A Note For The Granddaughters
The Origin Of The "Torpedo"
- 1776, the Revolutionary War
- Autumn, 1775 -- Spring, 1776: British siege on Boston following Bunker Hill
- "During the siege, David Bushnell, a Yale graduate began tinkering with the idea of a craft equipped with an explosive device that he called a "torpedo" in reference to the torpedo fish, a type of (sting) ray capable of stunning its prey with an electric shock."
- he attached his "torpedo" -- a keg of gunpowder -- to the back of the Turtle
- this made the Turtle the world's first military submarine
- the Turtle: a submersible vessel that could "swim" both above and below the surface of the water
- the Brits had been toying with submersibles for quite some time; at least eight patents had been granted to inventors attempting to find a way to explore the bottom of the ocean
- the Turtle: one man submersible -- one hand to steer the rudder; one hand to spin a front-mounted propeller; fill bottom of submersible with water to cause it to sink; enough oxygen to last 30 minute
- release the keg of gunpowder using a hand-crank extended from the top of the submarine
- then pump out the water and rise to the surface
- in September, 1777, Bushnell had the opportunity to test his device
- Admiral Howe's flagship, the Eagle, was anchored beside tiny Bedloe's Island (future home of the Statue of Liberty)
- long story: Sgt Ezra Lee failed to sink the Eagle, but he was able to release the key of gunpowder which did explode (harmlessly) in the bay; Lee was rescued by colonists