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We all live in a makeshift submarine...
August 3, 2007 11:45 AM   Subscribe

Newsfilter: A detective from the New York Department Intelligence Division noticed a strange-looking submarine in the vicinity of the at the cruise ship terminal in Red Hook, Brooklyn. The submarine's design appears to be similar to that of Bushnell's Turtle, the first submarine used in battle.
posted by rush (74 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Turtle was invented by Irishman David Bushnell, who inspired monetary support from George Washington with his bold idea for an attack submarine. It was designed to drill a hole in the hull of a ship, and attach a "torpedo" - really just a barrel of gunpowder with a clockwork detonator. Propelled by a hand crank and lit by foxfire, the submarine was launched to attack the HMS Eagle in New York Harbor, on September 7, 1776. However, the drill (also hand-cranked) was unable to properly penetrate the Eagle's hull, and the charge was detonated in open water, no doubt causing a similar level of confusion as that experienced by the NYPD Harbor units today.
posted by rush at 11:46 AM on August 3, 2007


Lousy trouble-making time travelers.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:49 AM on August 3, 2007 [5 favorites]


I'm glad I got to see New York.
posted by CynicalKnight at 11:51 AM on August 3, 2007


Gothamist has a link to pictures on flickr.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 11:51 AM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


The U.S. Navy Submarine Force Museum, the beautiful Musee Oceanographique de Monaco, and the High School in Bushnell's own Saybrook, CT all feature full-scale reproductions of the Turtle.
posted by rush at 11:54 AM on August 3, 2007


When turtle subs are outlawed, only outlaws will have turtle subs.
posted by exogenous at 11:55 AM on August 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Great photos, Armitage Shanks.
posted by rush at 11:56 AM on August 3, 2007


Is that a submarine in your harbor, or are you just happy to see me?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:00 PM on August 3, 2007


Art?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:00 PM on August 3, 2007


“All three males are expected to be charged with a number of violations and both vessels will be secured by the Harbor Unit,” the NYPD said.

I'm confused. What exactly did they do wrong? Is it illegal to build revolutionary war replicas? They were seen 'near' a security zone, does that mean that they had crossed the security zone, or is mere proximity now enough to warrant arrest?

My guess is that it's a hobbiest who built an old style sub and was testing it out with two spotters in the rubber boat above, ready to pull him out if there was any kind of problem.
posted by quin at 12:01 PM on August 3, 2007


And looking at Armitage Shanks' link more or less confirms that.
posted by quin at 12:04 PM on August 3, 2007


I'm confused. What exactly did they do wrong? Is it illegal to build revolutionary war replicas? They were seen 'near' a security zone, does that mean that they had crossed the security zone, or is mere proximity now enough to warrant arrest?

It wasn't just that they were in the vacinity of a security zone, it's that they had a decal for their official sponser, Adult Swim, on the side of the craft.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:06 PM on August 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


Hey, that's pretty cool.

That said, I'm sure that in the end the men will only be charged with some minor violations. I bet NYPD is just a tad freaked out right now.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:08 PM on August 3, 2007


What exactly did they do wrong?

They were behaving abnormally. D'uh..!

Back in your cubicle, Citizen!
posted by LordSludge at 12:10 PM on August 3, 2007 [8 favorites]


is mere proximity now enough to warrant arrest?

I was under the impression that even looking in the direction of a "security zone" was enough to warrant arrest, if they felt like it. God help you if you've got a camera on you.

Cue police spokesman, who I guarantee will use the phrase "out of an abundance of caution"
posted by aramaic at 12:16 PM on August 3, 2007


"The three individuals believed responsible are in custody and may face various charges. Meanwhile we can summarize today's incident as marine mischief."

