June 7, 2005

The Original Nautilus Submarine

Wonderful archaeological find as reported in the UK Times Online:
American Civil War submarine found
A unique boat from 1864 may have inspired Jules Verne to create Captain Nemo's vessel Nautilus

A BRITISH explorer has found an early submarine that he believes was the inspiration for Nautilus, Captain Nemoís vessel in Jules Verneís novel Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea.

Colonel John Blashford-Snell discovered the half-submerged, cast-iron wreck off the coast of Panama while searching for ancient ruins.

She was built in 1864 by a visionary craftsman, Julius Kroehl, for the Union forces during the American Civil War. But the boat, called Explorer, was never used in the conflict and was subsequently taken to Panama where she was used to harvest pearls.

She was ideal for this purpose because of a unique lock-out system, identical to the one in the Nautilus from Verneís book, published in 1870.

The lock-out system is a reversible air-lock that enables submariners to leave the vessel, harvest pearls from the sea-bed, then return to the submarine. Like Explorer, Nautilus was also used to gather items from the seabed.

Colonel Blashford-Snell, who runs the Dorset-based Scientific Exploration Society, said: "I had been told about the sub 20 years ago and it was described as a Japanese mini-sub. I was then told that in fact it was just a boiler, so I didnít worry about it. Then recently I was on an exploration in the area looking for ancient ruins and forts. I was contacted by a maritime museum in Canada who knew we were in the area and asked if we could examine the vessel."

When Colonel Blashford-Snell and his team dived to examine the wreck they discovered that it was much older than previously thought.

He explained: "It was quite an experience because we had an expert with us who said it was much earlier than we had thought and in fact dated from the American Civil War. It had a conning tower and I felt as if Captain Nemo should be in it at the controls."
Very cool! I hope they preserve it. Posted by DaveH at June 7, 2005 11:25 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?