Simon’s Sub Counter

U.S. Russian Sub

Russian Submarine was "Made In America"
An American Submarine Centennial Story
by Jeffrey B Lake,  2000

   At the turn of the Twentieth Century, the first practical military-type submarine was  built in The United States and sold to Russia. The United States had purchased the Holland Submarine in 1900, a 54 foot military type submarine designed by J. P. Holland which served as the very first commissioned U.S. Naval submarine. However, another military type submarine, the Protector, , had been designed by Simon Lake and built by The Lake Torpedo Boat Company to compete in the U.S. submarine boat trials against the Holland-type submarine. The Protector was  designed for coastal defense and was 65 feet long and had a very special feature - "even keel" operation.

Protector Drawing

   The principle difference between most early designed submarines and the Lake-type, was that most early submarines employed the use of horizontal rudders which forced the vessel to submerge as it was propelled forward—the diving sub. The submarines were buoyancy positive, so they soon surfaced, causing a "porpoising" action. Simon Lake was the first marine engineer to develop "controlled submergence" through air/water ballast tanks that allowed the vessel to submerge on a level plane, called "even-keel operation". Simon Lake had repeatedly demonstrated the advantages of his even-keel submarine technology for a number of  years prior; however, by 1900, the Holland Company, now The Electric Boat Company, was well entrenched in political connections, and Simon Lake and his submarine company were forced to consider foreign alternatives in marketing their submarines.  The United States would not adopt Simon's even-keel submarine until it was accepted by the navies of Europe.     
     The Lake-type "even-keel" submarine first drew world attention in 1898 when Simon Lake successfully demonstrated his first submarine, the Argonaut in a 2000 mile Atlantic Ocean voyage, running on the surface, submerged and on the bottom. The dramatic demonstration had brought a congratulatory telegram from Jules Verne, the writer who inspired Simon Lake with his novel, "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea" and his famed submarine, the "Nautilus".
     By 1904, the Russo-Japanese War had broken out, and both Russia and Japan were keenly interested in Lake's submarine Protector. Simon Lake, a patriotic man, had spent 10 years attempting sell submarines to his own county, and stockholders were demanding profits. Russia secured the Protector for $250.000 with an offer of 5 additional submarines pending the Protector's success at the Russian competition submarine trials.    With the "eyes" of the world on the activities of Simon Lake, the Protector was shipped out of the United States under the veil of early morning fog aboard the steamship Fortuna. The Russians demanded secrecy and the Protector was cloaked with tarpaulins. Upon his arrival In Europe, Simon Lake was given a passport by the name of Elwood Simon and was referred by Russians as, "Gospodin Simon."

   Simon Lake and the Protector arrived at Kronstadt and the submarine was shipped by rail to Libau where trials were to be held at that military harbor. The Russians new what they wanted and they setup a stringent test which all competing submarines had to pass  before continuing with additional trials. "To be accepted, boats must be able to penetrate the military harbor of Libau without being detected". A three mile long and very tortuous channel had to be cleared to connect the outer harbor and the inner military harbor where ships of war were sheltered. The entrance to the outer harbor was eight miles long.

Protector by Russian Rail

   I like to think of this competition as "The Great Submarine Race," because it challenged the real practicality of submarines. If you will..., .separate the subs from the sinkers! Simon Lake was completely confident that the Protector would win the competition. The operators of the competing submarines, including a Holland boat from the United States and a French and German (Krupp) submarine, objected to the test because they knew they could not enter the harbor unseen. Their boats either "porpoised" to the surface, or their conning towers could be seen as they rose to the surface to see their whereabouts. Simon Lake and his Protector submerged at 11am, navigated  miles of winding channel, totally unseen,  and resurfaced 2 hours later within the harbor along side a Russian battleship.  Simon Lake won the Russian contract in a most extraordinary worldwide competition. He built 5 additional submarines which were also produced in the United States by The Newport News Dry-dock & Shipbuilding Company, and shipped abroad. Simon Lake built several larger submarines for the Russian Navy in forming their first submarine fleet.

Protector
Russian Lake-type subs built in America

   Simon Lake continued on his successful European venture, consulting and lining up submarine construction contracts.  The success of his submarine technology was now evident and he returned to The United States when the Navy Department called. Forfeiting millions of dollars in foreign contracts, Simon could not refuse his own country. The Lake Torpedo Boat Company of Bridgeport Connecticut built a total of 33 submarines for the United States between 1909 through 1921.

     J.P. Holland  and Simon Lake were contemporary marine engineers, each having earned their place in submarine history.  As an early submarine inventor, J.P. Holland is considered The Father Of The Submarine. As the inventor of the "even keel" submarine, Simon Lake ushered in the age of the modern submarine technology and is considered the Father Of The Modern Submarine. Today, no submarine could operate without using the basic patented technologies established by Simon Lake, an American Inventor.

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