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These Early Submarines Played a Crucial Role in History

 Submarines have been around for centuries; even longer than you might imagine. While these undersea naval vehicles became famous in the World Wars, their history goes back to the 1500s when Leonardo DaVinci first envisioned a boat that could sail underwater and sink other ships. 

In the years to follow, many variations of these water vehicles were developed for various purposes – from underwater research and underwater rescue to submarine warfare. Their usage in water warfare went on to become their most prominent purpose and over the decades, and many famous submarines played crucial roles in battles. 

Today, we will look at some of the most famous submarines in history – from the first practical submarine to the first one to sink a warship in a war.

See Also: 5 Famous Shipwrecks and Their Unbelievable Stories

1. A representation of the world's first practical submarine built in the 1620s by Dutch engineer Cornelis Jacobszoon Drebbel. According to the little information available, Drebbel built three submarines and the last one was capable of carrying 16 people. It had a leather-covered 12-oar rowboat and was enhanced with iron to withstand water pressure.

Early Submarines, world's first practical submarine 
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

2. The Argonaut Junior was the first successful submarine built by American engineer Simon Lake in 1894.  It was about 14 feet (4 meters) long and was made of wood (Yellow Pine). The vehicle had three wheels to keep it from getting stuck and move across the sea bottom.

Early Submarines, Argonaut Junior
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

3. The "David" Torpedo Boat was built in 1862 and was named after the story of David versus Goliath. The submarine, which strapped a torpedo to a spear to poke an enemy ship, was used in the American Civil War. In 1863, it was used to attack the mighty Union ironclad, the USS New Ironsides.

Early Submarines, "David" Torpedo Boat
Image source: Acid Cow

4. The USS Alligator is the first known U.S. Navy submarine of the American Civil War. It entered service on June 13th, 1862, and was designed to accommodate 18 men. In April 1863, while being towed south to take part in the attack on Charleston harbor, the submarine ran into rough weather near Cape Hatteras, N.C., and was left adrift. Unfortunately, no one knows what happened to the sub after that. Historical preservation teams are still searching for the sunken USS Alligator even today.

Early Submarines, USS Alligator.
Image source: Acid Cow

5. The "Intelligent Whale" was an experimental submarine that was built in New Jersey during the Civil War. Its construction began in 1863 but was not completed until 1872. Due to its late completion, the sub never saw service during the war. Today, the massive vehicle is on display at the National Guard Militia Museum of New Jersey.

Early Submarines, "Intelligent Whale"

Image source: Acid Cow

6. The CSS H. L. Hunley was the first successful submarine of the Civil War. Built in Alabama, in 1863, the Hunley was made from a recycled iron steam boiler and could hold eight people. Serving in the Confederate States of America's Navy, the vehicle achieved fame for being the first combat submarine to sink a warship - the Union vessel Housatonic. Unfortunately, the sub sustained heavy damages during the attack and sank along with its eight crewmen.

Early Submarines, CSS H. L. Hunley
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

7. A replica of the "Ictineo II" near Barcelona harbor. The original was built in 1859 by Narcís Monturiol I Estarriol, a Spanish artist and engineer. Monturiol had witnessed the drowning death of a coral diver in 1857 and was inspired to build an underwater vehicle for better worker safety. The submarine performed more than 20 dives but unfortunately, it was destroyed by accident in January 1862.

Early Submarines,  Monturiol's wooden Ictineo II 
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

8. The submarine "Abdül Hamid" was built in England in 1880 and was named after Sultan Abdülhamid II of the Ottoman Empire. It was first launched on September 6, 1886, and is known to be the first submarine in the world to fire a live torpedo underwater.

Early Submarines, "Abdül Hamid"
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

9. The Spanish undersea vehicle "Peral" was the first successful fully electric battery-powered submarine. Built by the Spanish engineer and sailor Isaac Peral for the Spanish Navy, Peral is considered to be the first fully capable military submarine and was launched on 8 September 1888. The sub was equipped with a periscope for above water viewing along with a searchlight that allowed crews to view the waters around them and the ocean floor. This marvel, which also had a single torpedo tube, only served two years and was decommissioned in 1890. 

Early Submarines, Spanish submarine Peral 
Image source: Wikimedia Commons

10. “Le Plongeur” (“The Diver”), was a French submarine that was launched in 1863. It is famous for being the first sub in the world to be propelled by mechanical rather than human power. The vehicle was designed by naval officers Simeon Bourgeois and Charles Brun and was equipped with a compound 2-cylinder steam engine. Le Plongeur made many successful dives but was removed from active duty in 1872 because of its unstable structural design.

Early Submarines, Le Plongeur”
Image source: Wikimedia Commons
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