Edited Transcripts

Submersibles! With Hotspur O’Toole and Jasper Kiergarten

Submersibles! Aether Salon – Edited Transcript

Viv Trafalgar: Welcome to the Seventh Aether Salon! (SEVEN!)) We are so pleased to see so many friends here this weekend. Miss Serafina and I are pleased to welcome you to the April Aether Salon – Submersibles! Before we descend into the topic with our two incomparable speakers, we have a few pro forma items. Thank you to ZATZAI everyone at Artificial Isle for the fantastic venue and for keeping the salon’s carpets clean of diesel oil.

As many of you know, the Aether Salon meets to discuss steam and Victorian topics on the third Sunday of each month, in Palisades, New Babbage.

We sincerely appreciate the support we receive from everyone in the community, and we humbly thank you all. Many fine people have contributed to today’s salon; we are grateful to Miss Ceejay Writer, Miss Breezy Carver, Miss Redgrrl Llewellyn, Canolli Capalini of Capalini Fine Furnishings for the chairs, and Beq Janus, Dreddpirate Bob for their assistance with the craft (which I’ll put out with an insurance disclaimer at the end of the Salon). Finally, I want to personally thank my most amazing and talented co-host, Serafina Puchkina – she is a true friend and ally and keeps me mostly sane, most of the time.

Please hold your questions until the end, and as a courtesy to all, please turn off everything that feeds the lag monster: all HUDs, scripts, AOs and so on. Please no weapons, bombs, or biting, without at least a modicum of wit accompanying. Mark your calendars for upcoming salons: Engines! in May, Fey! in June. After a brief hiatus, we’ll return in September with Airships!, and Haberdashery! in October.

We’re keeping a log of things “overheard at the salon” on aethersalon.blogspot.com just in case you’re looking for a good laugh. Please join the Aether Salon group (signs are behind you) and receive notifications of future salon events, click the lower right hand corner of the large brown sign by the entrance. As a reminder, all tip jar donations go directly to the speakers.

And now, hang on to your air supply as I welcome my co-host Miss Serafina Puchkina who will introduce the speakers

Serafina Puchkina: Today I am honored to introduce our two eminently qualified speakers. Mr. Jasper Kiergarten is a world traveler, settling in New Babbage and Armada- Breakaway after living most recently in Japan. During his travels he acquired extensive knowledge of warfare and weaponry. As a builder, vehicle crafter and gunsmith, he owns Kiergarten Mfg & Textiles, Armory, and Cannonade. He has crafted, among many historical replicas, fine, high-detail firearms and (the subject of his talk today) a highly detailed replica of the CSS Hunley, the first successful, operational submarine . You can see pictures of his work at http://www.flickr.com/photos/28364869@N06/2723555355/in/photostream/ Mr. Kiergarten’s firearms are prized among weapon enthusiasts for their ease of handling and historical accuracy.

In real life, Mr. Kiergarten has long been interested in naval history and in the 19th century. He is a talented professional musician, artist, and MST3K enthusiast, none of which pertains to today’s topic, but illustrate his versatility and coolness. Our second speaker is Commodore Hotspur O’Toole. Commodore O’Toole is a scion of an old Irish family that has seen much service on land and on sea. Initially, Hotspur followed in the family trade, taking service in India and later China, where he served as a very young subaltern. Of a restless nature, he wandered far and wide until his footsteps brought him to Caledon, where he served in various military organizations before starting the Caledon Middlesea Fleet which disbanded in 2008 after fighting many battles.

Currently O’Toole is head of a “stateless” 19th century themed and equipped RPG naval fleet called “The Fleet of Wrath Exiles” which is primarily based at Port Merrimac, Roatan and Port Harbor, Steelhead. The Wrath Fleet is primarily ironclad based, with a few submersibles and some steampunk style airships and aether flyers. The Wrath Exiles fight regular Ironclad battles at the Port, Thursday nights, at 730 PM SLT: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Roatan/157/110/24

In real life, Hotspur is an avid amateur historian that hails from a multi-generational naval family in the United States. His particular interest is Ironclads, pre-dreadnoughts, and transitional 19th century naval technologies.

Websites: Hibernia on the Skids- http://hiberniaskids.blogspot.com Wrath Fleet Aether HQ- http://sites.google.com/site/wrathexiles/ Home Scéal an ghamhna bhuí (storytelling) – http://talltalesofhibernia.blogspot.com/ If you are interested in 19th century naval activities in world, please contact Hotspur Otoole (without the apostrophe) in world.

Please join me in welcoming our two speakers

Jasper Kiergarten: I’m suffering a very ill-timed lag wave, so do bear with me. Glad to see you all, and I’m glad to see so many people coming out to support the salon. Its an honor to have been asked to speak this afternoon, and I do hope you will enjoy my small presentation. And, a big thank you to ZATZAi Asturias for allowing us to hold this month’s salon here, in this perfect setting.

Today, I will be discussing the Civil War submarine, the CSS Hunley, and more specifically, the research and construction of my replicas. I have long found the Hunley a fascinating vessel (submarines in general being of keen interest to my typist), its history, its successes and its mysterious loss.

I thought it would be an excellent project to make in SL, and, as I was hoping to make a vehicle to use in ironclad battles, it seemed an even better project to take on.