Awesome. That'll look good on the application to graduate school.
posted by dammitjim at 12:18 PM on August 3, 2007


What really confuses me is that the flickr set shows the Coast Guard made them tow it away from the vicinity of the QM2 on July 18, two weeks ago. So why is this a big shock to the cops today?
posted by Armitage Shanks at 12:18 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


We need to arrest people who dress up as confederates in Civil War recreation events. The confederates were secessionists and seditionists. And Shriners. Lousy fez-headed early-bird-special-eating cabalists, all of them. And those who make miniature boats inside of bottles. They maybe miniaturizing warheads also.
Various charges for them all!
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 12:24 PM on August 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


how much inter-communication do you fantasize between the different law-enforcement communities, shanks? Maybe they didn't tell the Coast Guard their plan to visit the queen when stopped.

that flickr set made it for me. hilarious and impressive.
posted by Busithoth at 12:26 PM on August 3, 2007


My guess is that it's a hobbiest who built an old style sub and was testing it out with two spotters in the rubber boat above, ready to pull him out if there was any kind of problem.

IDIOTS! DON'T THEY KNOW THERE'S A WAR ON? 9/11 CHANGED EVERYTHING!
posted by quonsar at 12:26 PM on August 3, 2007


Here's one from a little later that I saw recently.
posted by me & my monkey at 12:27 PM on August 3, 2007


Excellent thread title.
posted by william_boot at 12:32 PM on August 3, 2007


What? I had to read THREE sentences before we could get to the word "terrorism"? Dammit, media, you're getting lazy at scaremongering.
posted by hodyoaten at 12:33 PM on August 3, 2007


Philip Rey?
posted by mwhybark at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2007


Libertarian paranoia aside, puttering about in New York City waters without prior warning or permission in a homemade submarine based on a covert stealthy Civil War weapon is a reckless thing to do.

To do so and nonchalantly wander towards a large civilian watercraft, particularily one as famous as the QM2, is tempting the fates.

It is probably a non-event, but I hope they search the harbour bottom carefully for an urgently jettisioned "secondary cargo".
posted by CynicalKnight at 12:38 PM on August 3, 2007


It's the terrorism-fighters that terrify me.
posted by davy at 12:40 PM on August 3, 2007


I'm guessing that may indeed be the pilot's nom-de-guerre, as the flickr set points to one Duke Riley.
posted by mwhybark at 12:40 PM on August 3, 2007


It's not a replica of something from the CIVIL War but the REVOLUTIONARY War 4-score and some-odd years prior. And yes, I agree we all need to be protected from anything that's in the slightest bit unapproved or non-standard. Why are there not more chock-full detention centers for such miscreants as these?
posted by davy at 12:44 PM on August 3, 2007


I'm confused. What exactly did they do wrong?

Maybe you have to have a license or something to go out in the harbor? I'm sure that's why vessels have serial numbers and stuff. But this wasn't operated by motor or anything. If I had just a regular row boat could I go out there?

Weird how these guys could be so smart to build the thing but so dumb not to check the laws. Seems like common sense to me.
posted by b_thinky at 12:53 PM on August 3, 2007


If this be treason make the most of it
posted by yeti at 12:55 PM on August 3, 2007



Why are there not more chock-full detention centers for such miscreants as these?M



Let's lock them up in a replica of the HMS Jersey . Then freedom will be safe again!
posted by dubold at 12:58 PM on August 3, 2007


The submarine was designed as a naval weapon, and it was meant to drill into a ship's hull and plant a keg of powder, which would be detonated by a time fuse.

"Captain! Someone is drilling a hole into our ship!"

It's always interesting to hear how these battles were fought before modern technology.

There was a History Channel show a few months ago about naval battles in Ancient Greece. They didn't have any canons or guns, so ships would battle by trying to knock each others oars off. One ship would try to "sneak" up on the other head on but narrowly missing to either side, hopefully before the crew could pull their oars in. If enough oars were broken or dropped a ship would be a sitting duck in the water.
posted by b_thinky at 12:59 PM on August 3, 2007


MARCO!!!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:02 PM on August 3, 2007


polo
posted by yeti at 1:09 PM on August 3, 2007


He should be fine. It says he's a patriot, right there on his website.

