Narciss Monturiol and his submarines. Part 1

Spain has gave many geniuses and prominent people to the world – a country with a truly rich marine past. A country that at the top of its power was one of the largest empires in world history. Its appearance is associated with the beginning of the Age of the Great geographical discoveries, during which it became one of the first colonial superpowers. But all the sea glory of Spain was on the surface of the seas and oceans. But few people know how things were with the conquest of the deeps of the sea. This short article is dedicated to one of the pioneers of world underwater shipbuilding. A man who was neither an engineer, nor a scientist, nor a mechanic, but only a retrained physician, dared to challenge unknown depths. This man’s name was Narciss Monturiol. Before proceeding to his ideas and principles which are still actual in the modern submarine fleet, it is necessary to say a few words about Narciss.

Monturiol, born in the Cooper family * in 1819, was a typical representative of the progressive Catalonia of the 19th century. The father’s business, which was growing at that time, allowed his son to study medicine at the University of Server. But, unfortunately or fortunately, this venture collapsed and the young Narciss moved to Barcelona. Apparently, the blood of his predecessors persistently boiled and attracted the guy to the family craft of making barrels, but in order to fully realize this call and to engage in the invention of “underwater barrels”, he had to seek himself for a couple of decades.

Cooper (Bochar) – master for the manufacture of barrels.

So, he and his several friends once founded the “Icarian community” – a community that promotes communist ideas. They promoted the ideas of equality and human rights. After the collapse of this organization, Narciss was engaged in publishing the journal “Father of the Family,” where he also tried to promote the ideas of equal rights among the masses and defended the rights of workers. The magazine was closed soon.

Overwhelmed by regular setbacks, Monturiol set off for Cadaqués to take a break and rethink his life. There he witnessed a tragedy – a coral catcher died before his eyes. This event was a turning point in the fate of Monturiol. He finally realized where his energy and talent could be most useful.

Upon his return to Barcelona, ​​he took up the design of an underwater craft, which could solve several problems that the hero of the article set himself:

Reduce risks in the extraction of coral, pearls and other natural and man-made treasures lying at the bottom of the sea;
Increase production volumes;
Create a underwater machine for exploring the deep sea.
For this, a company was founded with the nonspecific name “Monturiol, Font, Altadill y Cia”. As the logic suggests, the name of the company indicates the names of the founders, who were most likely the financial associates of Monturiol who sponsored this venture. But the founders did not have enough money. To give you an idea: the authorized capital of the company was 10,000 pesetas. But total amount they were looking for was more than a hundred thousand… Another 20,000 pesetas, Monturyol gathered with the help of former associates of the “Icarian Community”. But finally Narciss found the most important source of money for the creation of the submarine elsewhere: he called among the Barcelona’s workers, for whose rights he always fought and they did not refuse him. An impressive amount  enough to create the first instance of the underwater vehicle was collected. The submarine received the really beautiful name “Ictineo” (ichtus – fish, and naus – ship). The machine really resembled a big well-fed fish. “Fish” could reach a speed of 2 knots with a displacement of 10 tons. Its length was 7 meters and a width of 2.5 meters. The submarine moved with the help of rowers in the amount of 4 people.

Monturiol was not the first to build a submarine *. But he was the first to build an underwater vehicle that had 2 hulls: the outer (“light hull”) and the inner (“rugged hull”). The space was occupied by ballast systems.

This design has become revolutionary in underwater shipbuilding, and for us now it is considered a classic.

* As you know, “Ictineo” was not the first submarine in the world. The first surviving idea of ​​creating a deep-sea vehicle belonged to Leonardo da Vinci. The Vikings from Greenland had a reindeer-skinned submarine that was used in naval battles on the Black Sea. The first “modern” submarine is considered to be the apparatus of the Dutchman Cornelius Drebbel, who made a working model for of the king Jacob I.

Of course, the finished sample did not appear immediately: for many months the team of Narcissus worked on errors and constantly appearing flaws. But any regular hard work is rewarded, and on March 7, 1861, the first official dive Ictineo I was made in the port of Alicante.

For all the time, the submarine Monturiola made 69 dives without a single accident! This fact shows the exceptional quality of the design and the attention of the inventor to the details. But fate’s rock pretty quickly dealt a mortal blow to “Ictineo I” – it was accidentally crushed by another ship mooring to the pier.

The success of the invention quickly became contagious and in a short time Montouriol was able to collect 300,000 pesetas to create a new, more advanced underwater vehicle, which we will discuss in the next article.

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