Simon’s Sub Counter

Argonaut Junior Animation

The Argonaut Junior was built by Simon Lake in 1894 of pitch pine, as inexpensive way to demonstrate his principles of submergence that would ultimately change the development of submarine technology. When submerged to a shallow seafloor, a divers’ door could be opened and he could retrieve articles or

Argonaut Junior

exit & re-enter the little 14-foot submarine by maintaining a pressurized compartment. A novel feature of Simon Lake’s early submarines was the use of wheels to keep the vessel from getting stuck to the bottom and to provide mobility, as shown in the animation, by the use of interior hand cranks. The success of the demonstration amazed on-lookers at Atlantic Highlands NJ and inspired investors to support the establishment of The Lake Submarine Company in 1895 and to build a proper steel submarine vessel, The Argonaut I, by 1898.

   The Argonaut Submarine was named after the Argonaut sea creature, better known as the Portuguese man-o-war, because both could navigate on the surface, on the sea-floor, or anywhere in between. Simon’s Argonaut was built in 1897 in Baltimore at the Columbian Iron Works & Dry Dock to the dimensions of 36 feet in length and 9 foot beam, and powered by a 30 horsepower gasoline engine. In 1898 with a crew of 4 men, Simon Lake set out on a 2000

Argonaut I

mile journey in the Chesapeake Bay and on the Atlantic coast, traveling both on the surface and submerged, and over all kinds of bottom, putting the Argonaut to the test. Like a true-to-life Captain Nemo, Simon Lake and crew retrieved fish, clams and oysters through the dive compartment in order to demonstrate the practicality of living and traveling underwater. The 5 brave Argonauts survived violent storms in which over 200 surface

Argonaut I

vessels were lost, by traveling through the peaceful waters below. By the close of 1898, Simon and his Argonaut achieved worldwide acclaim which was further complimented by the famous telegram sent by Jules Verne congratulating Simon in bringing the submarine “dream” to reality.

   December 1898, Simon brought his little Argonaut to New York to be enlarged and re-outfitted with a variety of improvements including greater buoyancy, deck space, fuel capacity, a 60 HP engine and living quarters for a crew of eight. A searchlight was added in the bow to light up the fore-coming pathway, and telephones were installed throughout, so that conversation could be conducted between the divers and their tenders, with crew members stationed at different parts of the boat, with the surface or with the shore.

   Reconstructed by July 1900, the Argonaut II was 66 feet in length and capable of making a non-stop sea voyage of 3000 miles, and submerging for 48 hours. The new Argonaut looked quite different than the original one with the new raised deck that made the vessel appear more like a surface boat than a submarine.
   Simon Lake promoted the new Argonaut by taking groups of people on an unforgettable journey to the bottom the Long Island Sound. One

Argonaut II

day there was 22 guests, another day, 28, who remained submerged for 4 hours while the crew obtained fresh seafood through the divers’ compartment, prepared it and served a fine seafood dinner.
   Even though Simon Lake new how to - “party”, the submarine was designed for commercial use and had no military hardware what-so-ever. Peaceful purposes seemed much more equitable to Simon than producing war machines. He preferred searching the northeast coastal areas for sunken wrecks, to salvage their cargoes and claim the riches. He located numerous wrecks with the Argonaut and acquired extensive records of lost ships and cargoes, including some treasure ships.

   He had developed a lucrative career, making him a wealthy young man. He repeatedly demonstrated and promoted his patented submarine technology to the U.S. government as being “safe and practical” and would be quite suitable for military use with the addition of armaments. But Congress was attracted by the powerful political backing the Holland Company who were ready to build their designs. Simon Lake was offered several

Argonaut II

million dollars by Cuba for the Argonaut, but Simon refused, wanting to serve his own country.   Simon Lake was armed with the right technology based on “even keel” operation, but was lacking the manufacturing plant to build. The competition was “on” between Lake and Holland and Simon acquired backing to form the Lake Torpedo Boat Company and build his “Protector”, a military submarine, to compete with the Holland Company, ….. which brings us to the story of the Protector.

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