The rest of you, please take your soma and get back to consuming.
posted by bashos_frog at 1:11 PM on August 3, 2007


I bet that that entire submarine could be sucked through the Queen Mary 2's bow thrusters...
posted by anthill at 1:21 PM on August 3, 2007


TERRORISM!
posted by maxwelton at 1:29 PM on August 3, 2007


(Cynical Knight, you're kidding, right? Please tell me you're kidding.)
posted by maxwelton at 1:30 PM on August 3, 2007


As dances_with_sneetches pointed out upthread, we should especially fear the Shriners. Not only do they meet in secret, but their symbol includes the Star-&-Crescent of Islam along with the sword Zulfiqar, the emblem of Jihad. What more proof do you need that this "Shriners" conspiracy is linked with al-Qaida?!?
posted by davy at 1:32 PM on August 3, 2007


"Captain! Someone is drilling a hole into our ship!" - It's Raining Florence Henderson

I went to the Musee Oceanographique de Monaco, and sat in the reproduction. I tried to imagine piloting the thing through enemy waters on an attack mission. It was a weird daydream. I tried to imagine the sailors in the enemy ship hearing a noise, wondering what it was...

Yes, combat was different then. Creepily so. I think it's telling that Bushnell didn't do this himself. He recruited a guy that was reputed to be not-so-bright. I guess Bushnell had thought it through, too.
posted by rush at 1:34 PM on August 3, 2007


IDIOTS! DON'T THEY KNOW THERE'S A WAR ON? 7/4/1776 CHANGED EVERYTHING!
posted by fandango_matt at 1:47 PM on August 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


And those Black Muslim bakers bear watching too.

Is there anybody linked with al Qaida under YOUR bed? Are you SURE?
posted by davy at 1:47 PM on August 3, 2007


Sorry, Rush - you missed it by that much!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:47 PM on August 3, 2007


/Maxwell Smart
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:49 PM on August 3, 2007


"It does not pose any terrorist threat."

ATTENTION MEFITES!!!! PLEASE STAND DOWN!!!!
posted by The Deej at 2:13 PM on August 3, 2007


A couple of years I ago I took a class at the local college. The professor had kind of a thing for oddball little projects, and soon enough we were assembled into groups and told to measure various building's heights with tools and methods we had to make ourselves. Our team homebrewed a sextant looking device out of some tubes, a protractor, string and a weight. Once we mastered our little creation's use and the necessary calculations we were off and running.

Unfortunately, one of the buildings we chose to measure was the federal courthouse. I'm not sure why we decided to do this, other than it was fairly tall and located in front of a park where we tended to hang out. Anyway, after a few minutes of pointing our tubes at the building from various angles we noticed a well armed security detail heading our way. And by heading our way, I mean in a hurried 'oh god they're going to kill us' sort of way.

The long and short of it was we'd been observed acting suspicious and they decided it was time to intervene. Two of them were security guards, one local policeman and two guys in police-like uniforms that turned out to be related to the homeland security office. They were actually pretty nice, by which I mean they didn't yell or point any weapons at us.

A few minutes of conversation was all that was needed to explain what we were doing, and the cop at least thought our sextant was "pretty cool." We weren't arrested, but were told that in the future if we were to measure out the courthouse again we needed to check in with the security desk.

Anyway, long story, off topic, &c. We got an "A."
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:14 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Wow. I know one of the guys involved in this. Small damn world.
posted by Gamblor at 2:15 PM on August 3, 2007


You don't know the half of it with the Shriners - the conspiracy goes deeper than you can imagine!!!