This project also coincided with my introduction into making sculpties, so, as my experience with sculpties improved, so did the quality of both builds. As I started, research proved a bit of a challenge, as artist’s renderings, various diagrams all varied, in some cases, substantially.

I poured over pictures, sketches and plans trying to figure out exactly what it looked like. Between pictures of the wreck, the several replicas at various museums, technical sketches, and several modern artists’ renderings and chose features which particularly appealed to me, while still being historically accurate, or at the least, reasonably historically plausible. Initially, I had intended to make only the vehicle version. But, as the hull was completed, and fitting out with parts began, the more interesting the idea to make a cutaway version with complete interior became. And so, as the worked progressed, a more detailed version with a visible interior was developing in my mind.

I began by simply making the hull with standard prims. Really not much to it. With the help of several good websites and a number of books in my personal library, I got the overall dimensions approximated and went from there. I will be delving into a good bit of technical info on my builds. I hope I don’t put anyone to sleep 😀 Anyway, vehicles have a 32 prim limit. In other words, a standard LSL vehicle script will only work on a vehicle made up of no more than 32 prims. The pilot, the avatar controlling the vehicle, counts as a prim as well, so it’s really a 31 prim limit. This poses a particular problem for me as I am very seriously focused on details, so whenever I build something, my desire is to make it as detailed and close to the real thing as possible. This is not an easy task when you are impaired by such a meager prim allotment as that which are imposed upon SL vehicles.

So, with this in mind, on a complicated build, my usual method is to build it the way it was envisioned, and then begin trimming off lesser or unnecessary details.

I prioritize the various components. The hull, control surfaces and propulsion components being priority #1. The things you have to have, if nothing else.

Then, other major features, in the case of the Hunley, the two dorsal copulas fore and aft on the boat, the main spar and torpedo, and perhaps the keel ballast on the belly of the hull (which, I might add, are currently not accurately rendered. I do plan to remedy that soon. With the new version of ICS out, this feature will be included in the next update). After that, came the smaller details. Extra spar supports, the vanes a fore of the copulas, the spike on the end of the spar. Then, if I have any prims left, perhaps ropes and fittings. “Style points”, as Miss Trafalgar likes to put it. For the ICS version, sculpties allowed me to make the screw (originally made by Greg Merryman), screw housing supports, the entire spar with supports, a detailed breather box, the dual breather tubes, the spool for the charge detonation chord, the dive planes and the vanes a fore of the dive planes, all out of single prims, turning 22-23 prims into 8!

This then opened up the prim headroom to allow for minor details such as the det chord, made of three sculpties, and the support line strung from the upper spar to the main spar, as well as the eye loops to run the chords through. That got pretty much everything there was to get into a functional vehicle, bringing the total prim count to 31, with one prim to spare for the pilot.

Viv Trafalgar notes Mr. Kiergarten’s glee over details

CeAire Decosta: the “details” make it real!!

Jasper Kiergarten: Using an early version of Greg Merryman’s airship script, he and I made it work as a sub script, slowing it down and locking it no higher than sea level. Then came the appropriate ICS scripts and it was ready to go, and, it has been for sale in my armory, as well as Bela Lubezki’s factory (and now also at Kiergarten Cannonade, at Armada Breakaway) for a while. With that model complete and up for sale, I set to work on the cutaway version, which you can see behind me and just above This started with an unscripted version with which I could add the new details. It also required a reworked texture as an alpha with the hull cut away so the interior would be visible. Then I started to work fitting out the interior.

From here, I started with the simple stuff. The main components of the pilot’s station, the bulkheads, the water within the ballast tanks, the crew bench and the wheels and belts which operated the screw shaft.

Then came the details, most of which were sculpted, both to save on prims, and also to render shapes which couldn’t otherwise easily have been rendered. Included in this phase were full fore and aft ballast tank pumps, with full plumbing, fore and aft ballast tank flood valves, the hand crank and mounting brackets, and the air pump bellows. Still to come are a few smaller details,to the structure, and personal details, like a candle, maps and such, to give it the lived in feel, but, as you can see, it is mostly complete.

It currently stands at 171 prims, though there are several parts which could still be made as sculpties, which are now made from standard prims, and that would knock that back down a fair amount. But, it will still be a prim heavy beast.

Wiggy Undertone: I love the accuracy of the model! Are the scale dimensions correct as well?

Jasper Kiergarten: pretty close, yes

Aquaria Semyorka: and how long did it take to construct this?

Jasper Kiergarten: I’ve been working on it for about a year, but most of the work took about a month, maybe two. Nearly all of the textures are original and were made in Photoshop. There are also a few library and freebie textures as well, for minor details.

JB Hancroft: This is an amazing model. I expect that some of the Maritime Museums would be interested in knowing that it exists, in VR

Jasper Kiergarten: I’m not certain what the final plan is for the display model. Perhaps I’ll offer it for sale, though the high prim count makes it impractical for the average SL’er to display in their home or shop. Perhaps museums will be interested? We’ll see. Anyway, that’s about it. I hope you’ve all enjoyed my presentation, and that you’ve found it informative and interesting. Thank you.

