Monday, December 10, 2007

Tear-Drop Submarine Hull Dates to 1864

Look at the photo above. Well-known to locals, the relic had long been assumed a remnant of WWII.

Two years ago, a rather amazing story surfaced about the submarine relic and here, which had apparently been built in 1864 by Julius Kroehl, chief engineer, for the Pacific Pearl Company. Called Explorer, his sub had been taken to Panama in 1866 for pearl harvesting. Both the news and the Wikipedia versions of the history are interesting.

To any submariner, the craft employed very impressive design insights. First, the Explorer utilized a unique lock-out system, identical to the one described in the Nautilus from the Verne's novel published years later, in 1870. This consisted of an interconnected system of high-pressure air to pressurize a crew working chamber and water ballast tanks. That technology alone easily outstrips the Hunley's but for the fact that the 200 psi air was supplied from an external tender - and why not, when it would be diving for pearls?

While calling Explorer a 'glorified diving bell', some of its detractors are quick to describe the confederate sub Hunley as high tech for its time, when actually, it was only a crude device used in a visionary manner by some of the most courageous volunteers of the war. As we see, the Explorer, at 12 meters in length and 3.3 meters beam, was not bell shaped. Hunley was also 12 meters in length with a
beam of only 1.2 meters.
Both vessels had screws with hand powered shafts. That is where the most extraordinary high tech difference must be noted. Hunley was wedge-shaped like a surface craft. The Explorer (photo) has the tear drop hull design of post-WWII German, Russian and U.S. submarines like USS Albacore (1953).
A big Thank You! to BC for this nifty link where you will find a slide show of more Explorer photos.



At 12 February, 2015 15:47, Blogger Unknown said...

Is anyone going to try to salvage the craft? It seems it was just beached and left because it was no longer needed? Probably paid for itself many times over!
Seems this is one of those nearly lost pieces of history.

At 15 February, 2015 16:12, Blogger Vigilis said...

You have asked the leading question, Bear Nyhof.

The latest feedback from the Institute of Nautical Archaeology found here reported only this rather ominous prospect:

"The final results of the various field seasons have been provided to the Panamánian government along with a series of recommendations for the ongoing preservation of the submarine. The rate of corrosion is such that recovery and conservation of the craft may be prohibitively expensive and possibly not successful in the long term. Other options have been suggested, and even if no further work is undertaken, the technology and characteristics of a rare, surviving example of Civil War-era nautical technology have been preserved through the detailed plans prepared as part of this project."


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