I fully expect to be ran off the road by little cars on the freeway tonight. goodbye.
posted by azlondon at 2:25 PM on August 3, 2007


elwood, was that pre-"the day that changed everything and made all officials assholes" ?

this sub is very cool. : >
posted by amberglow at 2:31 PM on August 3, 2007



One Man’s Art (a Submarine?) Runs Into Trouble

posted by amberglow at 2:33 PM on August 3, 2007


and from there: ... I am interested in the struggle of marginal peoples to sustain independent spaces within all-encompassing societies, the tension between individual and collective behavior, the conflict with institutional power. ...
posted by amberglow at 2:34 PM on August 3, 2007


"If we were to measure out the courthouse again we needed to check in with the security desk."

So we need to get Official Permission to measure the height of a PUBLIC building, "in the land of the free and the home of the brave."
posted by davy at 2:58 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


amberglow, that caught my eye, as well. It reminded me of The Bridge, the interstitial community in Gibson's Virtual Light.
posted by rush at 2:58 PM on August 3, 2007


But might we suggest you not attempt to go in the water by building a homemade submarine and launching your Cousteauian adventure in the East River near the Queen Mary 2, which is docked off Red Hook?”

[Excellent, they fell right into my hands and printed the exact location of the QE2, now I don't even need submarines.]
posted by quin at 3:05 PM on August 3, 2007


ATTENTION MEFITES!!!! PLEASE STAND DOWN!!!!

Nope. I think I'll take this one standing up, thanks.

The point here is that we live in a society so paranoid and suspicious that a few dudes building a fucking Revolutionary-War era toy sub that can barely move under its own power are considered a Grave Danger To Life & Limb and must be detained for further questioning.

Some time between now and "back in the day" we became a nation that shits it's pants at the sight of it's own shadow. It's pretty sad, if you ask me -- and I know you didn't.
posted by Avenger at 3:16 PM on August 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


It's weird, because in the case of the bridge collapsing, I didn't immediately think of terrorism, but I can understand how some people could have, so I didn't get too pissy about the media reports assuring that there was no terrorism involved.

On the other other hand, I wonder where the cycle gets broken. If the media stop "assuring" people, will that change the dynamic? Will less people worry about terrorism right away? Once the cause of a bridge collapse or a weird-ass submarine is reported, is it necessary to say "NO TERRORISM!!!!" I do believe the reporters used to say "no signs of foul play."

I feel like I am even less articulate than usual so I am probably not explaining my frustration very well. So, feel free to fill in the blanks below with better verbiage:
______________________________________________
______________________________________________
______________________________________________
posted by The Deej at 3:40 PM on August 3, 2007


"I didn't think it was going to float honestly," Scott Raffaele said.

Floating dishonestly, that's a paddling.
posted by Joeforking at 3:42 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


davy - Yeah, I hear you, but I don't read it quite the same way. How about this:

You're sitting in your office / at home / somewhere public and a person you don't know is pointing some vaguely tube-like object in your general direction. You can't readily identify the person or the object. What do you do?

(a) Nothing, and the homemade whatever rains down fiery death on you, for which your surviving relatives immediately excoriate the Offical Security Folks for falling down on the job / dereliction of duty / whatever.

(b) Alert the security staff who DO THEIR FREAKING JOB and check out the unknown quantity to evaluate the threat.

As it turns out in this case and the case of the mini sub, no threat, hooray! But, you know, if you're going to point vaguely tube-like objects / float unidentifiable objects (that sub looks like it could carry a lot of plastic explosives) / otherwise engage in not-immediately-avaluateable (woo! Made that one up!) behavior, expect to be checked out. And you know what, I don't have a problem with that. I'm not interested in fiery screaming death, thanks anyway, and I'm certainly glad that elwoodwiles' security folks actually behaved reasonably. A courteous "hello, we're measuring your building for a class project" != "Official Permission."