Viv Trafalgar: Next up is Commodore O’Toole. Please give him your attention and both speakers will take questions at the end

Hotspur Otoole: Good evening ladies and gentlemen! Thank you for coming out tonight, and thank you to our hosts, and the Autocrat of this land, Mr. Asturias. Much like in real life, I’m a bit animated as a speaker, so if you will bear with me and shift your attention to the big slide show behind you, we’re going to talk about the history of Submersibles up until the end of the war, as in the American Civil War, or “the Great Unpleasantness.”

“Submersibles, or, as we call them in modern times, Submarines, are not a modern concept. Inventors and theorists through the ages have seen the value of a platform that could travel under the waves and return with crew intact. The history of submersibles is dramatic and contains few successes and many failures. We’ll be talking about failure here tonight, ladies and gentlemen, LOTS and LOTS of failure. Failure was part of the process of making a viable submersible platform that could be used as a weapon in wartime or for salvage purposes in peacetime. All too often, failure equaled death for all concerned. Many people in the audience probably grew up having heard of the almost suicidally brave crew of the CSS. Hunley, making a run on the USS Housatanic, dying in the attempt, and maybe you have been taught: “this was the first submersible!” by your school system, or something to that effect. It wasn’t. It WAS the first CONFIRMED submersible attack on an enemy warship that met with ANY measure of success recorded in history, and that is no small achievement! SOME of you may also have heard about the brave little “Turtle” that sank a British man-o-war during the American Revolution. The Turtle was neither a true submersible, nor did it meet with any measure of success– but we’ll give it a nod in our timeline. The truth is, The Hunley’s feat is a singular achievement, because so many factors were working against success. For that reason, I have tried to keep tonight’s talk focused on the American civil war, which is a true milestone.

Here’s the important thing to remember about Submersibles, or Submarines.. the threat they represented was far more important than anything they actually accomplished. At least, in this time period. 😀

Rich, powerful countries with large standing fleets didn’t invest in submersible development until they absolutely had to to keep up with everyone else. In times of war, the side with an economic or fleet disadvantage usually is the first to attempt to use submersibles, and often for strategic, rather than tactical advantage. Submarines were deployed to break blockades and to attack merchant shipping of an enemy. Even as late as World War II, the number of incidents when surface warships were sunk by submersibles was relatively few when compared to sinking merchant shipping. However, the amount of money, time, effort, and naval resources spent in response to submarine warfare can be staggering– I cite both World Wars as an example. So the effectiveness of the submersible on the enemy lies more in forcing an enemy response than in actually fighting with him. Submarines fighting with surface boats may be fun to simulate in Second Life, but historically this scenario is unlikely.

So, in the American Civil War, the Confederate side, facing a large blockading fleet, with less industrial capacity, was focused on weapons that could grant them a strategic advantage… ironclads, blockade runners, and very much, Submersibles. Some of the craft we’ll be discussing are not submersibles in the true sense. A Submersible is a craft which can, under its own power, submerge under the water, and hopefully surface again with crew intact. Example: The CSS Hunley, right behind you. A Semi-Submersible is a craft that maneuvers on the surface, with decks awash for a low profile and extra protection against small arms fire. Example: The CSS David, above you (creator, Mr. Huszar, in tonight’s audience). Many of the craft we have assumed are “Submarines” are in fact, semi-submersibles, such as Bushnell’s brave little Turtle.

A diving plane, also known as a hydroplane, is a control surface found on submarines which allow the vessel to pitch its bow and stern up or down to assist in the process of submerging or surfacing the boat, as well as controlling depth when submerged. Diving planes are usually fitted in pairs, the bow planes at the front (or sometimes on the fin) of the submarine and the stern planes at the rear… in a short sentence, the part that steers it up and down.

A ballast tank floods with water to equalize buoyancy and provide enough weight for a submarine to descend The was pumped out later to provide float and lift again, raising the sub to the surface. 19th century engineers (and earlier) understood the nature of buoyancy very well, and water ballast tanks were part of every design that was attempted. Ballast tanks, therefore, make the sub “sink”.

For a sub to maneuver under water, it tries to achieve buoyancy… so that it can arrive at an operating depth, not crash to the bottom and maneuver to the objective. 😀

Propulsion systems were designed to turn propellors, which propelled the ship under water. In these early years of Submersibles, propulsion was almost exclusively human powered, usually by turning a hand crank that worked the propellor. This would also use up oxygen at a high rate of speed. I will note, that early submarines used OARS, rowing UNDER WATER.. which is an interesting visual.

Krystine Qinan wonders how they sealed the openings for the oars

Hotspur Otoole: lastly, a few challenges.. Oxygen.. or the lack thereof. Propulsion systems were designed to turn propellors, which propelled the ship under water. In these early years of Submersibles, propulsion was almost exclusively human powered, usually by turning a hand crank that worked the propellor. This would also use up oxygen at a high rate of speed. Hypercapnia, also known as hypercarbia, is a condition where there is too much carbon dioxide (CO2) in the blood. Carbon dioxide is a gaseous product of the body’s metabolism and is normally expelled through the lungs. This condition is also known as carbon dioxide posioning. Hypercapnia was a very signficant to all early submarine development. Contrary to some popular perceptions, the designers of submersibles were very aware of the dangers of carbon dioxide buildup.

JB Hancroft: And did they have bilge pumps?

Hotspur Otoole: Considering the fate of the Hunley, likely not. Okay, with a few terms and challenges defined, let’s proceed with a short (very short) discussion of events leading up to the American Civil War, since my slide show wishes to advance, mysteriously.

