Submarine Navigation (an excerpt)

by W. N. Jeffers in Johnson's New Universal Cyclopędia: A Scientific and Popular Treasury of Useful Knowledge

It is apparent to the writer that while short voyages can be performed, and a certain time be spent beneath the water, successful submarine navigation is a chimera. The difficulties of navigation on the surface in a dense fog, even when guided by a compass, are familiar to most persons; but when the fog assumes the density of water, the difficulties are increased tenfold. In fact, with the insufficient speed given to a body wholly submerged it becomes impossible to direct a vessel upon a given object. It is probable the most successful application of this principle will be that adopted in the construction of the "fish torpedo-boat" used during the civil war by the Confederates at Charleston, a cigar-shaped boat of galvanized iron, about 35 feet long, 3 feet wide, and 5 feet high in the middle.  It was propelled by a screw worked from the inside by seven or eight men. It had two manholes, which could be tightly closed from the inside, when it contained air enough for two or three hours' submersion. It had outside two fins, which caused it to rise and fall when in motion. The man-holes were provided with bull's eyes to permit seeing in every direction. The intention of the designer was that it should move to attack just awash, and on approaching an enemy dive, dragging a floating torpedo behind it which should explode as it struck the bottom of' a ship under which the fish had passed. While practising to pass under a large receiving-ship in Charleston harbor, it went down with such velocity that it stuck its bow in the mud, and could not rise again by any efforts of its crew. Before it could be found and raised, all on board were asphyxiated, Mr. Hunley, the owner, being of the number and in charge. The same boat afterward, in 1864, sunk the U. S. S. Housatonic with a pole torpedo, but was drawn into the hole occasioned by the torpedo, went down, and drowned the crew. (This information is derived from a letter of Gen. Beauregard to Gen. J. G. Barnard, U. S. corps of engineers, and by him communicated to the writer.)

Jeffers, W. N, "Submarine Navigation," Johnson's New Universal Cyclopędia: A Scientific and Popular Treasury of Useful Knowledge, Volume IV, pages 614-15, New York: Alvin J. Johnson & Son, 1877

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