You might argue that the NYPD overreacted, but you wouldn't convince me.
posted by ZakDaddy at 3:54 PM on August 3, 2007


"avaluateable," in this context, should read "evaluateable." Dammit.
posted by ZakDaddy at 3:56 PM on August 3, 2007


IDIOTS! DON'T THEY KNOW THERE'S A WAR ON? 7/4/1776 APRIL 19, 1775 CHANGED EVERYTHING!
posted by ericb at 3:58 PM on August 3, 2007


You better not point a camera in the direction of 3701 N. Fairfax Drive, Arlington, VA. It's home to DARPA, and you're not supposed to photograph the outside of it. Of course, there's no sign telling you not to...

As for pointing threatening things at public structures - we were birdwatching over the weekend, with a friend who's just started getting into photographing birds. We were at a refuge that's just off the freeway, and our friend was using a lens so big that it had a shoulder stock to steady it; it was also covered in a camo cover. We were convinced that some good citizen driving by would see us and call the cops. Nobody did.
posted by rtha at 4:07 PM on August 3, 2007


"A courteous 'hello, we're measuring your building for a class project...'"

Should not be required in a free society. The more requirements the less free. Kinda like the more sewage they put in the barrel the less it tastes like fine merlot.
posted by davy at 4:11 PM on August 3, 2007


Um, look. I'm generally very big on civil liberties, right to photograph, and generally feel that anything that isn't prohibited for a good reason should be completely permissible. And I hope these people get off with a warning.

That said, I'm sure there are all sorts of very strict laws that cover things like towing around underwater obstructions. And there certainly should be! Marine navigation is tricky; you can't just press the brake, stop, and then get out of the vehicle. Towing around an unpowered submarine, completely helpless against the shifting current, is extremely dangerous to yourself and others. (That part of the river might be in the estuary, where the direction of the river changes with the tides, resulting in notoriously unpredictable currents.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 4:16 PM on August 3, 2007


On the other other hand, I wonder where the cycle gets broken. If the media stop "assuring" people, will that change the dynamic? Will less people worry about terrorism right away?

Not right away, and it can't just be the media, but the leadership as well, but yeah. I bet it wouldn't take all that long at all.

At this point it's nearly hypnotism. They keep repeating the word and it just stays firmly rooted in our subconscious. It gives us a constant low grade fever of fear and it makes us more pliable. This is great for both the news and the people in charge.

But I think it needs to be constantly reinforced. Once they stop mentioning it, we start thinking of something else. By way of example, it's like the monkey pox fears from a few years ago. The news was talking about it all the time and everybody was sure there was going to be some giant outbreak.

Then the news moved on to something else and no one thinks about it anymore. Are we under any less risk of there being an outbreak? No. We just don't have that constant noise keeping us afraid.

The problem is, I'm sure this is very addictive to those who serve it to us. And I bet getting them to stop is going to be hard.
posted by quin at 4:19 PM on August 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Sorry, the comment was far enough back that I should have attributed that quote. The Deej : On the other other hand...
posted by quin at 4:21 PM on August 3, 2007


Well said, quin. Especially that "The Deej" part.
posted by The Deej at 4:27 PM on August 3, 2007


and from there: ... I am interested in the struggle of marginal peoples to sustain independent spaces within all-encompassing societies, the tension between individual and collective behavior, the conflict with institutional power. ...

So, three guys + homemade submarine = hi-jinx. Three guys + submarine + manifesto = performance art.

The manifesto is important, here.

But seriously, "various charges?" I doubt they'll indict -- at least I hope not. Can't anyone have any fun any more?
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:56 PM on August 3, 2007


otherwise engage in not-immediately-evaluateable (woo! Made that one up!) behavior, expect to be checked out.

Creepy mindset.

There's a simple reason not to be afraid of "non-evaluateable" behavior. Frankly, most people in the world don't want to kill each other, and most people in the world are dumb. So there's a pretty small intersection between people who are angry and evil enough to really want to commit an act of terrorism but are also smart enough to pull one off. There's probably a lot more dumb evil angry people, but they mostly end up embarrassing themselves trying to light the soles of their shoes on fire or crashing barbecue cylinders into airports. You need smart angry evil people, and even when you have some there's even fewer who are actually going to do it because that requires one of three things:

1) They're genius enough not to get caught. (Has anyone who personally perpetrated a major attack gotten away? I can't think of any.)