The March of Failurrrre!

In 1623, Dutchman CORNELIUS DREBBEL, hired in 1603 as “court inventor” for James I of England, built what seems to have been the first working submarine. According to accounts, some of which may have been written by people who actually saw the submarine, it was a decked-over rowboat, propelled by twelve oarsmen, which made a submerged journey down the Thames River at a depth of about fifteen feet. There are no credible illustrations of Drebbel’s boat, and no credible explanations of how it worked. Best guess: the boat was designed to have almost-neutral buoyancy, floating just awash, with a downward-sloping foredeck to act as a sort of diving plane. The boat would be driven under the surface by forward momentum . . . just as are most modern submarines. When the rowers stopped rowing, the boat would slowly rise. Reports that Drebbel’s patron, James I, witnessed a demonstration may be true. Reports that James I took an underwater ride are most unlikely. Documentation of these early works is sketchy at best… and much of this may be anecdotal. In 1653 the 72-foot-long “Rotterdam Boat,” designed by a Frenchman (named DE SON) was probably the first underwater vessel specifically built (by the Belgians) to attack an enemy (the English Navy). This almost submarine – really a semi-submersible ram – was supposed to sneak up unobserved and punch a hole in an enemy ship. The designer boasted that it could cross the English Channel and back in a day, and sink a hundred ships along the way.

Voila! The Rotterdam boat! There are some eyewitness accounts as to the success of this craft, so I think it probably did get built and wasn’t some pipe dream, as many of these early craft seem to be.

Lurching forward into the 18th Century on our whirlwind tour. In 1773 wagon-maker J. DAY, another Englishman, built a small submarine with detachable ballast stones, hung around the outside with ring bolts, which could be released from inside. This worked quite well in shallow water. Encouraged by a professional gambler, he built a bigger boat: they would take bets on how long he could remain underwater, further out in the deep-water harbor. Surrounded by ships filled with bettors, they hung some stones; the boat wallowed awash, but would not go under. They hung some more stones. The boat sank – like a rock – and would have collapsed long before the ballast could be released. And of course… many of us who took US history recognize this craft here.

Ghilayne Andrew: Mr. Day perished, presumably?

Hotspur Otoole: The history books did not say.

Remington Pinion: just a paddle boat with a big corkscrew

Hotspur Otoole: This is Bushnell’s Turtle, which has quite wrongly been called “the first submarine.” I well recall a nun pointing this out to me in grade school. As I said in the introduction, this isn’t a submersible. It can’t go underwater, but it did achieve a level of buoyancy, and was semi-submersible for its attack.

In 1776 Yale graduate DAVID BUSHNELL (‘75) built the first submarine to actually make an attack on an enemy warship. Dubbed the “Turtle” because it resembled a sea-turtle floating vertically in the water, it was operated by Sergeant Ezra Lee. The scheme: be towed into the vicinity of the target; open a foot-operated valve to let in enough water to sink, close the valve; move in under the enemy by cranking the two propellers – one for forward and one for vertical movement – turned by foot treadle “like a spinning wheel;” drill into the hull to attach a 150-pound keg of gunpowder with a clockwork detonator; crank to get away; operate a foot-pump to get the water out of the hull and thus re-surface. In early-morning darkness on September 7, 1776, “Turtle” made an attack on a British ship in New York harbor, probably HMS Eagle. The drill may have hit an iron strap – it would not penetrate the hull. (Contrary to most reports, the Eagle of 1776 had not been fitted with a copper-sheathed bottom.) Lee

Even Google calls this a submarine, but that’s my beef, and largely a technicality. Now, leading up to the Civil war there were about a half dozen attempts here and there to create an effective submersible as a weapon of war. What do you think, successes or failures?

Pepys Ponnier: Fail! YAY!

Nabila Nadir: 😦

Petunia Schism: FAIL

Rhianon Jameson: Or as the Twitter folks would say, #fail

Tensai Hilra: Failboats:)

Ghilayne Andrew: Opportunities to learn from one’s mistakes.

Nocti Heliosense: Opportunities in abundance.

Hotspur Otoole: WRONG!

Jedburgh30 Dagger: making room for promotion

Hotspur Otoole: in 1797, ROBERT FULTON, a marginal American artist but increasingly successful inventor living in Paris, offered to build a submarine to be used against France’s British enemy: “a Mechanical Nautlius. A Machine which flatters me with much hope of being Able to Annihilate their Navy.” He would build and operate the machine at his own expense, and would expect payment for each British ship destroyed. He predicted that, “Should some vessels of war be destroyed by means so novel, so hidden and so incalculable the confidence of the seamen will vanish and the fleet rendered useless from the moment of the first terror.” In 1800, after protracted delays and several changes in government, Fulton was encouraged enough to build the submarine he called “Nautilus.” He made a number of successful dives, to depths of 25 feet and for times as long as six hours (ventilation provided by a tube to the surface). “Nautilus” was essentially an elongated “Turtle” with a larger propellor and mast and sail for use on the surface.

