PANAMA CITY — The remains of a German-American who invented the first submarine able to dive and resurface by itself were exhumed in a Panamanian cemetery Thursday and will be reburied alongside U.S. war veterans near the Panama Canal.
Kroehl built his submarine from parts brought from New York to search for pearls off Panama's Pacific coast during the 19th century.
Records say he died at age 47 of malaria, but some suspect he was killed by decompression sickness — also known as the bends.
Kroehl was buried in 1867, and his grave was only rediscovered in 2005.
"I have no words to express the sentiment of emotion, it's a lot of emotion and also some sadness," maritime archaeologist James Delgado said as he held part of the remains in his hand.
Delgado spent a good part of his life studying Kroehl and in 2001 discovered the remains of Kroehl’s submarine at San Telmo Island, in Panama’s Pearl Islands.
"For me it is closing a chapter in this indescribable story," said Delgado, who is a senior vice president of SEARCH Inc., an archaeology and cultural resources management company.
Debate swirls among marine archaeologists and shipwreck hunters who are trying to identify the wreck about how confident they are it is indeed the Lake Serpent that sank in 1829.
Kroehl was buried in what at the time was the foreigners' cemetery. It is now part of a cemetery in Panama City’s populous neighborhood of El Chorrillo.
The U.S. Embassy said in a statement that Kroehl participated in the U.S. Civil War and for that reason will be re-buried in the Corozal American Cemetery and Memorial.