2) They accept they're ruining their lives and still think it's worth it.

3) They're dumb enough to believe Allah is going to award them but somehow still smart enough to pull off an attack.

So, really, what keeps us safe from terrorism is that not that many people actually even try to blow us up. If so many people were really trying to commit terrorist attacks, there would either be a lot more successful attacks or there would have to be real, intrusive security that would make EVERYONE complain (curfews, internal passports, airport-style restrictions everywhere), instead of theater and stupid reactions to the last attack - boxcutters, shoes, magic liquid explosives. It should be obvious that when huge numbers of people want to do something, the government can't much stop them - drugs, prostitution, copyright infringement, etc.

So, harassing submarines, people with cardboard tubes, and others acting non-harmfully weird doesn't serve much real purpose in preventing terrorism, just in increasing fear and government power. A dumb terrorist is going to act "non-evaluateable" or weird in a threatening way. The Fort Dix guys sent a tape of themselves preparing for their attack to Circuit City to get a copy made. (Even if they hadn't, "let's the six of us get some guns and take on the army base by ourselves" isn't a plan for success.) The shoe bomber forgot to even have a decent way to set off his bomb.

A smart terrorist is going to be acting perfectly normal. Police work should be targeted towards catching the smart terrorists in a little mistake, not to bother people for acting weird.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:17 PM on August 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


Yes, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and even a dumb terrorist might manage to kill a few people. I don't want these guys to go to Gitmo, though they probably should pay a fine, but it was freaking stupid to do this near the Queen Mary...what, there were no small lakes they could try? Or even..gasp...try to get some sort of permission? You have to license watercraft many places, because real boaters don't want to snag on the pieces of your broken homemade plywood raft. Or pay to fish your ass out of the river when it breaks up. Or send divers after your bloated drowned corpse.

And yeah, if I worked in a federal building and saw people pointing plastic tubes at my building, I'd be scared. It wasn't their fault, but it sounds like the cops did a good job checking it out without being assholes. Would that more of them were like that.
posted by emjaybee at 6:21 PM on August 3, 2007


TheOnlyCoolTim - Well-put, and I like your reasoning. However (and you had to see that however coming) I think my argument broke down worst when I started making up words and didn't do a very good job defining the sub-class I was after. Police, soldiers, and other security types spend a lot of time training to quickly evaluate situations and decide the relative threat level, and the true professionals (who don't seem to get mentioned in the news much) are going to not interfere with the kooks, but check out the guy in the hide with what looks like it might be a high-powered rifle just in case. You know, the guy who's just taking pictures of birds, or using a boom mike to listen to other wildlife. So, for the most part I agree with you, but I still believe that a certain amount of institutional wariness is appropriate and necessary. It becomes at that point a question of degree, and hasn't that always been true?
posted by ZakDaddy at 6:53 PM on August 3, 2007


He's also a tattoo artist!
posted by bshort at 8:11 PM on August 3, 2007


DON'T FORGET THOSE CUNNING SHRINERS!
posted by davy at 8:24 PM on August 3, 2007


I wonder if anyone who needs reassurance about an event not being terrorism realizes that by their needing that assurance, the terrorists actually did win.
posted by maxwelton at 3:02 AM on August 5, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wonder if anyone who needs reassurance about an event not being terrorism realizes that by their needing that assurance, the terrorists actually did win.
Exactly. They've won in gigantic and horrendously damaging ways to this country, and it's not because of their acts but our responses and overreactions and the political/social advantages to making terrorism the new communism.

On the news today is a good example--we're hearing about 2 guys with weapons and stuff in their car, but we're only hearing about them because they're "middle eastern" and "arabs"!!!! (while white guys with massive arsenals don't even make the news or front pages, and they're caught often)
posted by amberglow at 2:16 PM on August 5, 2007


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