“Nautilus” was essentially an elongated “Turtle” with a larger propellor and mast and sail for use on the surface. In trials, “Nautilus” achieved a maximum sustained underwater speed of four knots. Fulton (given the rank of rear admiral) made several attempts to attack English ships – which saw him coming and moved out of the way. Relationships with the French government deteriorated; a new Minister of Marine is reported to have said, “Go, sir. Your invention is fine for the Algerians or corsairs, but be advised that France has not yet abandoned the Ocean.” Fulton broke up “Nautilus” and sold the metal for scrap. He proposed – but, most reports to the contrary, never built – an improved version. The name “Nautilus” was immortalized by Jules Verne in his 1870 novel, “20,000 Leagues under the Sea” and was given to several U. S. Navy boats – including the world’s first nuclear-powered submarine, the 1954 USS Nautilus.

Voila! The first nautilus! And, get this: it worked! But really, it’s another failure.. a failure of vision on the part of Governments to utilize a beautiful and elegant design. They dropped the sail vain to go into combat; as you can see in the cutaway, this was hand cranked on the attack. Fulton’s ship was a big advance in many areas, particularly propulsion, steering and dive planes. The next success on our tour is one Monsieur Villeroi. Brutus de Villeroi… Stern looking chap, for a Frenchman. De Villeroi is one of those great unsung geniuses of submarine design.

In the 1830s… DECADES before the civil war, Mr. de Villeroi created a true submersible that hits on every element of our definition— In 1833, Brutus de Villeroi completed a small submarine, possibly named “Nautilus” in reference to the 1800 submarine created by Robert Fulton. The submarine was 10′ 6″ long by 27″ high by 25″ wide and displaced about six tons when submerged. She was equipped with eight dead-lights on top to provide interior light, and a top hatch with a retractable conning tower for surface navigation. For propulsion, she had three sets of duck-foot paddles and a large rudder. She was also equipped with a hatches with leather seals in order to make some manipulations outside of hull, a small ballast system with a lever and piston, and a 50 lb anchor. The ship had a complement of three men. This submarine was demonstrated at Fromentine, Noirmoutier, near Nantes, France, in 1833, and later to representatives of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1837. De Villeroi tried several times to sell his submarine designs to the French Navy (1832, 1855 and 1863), but he was apparently turned down every time.

Personally, I like the duck foot propulsion. that must have been a sight to see. I tried to find a decent drawing of this craft, this is all I could find.

CeAire Decosta: /they would have to be small men. Packed like sardines!

Hotspur Otoole: They WERE small men back in the day, if surviving uniforms are any indication.

Ghilayne Andrew: Looking at it from the top down, it looks like a waterbug.

Pepys Ponnier: It looks like a flea.

Hotspur Otoole: It was called “waterbug” Miss Andrew! So, this brings us to what I hoped to be the focus of the lecture… 😀 I consider the Civil War to be the great milestone that changed the development of submersibles forever. MANY technologies were tried, including air purification systems, new improved torque propellors, much more advanced “torpedos” We’ll start with .. what else.. another failure! The MYSTERY SUBMERSIBLE of NEW ORLEANS!

Rhianon Jameson: Looks like a coffin.

Hotspur Otoole: The history of this machine (sometimes called the Bayou St. John Confederate Sub) seems is simply this, in the early part of Admiral Farragut’s operations here (New Orleans fell on May 1, 1862) the gunboat New London was a perfect terror to the Rebels in the lake (Lake Pontchartrain), so it occurred to them if they could get a machine that would move underwater they could succeed in securing a torpedo to the bottom of the ship, move off, touch the wires, and thus terminate their existence. They finally got the thing done, made a good job of it, got it overboard, and put two men in it; they were smothered to death.” The Louisiana State Museum submarine once was thought to have an identity. It was believed to be the Pioneer, a vessel built in New Orleans by a group led by Horace Hunley, a wealthy lawyer and customs agent. Recent findings in the National Archives, however, have proven otherwise.

Hotspur Otoole: (sorry, some of the above got jumbled. it was from a Union naval man’s diary). In any event, nobody really knows for sure who built this, but recent studies indicate it might have been the crew of naval engineers that build the CSS Mannassas.

Ghilayne Andrew: Surprising they didn’t scratch their names inside it somewhere, as soldiers often do leave their names on things.

Hotspur Otoole: yes, a recent (’06) paper I found indicates similarities between the ironwork on this thing and the Mannassas. We’ll likely never know who built this, or how it would have fared against the Union Blockade. Another valiant failure in the history of submersibles!

Onward! To one of my naval engineering heroes, Horace Hunley. You all know of the history of the CSS Hunley from Mr. Kiergarten. But that was simply the last boat he made.

James R. McClintock, with Horace Lawson Hunley and Baxter Watson, built the submarine Pioneer at New Orleans in 1861 to defend the city against Federal forces. The three men later constructed two submarines at Mobile, Alabama, the second of which was named H.L. Hunley. the First of these was the Pioneer (pictures) The Pioneer, built in New Orleans in 1862, was a Confederate privateer submarine with a three man crew. It was built in 1861-62 by John K. Scott, Robert F. Barrow, Baxter Watson & James R. McClintock. It was commissioned by the Confederate government to cruise the high seas and rivers and destroy any vessels opposed to the Southern War for Independence. Its physical description is here quoted from its official Confederate Letter of Marque: “Said vessel was built in New Orleans in the year 1862; is a propeller; is 34 feet in length; is 4 feet breadth; is 4 feet deep. She measures about 4 tons; has round, conical ends and is painted black.”

