The United States today exhumed the remains of Julius Kroehl, a German American engineer who was a pioneer on the design of the first submarine able to dive and resurface by itself and was buried in Panama since 1867, and will be reburied.
More than 150 years after his burial, experts from the US embassy in Panama could dig up a pair of bones belonging to Kroehl, a piece of the skull, two buttons and a part of the coffin due to erosion of the land and bad practices of burial at that time.
"We are very happy because, although there is less material, we will write the closing chapter of Julius Kroehl’s story; he was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things," American archaeologist James Delgado told Efe. Delgado has invested a great deal of his life in keeping track of the inventor.
The grave where Kroehl’s remains were buried for a century and a half in Amador cemetery, in a humble neighborhood of the old town of the Panamanian capital, is far from being a grave for this inventor: there is no tombstone and the only thing that remains is a small moldy cross which had once an inscription.
The remains will undergo DNA tests to confirm that they truly belong to Kroehl and will be buried soon in the nearby Corozal cemetery, managed by the US and where the American war veterans are buried, as well as workers who built the Panama Canal at the beginning of the last century.
"I want to thank Panama for having kept his remains for so many years. Kroehl belonged to the United States Army and his descendants are delighted that he is buried in Corozal. Panama was his last job and that is why he will continue here," said the archaeologist, who is an avowed submarine lover who convinced the US embassy to exhume the scientist's remains.
Kroehl created the submarine to be used by the unionist side, in favor of abolishing slavery, during the American Civil War (1861-1865), but finally it was not used and the inventor set course for Panama on board the vessel two years after the end of the contest.
In the Central American country, the engineer used the submersible vessel to collect pearls in the Pacific Ocean and reach depths that divers could not reach.
It is believed that the submarine submerged for eleven days in a row, four hours a day, and collected 10 tons of oysters in Las Perlas Archipelago, a group of paradisiacal islands located 50 kilometers from the Panamanian capital.
Kroehl, who was a freemason and emigrated to the United States from the former Prussia (now Latvia), died in a hotel in Panama and his remains exhumed this Thursday will allow to know the specific causes of his death, since there are several versions.
"There are reports suggesting that he died of yellow fever, others of malaria, and he died of decompression disease," which occurs when the body emerges quickly after submerging at great depth and that was unknown at the time, the archaeologist said.
The so-called Submarine Explorer included elements that are still used today in modern submarines, such as the pressurization chamber and a system for filling the chamber with air stored in tanks, and was discovered by Delgado himself in 2001, on the coast from San Thelmo island during one of his trips to Las Perlas Archipelago.
The submersible, which can be seen at low tide, is one of the five submarines of the nineteenth century that still exist in the world, although "it is turning into dust" and is no longer worth rescuing it from the bottom of the sea, said the specialist.
"In a way, the Submarine Explorer was the base of the submarine that was later designed by Spanish Isaac Peral." Both inventors, like good geniuses, gave each other’s feedback," delgado said.