AMERICAN DIVER:
A NEW DIVER OF DESTRUCTION

McClintock, in a post-war letter wrote, "We built a second boat at Mobile, and to obtain room for machinery and persons, she was made 36 feet long, three feet wide and four feet high. Twelve feet of each was built tapering or molded, to make easy to pass through the water."

Soon after arriving in Mobile, McClintock, Watson, and Hunley teamed up with Confederate patriots Thomas Park and Thomas Lyons, the owners Park & Lyons machine shop. Within months after Hunley, McClintock and Watson arrived to the besieged and blockaded Alabama coast, a second submarine was already under construction at Park and Lyons shop near the harbor. During this timeframe, the group began to receive local military support. Lieutenant William Alexander, CSA, of theTwenty-First Alabama Volunteer Regiment was assigned to duty at Park & Lyons.

The group of engineers made several attempts at propelling the new sub with an electric-magnetic engine to propel the boat. Unfortunately, they were unable to produce enough power to propel the submarine and, up to now, no documentation exists on how they tested the motor, so we may never know how close they came to succeeding. Though the attempt was not successful, the vision alone shows how truly advanced the designers were for their era.


Drawing of the American Diver by James McClintock.
The trio then turned to a more practical means of propulsions, a small custom built steam engine. The steam engine was most likely designed to build up pressure within its boiler while running on the surface, extinguish the fire before submerging, and run on the remaining pressure; but the steam engine also proved to be a failure, perhaps due to the scarcity of materials in wartime Mobile.

This "trial and error" process took place over a period of several months until they decided to stick with a more conventional means of propulsion. The engine was removed and a hand crank, designed to be turned by four men, was again installed. By mid-January 1863, the American Diver was ready for harbor trials.

The American Diver, according to McClintock, was "unable to get a speed sufficient to make the boat of service against the vessels blockading the port." Despite the American Diver's apparent limitations, evidence exists that indicates she left from Fort Morgan sometime in mid-February and attempted an attack on the blockade. The attack was unsuccessful.

Soon after, another attack was planned, but as she was being towed off Fort Morgan at the mouth of Mobile Bay in February of 1863, a stormy sea engulfed the American Diver. Fortunately, no lives were lost.

The American Diver's rusting hull still remains beneath the shifting sands off the Alabama coastline. Her exact location was long ago lost by history, but after the discovery of and heightened interest in the H.L. Hunley, a renewed effort is underway to locate her. Clive Cussler and his organization National Underwater & Marine Agency (NUMA) are currently planning an expedition to try to locate the missing predecessor to the H.L. Hunley.



Related Pages:

Builders
Innovation & Evolution
   Pioneer
   American Diver
   SUCCESS: H.L. Hunley
The Hunley Revealed
   Design
   The Spar
   Navigation
H.L. Hunley Simulator


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