This is the CSS Pioneer. She was built to take on the Union fleet at New Orleans. Across the river at Leeds foundry, steam gauge manufacturers James McClintock and Baxter Watson constructed a submarine to use against Union gunboats patrolling Lake Pontchartrain. They would eventually partner with Horace L. Hunley, a wealthy lawyer and customs agent, to build a submarine with a menacing, streamlined appearance. After the war, McClintock described the vessel he and his partners christened the Pioneer. “She was made of iron 1 inch thick. The boat was of a cigar shape 30 feet long and 4 feet in diameter. This boat demonstrated to us that we could construct a boat that would move at will in any direction desired, and at any distance from the surface. As we were unable to see objects passing under the water, the boat was steered by compass.” (As we’ll get into, Hunley wasn’t around to write memoirs) I like this particular hull shape– it’s quite futuristic looking. Note the common sense rudder and dive planes.

Nocti Heliosense: More like a modern submarine.

Hotspur Otoole: At this stage, though, propellors were somewhat rudimentary, still rather flat. In March of 1862, the Pioneer’s owners were granted a letter of marque by the Confederate government. A month later, New Orleans fell to the West Gulf Blockading Squadron commanded by David Glasgow Farragut. In the ensuing turmoil, the Pioneer was scuttled in the New Basin Canal.

Another valiant Failure!

I warned the audience up front, we’re going to be talking about a lot of failure tonight. Now on to the main event. This is the CSS Hunley, named for the lead inventor. Okay, as you can see, the Hunley developed on the Pioneer’s design. See the Dive planes on the side? The protected propellor and rudder? From above, she looks like a swimming penguin to me. 😀 The Hunley’s main weapon was the SPAR TORPEDO (really a tripwire mine).

Nabila Nadir: plant it then back away and yank the cord?

Hotspur Otoole: exactly, Nab.

CeAire Decosta: Just make sure the cord was long enough!

Hotspur Otoole: But did you know the original intention was to float the mine above the submersible like a fishing bob?

Pepys Ponnier: how did they stick it to the hull?

Wolf Copperfield: but how far away is far enough?

Hotspur Otoole: Well, the original intention didn’t work so well, so they put it on a big stick, and rammed it into the hull.

Hawc Decosta: I think blast effects would have got them.

Hotspur Otoole: In fact, it did, Hawc

Aeolus Cleanslate: “stick” being a technical term

Nabila Nadir: barbed point on the torpedo?

Jasper Kiergarten: points to my model

Hotspur Otoole: exactly.

Wolf Copperfield: well, wouldn’t have been to hard, with wooden hulls

Hotspur Otoole: Now, I’m going to publish some notes from this talk with some great Hunley sites that posit some theories about exactly WHAT happened that night. I’ll keep it brief.. what is known… the Hunley chugged out to encounter the USS Housatanic and did, in fact, hit it with a spar torpedo. The Housatanic sank, going into history as the very first vessel to be sank by a submarine.

Did the Hunley go down with her? Possibly. But there are accounts of the ship having given its “Success” signal.. a blue flare. My theory is: the Hunley was certainly damaged in the attack, and gradually took on water, sinking the vessel. Cold water, and the rapid decrease in oxygen, probably did in the crew. We’ll never know, sadly. Not for sure. But they were brave men to try it!

Nabila Nadir: I guess they found her a lot farther off-shore then they’d expected

CeAire Decosta wonders about the men who are willing to do such things – today’s astronauts and test pilots.

Viv Trafalgar: and submariners as well

Hotspur Otoole: In a footnote, the Hunley was recovered, as well as the crew, who were recently given a burial with full honors. I was there when the Monitor’s turret was brought back. I confess, I had tears in my eyes.

Hawc Decosta: Has any recent information come from the recovery of the wreckage that disproved old theories?

Wolf Copperfield: what i find interesting about the Hunley, is that they would have had to do this mission in almost pitch black… they couldn’t have placed more than one candle in there to light the thing

Hotspur Otoole: Actually yes.. I have links to them I’ll put up. Moving on… I just wanted to show a good drawing of the CSS DAVID, a semi-submersible… with another spar torpedo based on the Hunley design. There’s a model above. Now, I would hate not to strike a blow for the Union here tonight, so let me show you a couple of attempts by the other side.

CeAire Decosta: wonders if the “torpedo shape” was a result of the study of dolphins and whales, or that has been mentioned and she missed it.

Hotspur Otoole: the Union navy was also interested in Submersibles, but they didn’t have the driving strategic problems the CSS did. nor a real sense of mission for what a submersible could possibly DO against the Confederates. Yonder is the “Intelligent Whale” another fine valiant failure, this time on the Union Side.

Intelligent Whale, an experimental iron-hulled submarine, was built at Newark, New Jersey, to the design of Scovel S. Merriam, who entered into an agreement on 2 November 1863 with Augustus Price and Cornelius S. Bushnell. In April 1864, the American Submarine Company was formed, taking over the interests of Bushnell and Price. Years of litigation, however, followed, while those who built the boat apparently encountered “great difficulty…in getting a crew to man her for her first test in Newark Bay.”


