Tue August 30, 2011
Into It: Submarines
The development of the submarine took hundreds of years of trial and error across the globe.
In 1620, the first submarine was built under the direction of King James I. The wooden boat managed to lumber along at 15 feet below the surface of the Thames, like a whale propelled by 12 rowing oars.
In the American Revolutionary War, an acorn-shaped submarine called The Turtle held a cramped individual struggling at its manual propeller cranks. In 1800, another hand-cranked submarine was commissioned, this time by Napoleon. At a relatively spacious length of 21 feet, it was equipped with a sail for surface navigation.
The submarines of the Civil War proved more effective at drowning their own soldiers than enemies. The Union deployed the French-designed Alligator, a 47-foot submarine that was lost in a storm off the coast of North Carolina. The Confederacy had its own boat, which resembled a syringe due to the long rod extended from its bow, set to deliver an explosive charge. In the end, it was deliberately sunk to avoid capture.
During the 20th century, the submarine advanced as a machine of war equipped with ballistic missiles and nuclear power. Now, under the guidance of numerous countries, they troll the shores, slide beneath the arctic, and traverse the oceans undetected for months at a time.