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Picturing History: Illustrator Gets Chance to Re-create First Sub

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Union forces launched the sub in 1862, but it never saw combat. In 1863, the Alligator was lost at sea off the North Carolina coast while being towed to port in Charleston, S.C.

The craft was largely forgotten until recently, when the efforts to recover it began, causing the Discovery Channel (owner of the Science Channel) to commission the first accurate illustration to date of the Alligator.

Drawing a complicated machine from only a sketch, written accounts and engineers' educated guesses was no simple task. But Hinds was the only man to do it.

Hinds began his career as an illustrator by chance shortly after he entered the Marine Corps in 1965. He "thoroughly hated" the work, he says, until his commander realized the young recruit had an unusual talent for realistic illustration. Hinds became a military illustrator, drawing intricate rockets and tanks for training manuals.

Later in life, Hinds became an independent illustrator, gaining some measure of fame for his renderings of small historic boats. But his career was abruptly cut short four years ago when a fall down the stairs, triggered by a coughing fit, resulted in three concussions and lasting brain damage.

For two years, Hinds couldn't pick up a pen. "I tried every now and then, and I would almost start crying," he says. He had utterly forgotten how to draw. With support from friends, business partners and his doctor, he started from scratch, beginning by tracing inch-long lines along a ruler's edge.

After more than a year, he once again could execute complex drawings like that of the Alligator. Every detail, from the streaked green-black sides (which Hinds does with an airbrush) to the thick-glassed conning tower, is drawn the way "they would have had to have built it," he says. — Melissa Scott Sinclair



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