The H.L. Hunley was a Confederate submarine that played a small, yet interesting role in the American Civil War. Often labeled as the first combat submarine that successfully sank another warship, the Hunley demonstrated some of the early advantages armies could attain by exploring undersea warfare.

However, after an attack on the USS Housatonic, the Hunley mysteriously sunk. She didn’t return to her base as planned, and after the battle, the sub was found in the opposite direction that Confederate officers had originally searched.

Many years after the American Civil War, the Hunley Commission was created, and founded Friends of the Hunley, Inc. to aid in raising funds for recovery, conservation and ultimately, exhibition for this important historical artifact.

Earlier this month, researchers at the Warren Lasch Conservation Center immersed the Hunley in a bath of diluted sodium hydroxide, beginning a conservation and restoration project that will last the next five years.

According to Charleston, South Carolina’s Post and Courier, scientists and archaeologists hope to get their first look into the sub’s hull, and in it, new clues that could reveal why it sank.

“We have been waiting for this for years,” conservator Nestor Gonzalez told the Post and Courier. “Everything we’re doing here is to preserve the Hunley as it was and to preserve information recorded on the sub. Now we will finally get to see the hull.”

For more information on the sub and the ongoing conservation efforts, visit the Friends of the Hunley website.