Intelligent Whale could be submerged by filling compartments with water, and then expelling the water by pumps and compressed air. It was estimated that the supply of compressed air inside could allow the boat to stay submerged for about 10 hours. Thirteen crewmen could be accommodated, but only six were needed to make her operational, motive power being furnished by a part of the crew cranking, attaining a speed of about four knots. Thirteen intrepid crewmen.

Jasper Kiergarten: what could go wrong?

Hotspur Otoole: William Sweeny, a colorful decorated veteran of the Mexican War and Civil War (and who would participate in the Fenian Invasion of Canada later in the year), and two other men, tested the boat in April 1866. They submerged her in 16 feet of water, and Sweeney, clad in a diver’s suit, emerged through a hole in the bottom, placed a charge under a scow, and reentered the submarine. When Intelligent Whale was a safe distance away, Sweeny exploded the charge by a lanyard and a friction primer, blowing the scow to pieces. Ultimately, at the end of the period of litigation, however, a sheriff’s sale disposed of the boat. With the establishment of the title in court, the boat ultimately belonging to an “Abe” Halstead, the submarine was sold on 29 October 1869 to the Navy Department, for the following terms: $12,500 to be paid upon making and signing the agreement, $12,500 upon completion of the successful experiment, and $25,000 for all “secrets and inventions” connected with the craft.

A trial of Intelligent Whale occurred at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y., three years later. “After sinking the boat, it was found the opening on top was leaking through defective packing,” reported the Army and Navy Journal of 21 September 1872, “and after remaining under water a short time, the leak was so bad it was found expedient to raise her, but in doing so she caught under the derrick, and signals were sent to those on board [the derrick] to hoist the boat out, which they did. In the meantime, those on terra firma were excited by the fear that some serious mishap would occur to the persons in the torpedo-boat [one of whom was, apparently, Halstead himself], but after having been under the water sometime in the same spot, nor having traveled or accomplished anything, the boat was got out, and found nearly half full of water, her navigators unhurt, but we imagine, considerably frightened…”

I wanted to wrap up tonight’s talk with what I consider the great WHAT IF of the Union Navy…. The USS ALLIGATOR. Remember Brutus De Villeroi?

The Civil War’s first submarine (and the first such vessel accepted into the U.S. Navy), was designed by an immigrant Frenchman eager to help his new country. Brutus de Villeroi had a history of submarine experiments dating back to 1832 in France , where he first demonstrated a functional boat designed for salvage work. While the main role envisioned for Union submarines would be to clear obstructions, the Navy contracted for de Villeroi’s boat for an entirely different reason. Rumors of a powerful Confederate ironclad building upon the remains of the burned out Merrimack had northern sailors rushing to find a means to meet this new threat. Three types of iron-plated vessels were rushed into production (Galena, New Ironsides, and Monitor); a squadron of civilian-owned transports was hired to ram the enemy ship; and, at the shipyard of Neafie & Levy in Philadelphia, constructors worked feverishly to complete the “submarine propeller” designed by de Villeroi. One of the features that made this vessel so unique was the fact that it employed an air-scrubbing system to remove carbon dioxide from the interior environment of the boat. No other Civil War submarine had such a system. Unfortunately, the expense of the components of this system, the unfamiliarity of Navy officials with its workings, and, quite probably, the fact that neither the shipyard nor the Navy had ever dealt with a self-described “natural genius” before meant construction was delayed long after the threat of the CSS Virginia had been met. Completed in the spring of 1862, the Navy’s new submarine was sent up Hampton Roads in Virginia for its first combat mission: to destroy a railroad bridge over Appomattox Creek and thereby cut a major supply line to Richmond. How a submarine was supposed to destroy a bridge, they didn’t say. Now, the problem with the Alligator was that the Union WANTED a submersible.. but didn’t know what to DO with it… so many hare brained schemes were developed…

Krystine Qinan: air scrubbing system?

Hotspur Otoole: Yes, indeed, Krys..

Hotspur Otoole: Berylyium absorbs Carbon Dioxide..

Nabila Nadir: scrubs the waste gasses…..exactly

Wolf Copperfield: interesting… we use those in modern day vessels, and they had the idea in the civil war?

Hotspur Otoole: Villeroi was planning on using a Berilyium “air scrubber” on the “Gator.

Pepys Ponnier: How did the scubber work?

Beq Janus: modern rebreather technology is not that far removed, chemistry doesn’t change much I guess:-)

Hotspur Otoole: Let me point out these men knew about this stuff.. they knew that oxygen depleted in a closed space. Anyway, Sadly, the Gator sank while under tow to the Carolinas… Never to have seen action, never to have lived up to her promise. I’m sorry I’ve gone so long… it’s a fun topic for me as well. 😀

Jedburgh30 Dagger: have they made any progress looking for her H?

Hotspur Otoole: Oddly enough, in the midst of the war, work was commencing on another submarine design, LE PLONGEUR in France, which would encompass many revolutionary technologies as well as incorporating lessons learned from those who have gone before– compressed air propulsion powering a reciprocating engine, for one thing, an advanced propellor shape that provide efficient torque for speedy movement, and more modern dive planes. Our submarining forefathers had to be a little mad to do what they did, but each failure in this story contributing a little bit to the submarines we know today. And that concludes my discussions.

Huns Valen: this has been a fascinating and well thought out presentation

Ceejay Writer wonders if all our heads grew bigger to contain all this amazing new knowledge.

