The Saga of
From the early years to the beginning of nuclear power - the
history of the submarine.
the American Civil War, Confederate inventor Horace L. Hunley
converted a steam boiler into a submarine. This Confederate
submarine could be propelled at four knots by a hand-driven
screw. Unfortunately, the submarine sank twice during trials in
Charleston, South Carolina. These accidental sinkings in
Charleston harbor cost the lives of two crews. In the second
accident the submarine was stranded on the bottom and Hunley
himself was asphyxiated with eight other crewmembers.
Subsequently, the submarine was raised and renamed Hunley. In
1864, armed with a 90-pound charge of powder on a long pole,
Hunley attacked and sank a new Federal steam sloop, USS
Housatonic, at the entrance to Charleston Harbor. After her
successful attack on Housatonic, Hunley disappeared and her fate
remained unknown for 131 years. In 1995 the wreck of the Hunley
was located four miles off Sullivans Island, South Carolina.
Plans are being made to raise Hunley for preservation and
exhibition in Charleston. Even though she sank, Hunley proved
that the submarine could be a valuable weapon in time of war.
In 1862 the Federal navy tested a prototype submarine called
Alligator. The Federal submarine was intended for operations in
the James River below Richmond, Virginia. However, Alligator
proved too large for diving in the river's shallow waters.
Alligator sank at sea while it was being towed to the Charleston
operating area. In 1872, the Navy unsuccessfully tested
Intelligent Whale, another hand crank-powered submarine.
Subsequent to the Intelligent Whale's failure, inventors
realized that until a propulsion method better than manpower
could be developed for underwater use, submarines were not going
to be worth the effort.
- The USS Holland
Information and Images Provided by The United