Submarine History - Part 1
HOLLAND found sponsorship with the Fenians, a group of Irish revolutionaries, looking for a way to harass the British Navy. He built a small prototype submarine, "Holland No. 1" to test out his theories – including the use of a gasoline engine. The trial was successful enough to encourage building a larger, more warlike, boat.
Anglican Reverend GEORGE W. GARRETT tested the steam-powered "Resurgam:" steam for a boiler for surface operations, steam stored in pressurized tanks for submerged operations. The boat passed initial trials, but sank while under tow (rediscovered in 1996). Out of funds but not undeterred, Garrett took his ideas to a wealthy Swedish arms manufacturer, THORSTEN NORDENFELDT. See below.
HOLLAND launched the "Fenian Ram" – 31 feet long, armed with a ram bow and an air-power cannon. Tests continued for two years, to depths of sixty feet for as long as one hour. Surface and submerged speeds were about the same, 9 knots.
However, the Fenians became increasingly frustrated with Holland's delays, and, faced with some internal legal squabbles, stole their own boat and hid it in a shed in New Haven, CT, where it remained for thirty-five years. Holland had nothing more to do with the Fenians; the boat was eventually donated to the city of Patterson, where it is now on display in West Side Park.
HOLLAND and several investors formed the Nautilus Submarine Boat Company, hoping to sell a submarine to the French, then at war in Indochina. The company prototype, dubbed the "Zalinski Boat" after one of the investors, was launched in 1885. Too heavy for the launching ways, the boat smashed into some pilings and was badly damaged. Repaired, she made some token trial runs but the French war had ended and the company went bankrupt.
French designer CLAUDE GOUBET built a battery-operated submarine, too awkward and unstable to be successful. He followed up in 1889 with "Goubet II" – also small, electric, and not effective.
American JOSIAH H. L. TUCK demonstrated "Peacemaker" – powered by a chemical (fireless) boiler; 1500 pounds of caustic soda provided five hours endurance. Tuck's inventing days ended when relatives – noting that he had squandered most of a significant fortune – had him committed to an asylum for the insane.
"Nordenfeldt I" – 64 feet, armed with one external torpedo tube – was launched. Powered by steam on the surface -- and "accumulated" steam while submerged. (See "Resurgam.") It took as long as twelve hours to generate enough steam for submerged operations and about thirty minutes to dive. Once underwater, sudden changes in speed or direction triggered – in the words of a U. S. Navy intelligence report – "dangerous and eccentric movements."
However, good public relations overcame bad design: Nordenfeldt always demonstrated his boats before a stellar crowd of crowned heads, and Nordenfeldt's submarines were regarded as the world standard.
The Greek Navy took delivery of "Nordenfeldt I" in 1886, and seems to have done nothing with it. Bitter rival Turkish Navy ordered two of the larger "Nordenfeldt II" boats – 100 feet with two torpedo tubes. When a torpedo was fired on a test dive, the first boat tipped backwards and sank, stern first, to the bottom. The second Turkish boat was left unfinished.
The U. S. Navy announced an open competition for a submarine torpedo boat, with a $2 million incentive. The specifications were based on presumed Nordenfeldt-level capabilities and presumed a steam-powerplant of 1000 horsepower.
Bidders included Nordenfeldt, Tuck, and Holland. Holland's design won, but because of contracting complications, the award was withdrawn.
The competition was re-opened a year later, Holland was again the winner – but a new Secretary of the Navy diverted the $2 million to surface ships. Nordenfeldt lost interest in submarines; Tuck went into the asylum; Holland got a job as a draftsman, earning $4 a day.
GUSTAVE ZEDE built "Gymnote" for the French Navy – a 60-foot, battery-powered boat capable of 8 knots on the surface but limited by the lack of any method for recharging the batteries while at sea. Her naval service was largely limited to experimentation.
Spaniard ISAAC PERAL's "Peral" successfully fired three Whitehead torpedoes while on trials, but internal politics kept the Spanish Navy from pursuing the project.
With a new Administration in office, the U. S. Congress appropriated $200,000 for an "experimental submarine" and the Navy announced a new competition. There were three bidders: Holland, GEORGE C. BAKER, and SIMON LAKE.
Holland and Lake submitted proposals; the politically well- connected Baker actually had a submarine, which he was demonstrating on Lake Michigan. A novel feature: a clutch between the steam engine and an electric motor allowed the motor to function as a dynamo, to recharge the batteries for submerged running. A troubling feature: a pair of amidships-mounted propellers that swivelled up or forward, through a clumsy period of transition.
When Holland's design once again won the competition, Baker complained to his friends in Washington. The whole business seems to have been put on "hold."