Ghilayne Andrew: It has been a delightful discussion, sir. I was wondering if the Ictino might have had any influence?

Viv Trafalgar: I have a few announcements first. Thank you once again for joining us for the monthly Aether Salon! We normally meet in Palisades, New Babbage, on the third Sunday of each month at 2pm and we hope to see you there next month for Engines! Please join the group (signs at the back near the stairs) for more information and for group notices. I’ve put the craft boxes out and ask you to Please! Be! Careful! with the contents. they are very … experimental. Thanks to Beq Janus and Dreddpirate Bob for assisting me with them.

As always, we donate the entire contents of the speakers fund to the speakers. Should you wish to support the salon itself, the posters in the back are multitask. Today we are proud to split the contents of the jar — with our thanks to you, wonderful audience and community members – Please direct your questions to either awesome speaker, but make sure they know who’s asking what

Jedburgh30 Dagger: Hey Hotspur, have they made any progress in searching for the Alligator?

Hotspur Otoole: Yes, in fact, I will post a link to the MYSTERY OF THE ALLIGATOR website when I get my notes together.

Ghilayne Andrew nods at Viv. “Directed to the Commodore… did the Ictino have any influence on development, or was it too obscure being Spaniard?”

Beq Janus: it solved the oxygen problem Ghilayne

Beq Janus: the first anaerobic engine

Ghilayne Andrew nods to Beq. “And double-hulled. But was there much communication between designers, I suppose is my question.”

Hotspur Otoole: Second, the ICTINO, sorry for my American bias on this, but most of my books where geared towards the American Civil War, so I don’t have the answer to that.

Hotspur Otoole: many of the subjects we’ve been discussing tonight can be found here http://sites.google.com/site/thehotspurfiles/lecture-notes-submersibles

Serafina Puchkina: Miss Decosta had a question awhile back for Mr. Kiergarten: [14:34] CeAire Decosta: For scale purposes are there any plans to include a representation of a sailor at their work?

Jedburgh30 Dagger: Hey Jasper, are you going to build any other subs in the near future?

Jasper Kiergarten: I might, Jed. I am open to ideas, if you have any

Hotspur Otoole: I want to see Fulton’s Nautilus get made in Second Life. :-F

Tensai Hilra: Hotspur, have you seen the recent articles on the semi-submersibles being used out of Columbia?

Hotspur Otoole: Do you mean the David or the Squib, tensai?

Tensai Hilra: actually quite a bit of modern stuff with drug runners using semi-subs to get stuff into the country

Hotspur Otoole: Oh, interesting! What is old is new again! Nope, I hadn’t seen that…

Tensai Hilra: it’s become quite a problem, and they are working out converting entire yahts into semi-subs

Jasper Kiergarten: H, didn’t they find a strange hole in the Hunley?

Tensai Hilra: even exhaust cooling systems so it doesn’t come up on IR

CeAire Decosta: That’s a waste of yachts!

Tensai Hilra: takes like 2 million to convert one, but the payoff is 20+ million in a haul

Jasper Kiergarten: all hijacked to begin with, I’m sure

CeAire Decosta: Who figured out what they needed to scrub the air and make it breathable again?

Nabila Nadir: oh, many yachts disappear every year in the Caribbean and environs

Hotspur Otoole: Yes, Hawc, I read about that on the U.S. Navy history site.. they aren’t sure what could have made that.. not for certain.

Viv Trafalgar: that was a brilliant discovery

Hotspur Otoole: CeAire the chemical Beryilium absorbs CO2.

CeAire Decosta: Right – but who figured that out?!!

Hotspur Otoole: De Villeroi came up with a primitive “Air Scrubber” design based on this.

CeAire Decosta: It didn’t leap up and say “i can do it!!”

Hotspur Otoole: Hard to say, really.

Tensai Hilra: I know your probably buried in IM’s hotspur, but I sent you some links to the submersibles reports

Hotspur Otoole: I mean, what intrepid explorer looked at a toad and said.. “Wow, I bet I could get really high if I licked that” Got ’em Tensai, thanks. I would love to put it together in a more coherent less rushed fashion, perhaps all on one website. 😀

Hawc Decosta: Here a submersible being developed in Florida now! http://www.lakecityreporter.com/articles/2008/02/26/news/doc47c39aec4fcd8822827644.txt

Hotspur Otoole: Sorry bout that… 😀 I like to quote from sources.. 😀

Ceejay Writer: Hotspur, having this all preserved for reference will be VERY good.

Serafina Puchkina is busy working on the transcript as you all talk. I am on my 3rd crayon

Dreddpiratebob Streeter: Ya have to make the Hunley so you can have multiple folk cranking the thing, Jasper

Jasper Kiergarten: I have thought to add AOs for each position so that folks could jump in and take up the crew positions. That sort of relates to the question that was posed to me earlier about having a crewmember inside

Ghilayne Andrew: That would make it a true museum piece, Jasper.

ZATZAi Asturias: If you go out to the dock, there is a sub hanging from a crane, sit in it and it will give you the free sub we use for racing

TotalLunar Eclipse: Thank you for the excellent presentation, fair winds folks.

Serafina Puchkina: Thank you for coming

Viv Trafalgar: don’t forget your crafts folks and be CAREFUL

Kat Montpark: What could possibly go wrong?!

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