The origins of the submarine have hitherto been as murky and unfathomable as the depths they plumbed, yet the bizarre and unconventional notions and inventions suggested for underwater warfare between the 16th century and the beginning of the 20th century laid the foundations for the high-tech submarines of the late 1990s. Mistaken though many were, the early underwater pioneers were brave and resourceful men. In the Edwardian era Britain still ruled the waves, although she eyed her European rivals with increasing caution. A particular reason for concern was the unwelcome arrival of submarine torpedo boats. Compared to stately battleships and cruisers, these newfangled submersibles were stunted, crude and ugly. More than that, they were seen to be unfair, underhand and "damned un-English"! In the United States, too, there was little enthusiasm for the submarine service and its weaponry - so much so that it scarcely played any part in World War I and was subject to extremely serious weaponry malfunctions in the opening months of the Second, failures that were ominously foreshadowed in the very early days. Richard Compton-Hall has combined research with his own experience as a submariner to provide an insight into the inventions and motivations of the early submarine pioneers. This study explodes a number of popular myths, such as the claim that David Bushnell's one-man Turtle chased the British fleet out of New York Harbour in 1776. The truth about underwater exploration, however, is stranger than the fiction - not least because of its secrets and brotherhoods, duplicity and deception, determination and despair, frequent failure and rare triumph.
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