If you hear the word ‘submarine”, what is the first thing that comes to mind? There are so many things that you can associate with submarines these days, but it all started from one thing, or not two. Submarine was invented with it being a military weapon in mind. Even though it took years to finally have a working military submarine, its impact in the military world is huge. Even more so, it has been breaking grounds in many ocean exploration which open up doors for us to know and see what is below the sea.
Here are 16 remarkable things that mark the journey of the development of submarines. Since stepping its first step in the world, it has been making ground breaking impacts in the world. We are taking you down the memory lane, reminiscing about some of the most interesting things that happened to further push the advancement of submarines forward.
Table of Contents
- 1. Where It All Started
- 2. Impact of Submarine
- 3. The First Successful Attack Submarine
- 4. The First Modern Submarine
- 5. Russia’s Attempt on Submarine
- 6. Drowning of USS Housatonic
- 7. First Mechanically Powered Submarine
- 8. The Star of World War I
- 9. Submarine For Safety
- 10. Era of Walking Under Water
- 11. The Exploding “Submarine”
- 12. Anti-War Submarine
- 13. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles
- 14. Underwater For 25 Years
- 15. Government Censorship
- 16. Submarine Drowned By Its Toilet
- 17. How Far We Have Come
1. Where It All Started
Submarine was first planned and designed by a British mathematician, WIlliam Bourne, in the year 1578. The world’s working prototype was built, however, in the 17th century by Cornelius Drebbel.
Cornelius Drebbel, who worked for British King James I, tried to do a trial test in the RIver Thames in 1620 witnessed by the King and also Londoners. As much as it is astonishing, none of his plans or engineering drawings survived. So, we can only guess how his submarine looks and how it actually works.
2. Impact of Submarine
Ever since Cornelius Drebbel, the world has seen the infinite possibility that submarines would bring to the world. Mainly on two things, submarines open doors to advancement in military and scientific exploration and discovery. People have tried to design and make submarines to create massive advancement in these two sectors.
3. The First Successful Attack Submarine
The Turtle is made by David Bushnell as a secret weapon in the form of an experimental submarine. It only fit one man and relied on a human-powered hand crank and foot treadle. Even though it is experimental, it could actually approach the enemy’s ship and plant a mine undetected.
With so, its first attempt was used by one Continental Army named Ezra Lee on September 7, 1776 to attack the British warship HMS Eagle in New York Harbor. He planned to install a bomb on the ship, but forced to abord his mission.
Despite having failed, the Turtle is still respected and considered as a genius invention and it marked the starting point of submarines being used for the military.
4. The First Modern Submarine
Following The Turtle, Robert Fulton, an American inventor working for the French government in 1800, made the first all metal submarine called the “Nautilus”.
It had several innovative features: hand-powered, four-bladed propeller to move underwater, collapsible mast and fan sail for surface travel, and storing oxygen supplies for the brew in copper bottles. Its test dives went really well however it failed to win over both the English and French navies.
5. Russia’s Attempt on Submarine
Russia funded Wilheln Bauer to further develop a submarine model later called the “Sea Devil”. The “Sea Devil” could carry a dozen men and it added ballast tanks for added buoyancy, crude airlock, and a propeller. It is powered by crewmen on a treadmill. It successfully made 130 diving attempts only for it to finally be lost in the sea.
6. Drowning of USS Housatonic
The first successful attack submarine was the H.L Hunley. Named after its inventor, Horace Lawson Hunley from New Orleans, it was developed around 1862-63. It requires 8 crewmen to operate: one to steer and 7 to turn the hand cranks for power.
During the series of its test dives, it had undergone two failed attempts resulting in the death of 13 crewmen which included Hunley himself. However, Lieutenant George Dixon decided to use it on February 17 1864 and successfully drove its torpedo to the Union’s largest warship, the USS Housatonic.
It marks the first successful attack of a submarine to sink ships in a war, but unfortunately the submarine also sank due to the attack resulting in Dixon and his Confederates to perish.
7. First Mechanically Powered Submarine
You might wonder that running on a treadmill or moving the pedal to move a submarine is just too much of an effort. Thus, Simeon Bourgeois and Charles Brun decided to develop a submarine powered by compressed air stored in tanks, known as the “Le Plongeur” or “The DIver”.
The compressed air also acts as oxygen supply for the crew. However, this idea comes with a downfall. Even though it has several successful dives, the air supply is too limited and its design is too unstable which leads it being removed from active duty in 1872. Only by 1888, it was rectified as the “Gymnote” that ran on electric power.
