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Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

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Intelligent Whale
(Sub: t. 4,000; l. 28'8"; b. 7'; dph. 9'; s. 4 k.; cpl. 6 to 13)

Intelligent "Whale, an experimental hand-cranked submarine, was built on the design of Scovel S. Meriam in 1863 by Augustus Price and Cornelius S. Bushnell. In 1864 the American Submarine Co., was formed, taking over the interests of Bushnell and Price and there followed years of litigation over the ownership of the craft. When title was established by a court the submarine was sold 29 October 1869 to the Navy Department, with most of the price to be paid after successful trials. In September 1872 the first trial was held and was unsuccessful, whereupon the Department refused further payments and
abandoned the project.

Intelligent Whale submerged by filling water compartments, and expelled the water by pumps and compressed air. It was estimated that it could stay submerged for about 10 hours. Thirteen crewmen could be accomodated, but only 6 were needed to make her operational. The only known trial, reported by submarine pioneer John Holland, was made by a certain General Sweeney and two others. They submerged the boat in 16 feet of water and Sweeney, clad in a diver's suit, emerged through a hole in the bottom, placed a charge under a scow, and reentered the submarine. The charge was exploded by a lanyard and a friction primer attached to the charge sinking the scow.

Intelligent Whale, an early experiment in a field now of central Importance, is on exhibit at the Navy Museum, Washington Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.