History of the Hunley

Topics: Submarine, H. L. Hunley, Confederate States Navy Pages: 8 (2969 words) Published: October 22, 2008
The concept of underwater endeavors has been around since the ancient times, the Egyptians used reeds to hunt in the water. The first time the concept was used in a military manner was by Alexander the Great’s army to clear obstructions during the siege of Syracuse in about 413 BC. Both of these instances were very primitive underwater developments, but held the basic concepts of a modern day submarine. They used underwater concealment to achieve a goal and that is the overall main concept of a modern day submarine. In the modern era our idea of underwater boats became a lot more refined and more practical. Many submarine designs started popping up around 1578. The first modern submarine was built in 1605 by Magnus Pegelius his submarine was lost in mud. The first successful submarine was propelled by oars and was invented by Cornelius Jacobszoon Drebbel many say its design was based on that of an Englishman William Bourne who designed a prototype submarine in 1578. Drebbel was a Dutchman in the service of King James I whose submarine was redesigned two more times from 1620 to 1624. In 1775 the first propelled self reliant submarine was invented in Connecticut and funded by the United States. It was named Turtle due to its resemblance to a turtle. David Bushnell inventor of Turtle was an American patriot and had his designs approved by George Washington. Turtle was the world’s first submarine to be used in battle. Turtle’s design was simple yet very efficient, it consisted of two wooden pieces secured with two metal bands and was covered in tar. It submerged by allowing water into a bilge tank at the bottom of the vessel and ascended by pushing water out through a hand pump, and was propelled vertically and horizontally by hand-cranked propellers. Turtle was the first recorded use of the screw propeller for ships. It also had two hundred pounds of lead which could be released in a moment to increase buoyancy. It was manned and operated by one person. It contained enough air for about thirty minutes and had a speed in calm water of about three miles per hour. Six small pieces of thick glass in the top were the only source of natural light. After Bushnell pondered the problem of lighting the inside of the ship and after learning that using a candle would hasten the use of the limited oxygen supply of the air inside, he solicited the help of Benjamin Franklin who cleverly hit upon the idea of using bioluminescent foxfire to provide illumination for the compass and depth meter. Foxfire is a glowing light given off by several species of fungi. The light given by the material was said to be sufficient at night, though likely dimmer than expected, because the ship was cooled by the surrounding sea water and the metabolic rate of poikilothermic, heterotrophic organisms, such as the mushrooms used in Turtle, is temperature-dependent. Turtle was designed as a naval weapon, and it’s method of attack was to drill into a ship's hull and plant a keg containing 130 pounds of gunpowder. Then a fuse would be attached and ignited when the Turtle was a safe distance away. Much testing was done by the inventor's brother, Ezra Bushnell, in the waters of the Connecticut River to ensure the structural fastness of the ship as well as to figure out the abilities of it. During the night of September 7, 1776, to support the upcoming Battle of Kip's Bay, Turtle, under the guidance of army volunteer Sergeant Ezra Lee, attacked the English’s flagship HMS Eagle, which was moored off what is today called Governors Island, which is due south of Manhattan. A common misconception was that Lee failed because he could not manage to bore through the copper-sheeted hull. In practice, it has been shown that the thin copper would not have presented any problem to the drill. A more likely scenario is Lee's unfamiliarity with the vessel made him unable to keep the Turtle stable enough to work the drill against the Eagle's Hull. When he attempted another spot in...

Bibliography: Online sources:
Friends of the Hunley: http://www.hunley.org/. Date of access; April 7, 2008. kellen@hunley.org
US Navy Historical Website: http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/org12-3.htm. Date of access; April 7, 2008. webmaster@history.navy.mil
Written sources:
Bak, Richard. The CSS Hunley: The Greatest Undersea Adventure of the Civil War. Lanham, MD: Cooper Square Press, 2003
Hicks, Bryan, and Schuyler Kropf. Raising the Hunley: The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine. New York: Ballantine Books, 2002
Video sources:
National Geographic: Raising the Hunley. Dir. Nicolas Noxon, Robert Guenette. Perf. Burgess Meredith. 2002. VHS Cassette. National Geographic Video, 2002.
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