1775: American independence fighter David Bushnell constructed the Turtle. According to contemporary reports, this one-man sub was slowly manoeuvred under the anchored British frigate Eagle, using muscle powered propellers. An attempt was made in 1776 to attach an explosive charge, but it failed.
1800: American Engineer Robert Fulton constructed the Nautilus for the French Navy to be used against Britain. It was made for 4 men, using muscle propulsion. It was tested to 8 m depth but never used in combat.
1854: Wilhelm Bauer built the Seeteufel for the Russian Navy. It had a steel hull and a 13 men crew. It was engine powered on the surface and muscle powered during diving. It made more than 100 test dives until 1856 but was never put in use.
1863: Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley was 12 m long and hand cranked by 7-8 men. Constructed by James McClintock, Baxter Watson, and Horace L. Hunley, it was used in the American Civil War. The first attack in 1864 was successful, sinking the USS Housatonic. Perhaps too successful, because the explosion sank the sub as well, killing all men.
1869-1870: Jules Verne presented the Nautilus in his book Vingt Mille Lieues sous les mers. This sub was purely fictional, but ahead of time, very well-written and an inspiration for future designers.
1887: Gustave Zedé constructed Le Gymnote. It was steam-driven on surface and electric motors gave an underwater speed on 5 knots. It had a periscope and carried one torpedo, but proved too difficult to maneuver for practical use.
1899: French sub Le Narval was the first to be made with a double hull.
1900: J.P. Holland constructed the SS-1 for the US Navy. It was driven by a petrol engine on surface and carried 2 guns and 3 torpedoes.
WWI and post-war years
In World War I the submarines played a significant role for the first time. Diesel engines were introduced instead of petrol engines. Germany used the subs as a blockade against Britain.
The diesel-electric submarine was further developed. Longer range, higher speed and snorkels. The pressure hulls were welded rather than riveted, allowing greater depth. After WWII, nuclear subs were introduced.
U 535 is a German class IX C built in 1942, sunk in 1945, salvaged in 1993.
Per Åkesson, October 1999
Text in Swedish
Per-Olof Ekman: Havsvargar (Schildts, 1983)
U 534 photo © U Boat Net. Brass model photo © Noël Rousset. Hunley drawing by Axel Nelson. Lembit photo © Per Åkesson. Page rev jul '12
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