Monday, May 20, 2013

The Submariner

Am I wrong about this?  My first thought on seeing this print, "Just another guy in a uniform."  I've got so many in the collection, that I don't really look for them anymore.  But, if I see something interesting.... And on  closer inspection, I began thinking this is interesting, that this gentleman was standing on the deck of a very early submarine.  

Now, I suppose early sub is open to debate.  I've been doing a little reading on the history of America's submarine fleet, and early could refer to the Turtle, the colonial navy's secret weapon during the Revolutionary War.  Then there was our two sub fleet from the Civil War, the Alligator, and my favorite ship's name of all time, the Intelligent Whale.  (The Hunley was a Confederate sub, and doesn't count.)  For the record, the Alligator sank in a storm while being towed into battle.  A ship with a propeller turned by a hand crank would have taken too long to get into position otherwise.  The Intelligent Whale was tested, but never used, and is currently on display at The National Guard and Militia Museum of New Jersey.  

It wasn't until the early twentieth century that world navies began building true submarine fleets.  But which model is the one in this photo?  The fact is, there just isn't enough of the sub in the picture to match it up to anything I've been able to find on the web.

Anyway, the thing about early twentieth century submarines,  they had a tendency to sink.  Sometimes a captain would make the mistake of going too deep and water pressure would crush the hull.  Sometimes a hatch would fail, or a sub, pre-sonar, would run into something in the water.  I have a book by Commander Richard Ellsberg that's about an attempt to save the crew of a sunken sub using hard hat divers.  The cover can be seen on my other blog,, posted 11/25/12.  The book was published in 1939, before the invention of the scuba tank.

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