July 2, 2002
11:22 AM   Subscribe

In 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne predicted that submarines would go to the South Pole and be nuclear powered. Leonardo da Vinci, the Florentine Renaissance inventor and artist, developed plans for an underwater warship but kept them secret. He was afraid that it would make war even more frightful than it already was. Get the facts about submarines. Check out the submarine timeline. What's the future for submarines? I want one.
posted by ashbury (18 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Great post, and for some reason it makes me want to watch the episodes of Sealab 2021 I have saved up on TiVo.
posted by ebarker at 11:24 AM on July 2, 2002

I agree, as it reminds me of my past, I wanted to work & live on a nuclear one. Thanks for showing me, my future hoopty.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:47 AM on July 2, 2002

When "Das Boot" came out in Germany, a woman on some game show won a submarine trip as a prize. The had the author Lothar-Günther Buchheim there (the Herbert Grönemeyer character in the film), and he declared her nuts: the last thing that man wanted to do was ever go on a submarine again.
posted by muckster at 11:54 AM on July 2, 2002

There's only one submarine I'd ever go on.
posted by muckster at 11:59 AM on July 2, 2002

I always wanted to be a modern day submarine pirate, similar to the guys from the Illuminatas Trilogy, or even an international drug smuggler. Hammacher-Schlemmer has one too. And don't forget the one that was used in the Civil War.
posted by destro at 12:11 PM on July 2, 2002

Remember this, I bet we all thought this was cool, I did would do it twice. Then I found out, you never went under, just a champagne trick.
I never saw them yellow, more like gray.
Damn now I never get to go on the yellow one.
O' must have been the "ride", now I do remember them changing but at that age the real deal was the chick scene, with this mess as it was a circus watching them enforce it.
posted by thomcatspike at 12:35 PM on July 2, 2002

Pedantry off th port bow, Captain! Actually, Nemo's submarine in 20,000 Leagues was electrically powered by Bunsen batteries which used a sodium and mercury amalgm instead of zinc. The sodium was replenished by extraction from seawater using coal. So, though the energy storage process was rather convoluted, the Nautilus was in fact coal powered, not nuclear.
posted by rusty at 2:15 PM on July 2, 2002

Those "hydrobatic submersible craft" are cool. I wonder about the implications for coastal defenses, interdiction of smugglers, protection of cruise ships and oil rigs, not to mention aircraft carrier groups. I'm not so thrilled that he's bragging about their "stealthy" qualities.

Of course, early submarines were the ultimate terrorist weapon of their day.
posted by coelecanth at 2:38 PM on July 2, 2002

coelecanth, here you go
posted by thomcatspike at 3:11 PM on July 2, 2002

I'd rather have the Phoenix Luxury Submarine. This one appears to be right out of Jules Verne's imagination... of course it's also $78 Million.
posted by KnitWit at 3:39 PM on July 2, 2002

Here's an article on a submarine hull seized in Bogota Colombia -- which is actually high up in the mountains.

More submarines than you can shake a stick at.

The USS Squalus is the only submarine to sink and have its crew rescued successfully, thanks to the engineering genius -- and decade-long painstaking research program -- of Swede Momsen.

Blind Man's Bluff is essential reading for the sub fan -- all about the Cold War shadowboxing between the superpowers, the critical strategic changes wrought by the introduction of subs as nuclear launch platforms, and some very gutsy spying on each other, including US operations to place men in diving suits on the floor of the Sea of Okhotsk to tap Soviet military phone lines. Also discussion of accidents such as the Scorpion, which sank apparently due to the sudden misfiring of a torpedo during a test, which became armed and circled around to strike its nearest target -- the Scorpion itself.

More Peacetime Sub Accidents.

And the most extraordinary submarine story ever is the Glomar Explorer, built by the CIA through a civilian front to attempt recovery of a Soviet sub sunk off Hawaii six years earlier. Disguised as a sea-floor mining ship, the cover story almost worked until some reporters sniffing around got wind of the so-called "Project Jennifer". The sub, found by other vessels, was grabbed by the ship's claws, but during the painstaking raising through thousands of feet of sea, the structure of the sub failed and most of it returned to the deep. In the end only a portion was recovered, including the bodies of several Russian sailors -- who were then reburied at sea under their national flag and anthem. A video of the ceremony was finally delivered to the Russians under the first Bush administration.
posted by dhartung at 6:05 PM on July 2, 2002

National Geographic has a really cool spread on the Hunley and its recovery and restoration in the current issue. An excerpt, pictures and a 3d viewer can be found here.
posted by groundhog at 6:48 PM on July 2, 2002

What are you talking about Jules Vern never said anything about nuclear power. Indeed, I don't even think the general concept had even been thought up.
posted by delmoi at 9:34 PM on July 2, 2002

The article in National Geographic is great. I was one of the throng out in the harbor on a boat the morning the Hunley came up. The moment it broke the water, every church bell in the city (it seems) went off, which was really amazing. The other amazing part was that as the barge with the sub on board was heading up the river to the lab, automotive traffic (9 am, typical workday) on both suspension bridges over it stopped. All lanes. Both directions. People getting out of their cars and rushing over to the railings to see it pass under.

And the local controversy has already begun to swirl, with three cities in the metro area bickering on where the final resting place of the Hunley will be. Go figure, that.
posted by ebarker at 12:25 AM on July 3, 2002

> What's the future for submarines?

They'll be driven to work in places current near the coast.
posted by pracowity at 2:02 AM on July 3, 2002

delmoi, I personally don't remember any mention of nuclear powered subs, but I read the book over twenty years ago. I got the information from this page. I'm hoping that TLC knows what they are talking about but mistakes do happen.
posted by ashbury at 9:31 AM on July 3, 2002

Generally nuclear power wasn't conceived of until Otto Hahn's 1939 discovery of fission. (Short history of nuclear power.) Still, Wells wrote in 1914 of a "new source of energy" developed from radioactivity. {Note: this is science fiction!} I think it's safe to say that Verne anticipated the generation of electricity from sea water, but not the means, i.e. radioactive fission, in any way. See the relevant chapter. Really, Verne's predictions were quite extraordinary as they were; no need to inflate them.
posted by dhartung at 3:05 PM on July 3, 2002

What's the future for submarines?

supercavitation! although "there are significant technical problems to overcome. Foremost is the impossibility of steering a supercavitating object" :)
posted by kliuless at 4:46 PM on July 3, 2002

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