8. The Star of World War I
After The Turtle display to the world the potential submarine has for the military, submarines are used in World War I. The German used them to attack neutral ships that provided supplies to the Allies.
It is their last resort as the British have effectively blocked Germany’s ports keeping them from getting enough supplies. These German submarines called U-boats reportedly were able to sink 5000 neutral ships. Ever since then, submarines have played a big part in military advancement.
9. Submarine For Safety
A Spanish politician, activist and inventor Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol was inspired to build an underwater vehicle after seeing coral divers’ death due to drowning. Ictineo II was made to increase worker safety.
Monturiol made the world’s first engine-powered submarine where he successfully invented an anaerobic steam engine that used chemical reactions to create both heat and oxygen. Despite his significant innovation, the submarine was later sold due to funding shortages.
10. Era of Walking Under Water
The invention of a submarine named Argonaut opened the doors to a trip under the sea. Simon Lake added a set of wheels, the most unusual feature of this submarine, which allows the submarine to drive on the seafloor. With these wheels, a trip exploring the seafloor is made possible.
Its first trip was in 1898 where it sailed from Norfolk, Virginia to Sandy Hook, New Jersey. This invention leads Lake to develop dozens of submarines for the U.S. navy and holds more than 200 patents.
11. The Exploding “Submarine”
During the Falklands War in the year 1982, the British Navy Warships, HMS Brilliant, accidentally torpedoed two whales after mistaking them as enemy submarines. HMS Brilliant is the warship that focuses on attacking enemy submarines.
However, its radar mistakenly detected a pod of whales as the “Wolf-Packs” of submarines. These two “exploded” whales are followed by the third whale that is killed by the helicopter.
12. Anti-War Submarine
SP-350 Denise is a special submarine made by Jacques Cousteau for his underwater exploration. Jacques has made some remarkable inventions including the scuba gear and Aqua-Lung.
Thanks to his underwater documentaries, we get to know what it is like down there. He is also the pioneer of underwater base camps which suggested keeping oceanauts to work underwater. On top of that, Jacques has been an advocate of protecting the underwater marine life and environment.
13. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles
The submarine technology has kept on developing ever since. In the scientific research realm, they have developed what we call Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV). Since it is automated, it enables us to explore extreme environments.
Using the AUV, we could collect seafloor mapping data which leads to the advancement of marine geoscience.
14. Underwater For 25 Years
Recently, the British Navy has developed a new innovation for their submarine, manufactured by BAE Systems Submarines, called the Astute. It consisted of 7 submarines and they were made to be able to stay underwater up to 25 years.
They also successfully silenced this 7,400-ton-nuclear-powered submarine that holds 100 British sailors which enables them to attack enemies without being noticed. Out of the seven submarines to be launched, five are ready and the two will be further announced.
15. Government Censorship
Submarines have been widely used during World War II and it resulted in weather reports to be prohibited during the time. It is prohibited to keep the enemy from knowing the weather condition since they are underwater and could not know the condition on the surface.
During World War II, governments started to use censorship and propaganda to keep the people in control despite the devastating war that was happening. The content of the newspaper was closely monitored by the government to prevent any speculation that might cause their country to lose the war.
16. Submarine Drowned By Its Toilet
The pride of the German Navy, the U-1206, had been going places during World War II. Until Saturday, April 14, 1945, an unfortunate event happened. Captain Schlitt, the new captain, failed to flush the toilet properly and caused the ocean water to come inside the submarine.
Captain Schlitt has no other choice than to ask the submarine to come up to the surface.The British took this chance to attack the submarine and held captive the fleet inside it.
17. How Far We Have Come
As of today, China is the country who owns the most number of submarines at 79 units. However, America still holds the deadliest and best military submarines in the world. The USA Seawolf Class consisted of 12 submarines and they are currently the best hunting killer submarines in the world.
Their technology is developed to seek and destroy Soviet’s ballistic missile submarines, such as the Typhoon Class, and attack submarines such as the Akula class. Seawolf Class is able to operate at greater depths so that it could go under polar ice caps.
It is exceptionally quiet even when it is running at a high speed which makes it impossible to locate. For its attack, it is equipped with eight torpedoes which enables it to attack several targets at once. Unfortunately, their target is rusting at Murmansk and Vladivostok. Or is it fortunate?
Submarines remain one of the most profound inventions of human beings. Mostly used for military purposes, its contribution and advancement is something that we can’t just overlook. WIth countries keep on developing their navy technology, you can expect to see even more advanced submarines in the future.
On the other hand, the science and research sector also has some remarkable findings with the help of research submarines. We owe these research submarines for our knowledge of the deep sea.
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