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Submarines: History - Introduction

The idea of traveling underneath the ocean waters inside a contained vessel has been around for centuries. Legend says Alexander the Great ventured below the waters of the Aegean Sea inside a glass barrel around 333 B.C. He is reported to have seen whales and deep-sea life on his underwater journey. The next record of a submarine came more than 1900 years later. In 1578 A.D., British naval officer William Bourne described a wooden frame vessel enclosed in waterproof leather, which could be rowed underwater. Bourne's creation was never realized.

In 1620, Cornelius Van Drebbel, a Dutch doctor, designed a submarine, which was also rowed underwater. Tubes to the surface provided air. This air system allowed the boat, which was bound by waterproof leather, to travel underwater for several hours. His boat was successfully tested in the Thames River and traveled at depths close to 15 feet. It is said England's King James I rode in one of Van Drebbel's submarines to prove its safety. The British navy was not interested in the craft.


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