20 years’ experience developing constitutive models, computational models and injury risk models applicable to humans and is an internationally recognized expert in military injury biomechanics, soft tissue biomechanics, and injury risk. This includes development of advanced physical instrumentation for use in both experimental models and effective computational validation. These models assess injuries and behavioral sequelae in humans from the physiological consequences, including long term sequelae, of various potentially traumatic conditions. This includes foundational studies of long term consequences of behind armor blunt trauma and blast trauma. In addition, his laboratory has performed a number of injury studies, focused on assessing injury risk, developing injury risk models for neurotrauma and developing physical, computational and animal models, including ferret, porcine and caprine models and other animal models. This includes substantial experience developing biomechanical and physiological injury models of trauma, especially for the brain.

Following postdoctoral experience (NSF Fellowship) developing injury biomechanics models for blunt impact at the University of Virginia, he established a military and high rate biomechanics program at the University of Virginia Center for Applied Biomechanics from 1996–2008. Dr Bass is currently the Director of the Injury Biomechanics Laboratory (2008–present) in the Biomedical Engineering Department at Duke University. His program has focused in recent years on the assessment of trauma from military sources (eg: J Neurotrauma 2012, J Trauma 2012). He has more than 120 peer reviewed publications in the areas of injury biomechanics, statistical modeling and tissue biomechanics.