Constructed in 1858, Ictineo I is recognized by many as the world`s first fully functional submarine …

 
 
 
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Ictineo I was a pioneering submarine constructed in Barcelona, Spain in 1858–1859 by engineer Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol. It was 7 m (23 ft) long with a beam of 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) and draft of 3.5 m (11 ft). Her intended use was to enable the harvest of coral. It is likely she was inspired by the prototype Brandtaucher of Wilhelm Bauer, completed in 1851, as Monturiol studied all the available science of submersibles. Ictineo’s prow was equipped with a set of tools suited to the harvest of coral. Monturiol had already named his vessel Ictineo, from the ancient Greek icthus (fish) and naus (boat). The vessel had a double hull – a spherical inner shell that resisted the water pressure, and an outer fish-like shell that protected the submarine and was used for steerage and hydrodynamics.

Ictineo I was 7 m (23 ft) long with a beam of 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) and draft of 3.5 m (11 ft). source
It was 7 m (23 ft) long with a beam of 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) and draft of 3.5 m (11 ft). source

The pressure hull was constructed from olive wood, supported with oak rings, and covered in 2 mm of copper, and measured 4 metres (13 ft) long, 2 metres (6.6 ft) at its highest, and 1 metre (3.3 ft) wide. Monturiol calculated that it should be able to maintain its integrity to a depth of 500 metres (1,600 ft), although he only rated it to 50 metres (160 ft) for the sake of safety. The outer streamlined hull was 7 metres (23 ft) long, 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) high, and displaced 10 tonnes. Several thick glass ports were installed on the sides, top, and bow of the Ictineo; these were semi-conical in shape so that water pressure would tend to force them more firmly into their seats and so avoid leaks.

Her intended use was to ease the harvest of coral. source

As he put it, the Ictíneo’s “form is that of a fish, and like a fish, it has its motor in the tail, fins to control its direction, and swimming bladders and ballast to maintain an equilibrium with the water from the moment it submerges”. In 1858, he presented his project in a scientific thesis titled “El Ictineo o barcopez, (The Ictineo or fish-ship).

The fish tail
The fish tail. SantiMB.Photos/Flickr

Despite the low-tech appearance, the Ictíneo was a marvel of sophisticated technology, decades ahead of its time. During the summer of 1859, Monturiol performed more than 20 dives in Ictineo, with his business partner and shipbuilder as crew. Ictineo I possessed good handling, but her top speed was disappointing, as it was limited by the power of human muscles.

Monturiol demonstrated his submarine 59 times, without any adverse incident. The machine could stay submerged for 2 hours and dive up to a depth of 20 meters. source
Monturiol demonstrated his submarine 59 times, without any adverse incident. The machine could stay submerged for 2 hours and dive up to a depth of 20 meters. source

The technical success of this submersible created popular enthusiasm but no support from the government. As a result, Monturiol wrote a “letter to the nation”, asking the people of Spain to support his project. The fundraising was a great success, bringing in 300,000 pesetas from the people of Spain and Cuba.

 

It was eventually destroyed by accident in January 1862, after completing some fifty dives, when a cargo vessel ran into her at her berth. source
It was eventually destroyed by accident in January 1862 when a cargo vessel ran into her at her berth. source

 

A modern replica of Ictineo I stands in the garden entrance to the Marine Museum in Barcelona. Museu Marítim de Barcelona/Flickr

 

Replica of submarine Ictineu I in front of the Museu Marítim in Barcelona. source

Ictineo I was eventually destroyed by accident in January 1862, after completing some fifty dives, when a cargo vessel ran into her at her berth. With the money obtained from the subscription, the company La Navegación Submarina was formed with the objective of developing Ictineo II.

A modern replica of Ictineo I stands in the garden entrance to the Marine Museum in Barcelona.