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Narwhal I (Submarine No. 17)


A gray and white arctic whale which averages 20 feet in length; the male has a long, twisted ivory tusk of commercial value.


(Submarine No. 17: displacement 288 (normal); length 134'10" (overall); beam 13'11" (extreme); draft 11'8" (mean); speed 13 knots (surfaced), 8.5 knots (submerged); complement 15; armament4 18-inch torpedo tubes; class Narwhal)

The first Narwhal (Submarine No. 17) was laid down on 16 April 1908 at Quincy, Mass., by the Fore River Shipbuilding Co., subcontractor for the Electric Boat Co,., New York, N.Y.; launched  on 8 April 1909; sponsored by Mrs. Gregory C. Davison; and commissioned on 23 November 1909, Lt. Julius C. Townsend in command.

Narwhal joined the Atlantic Torpedo Fleet, based at Newport, R.I., and less than two years after commissioning was renamed D-1 on 17 November 1911. She operated on the diving grounds in Cape Cod and Narragansett Bays, Long Island and Block Island Sounds and Chesapeake Bay, and off Norfolk; on target ranges proving torpedoes; carrying out experimental operations; and conducting cruises along the east coast. From 20 January to 11 April 1913 the flotilla cruised to the Caribbean, and from 5 January to 21 April 1914 visited Gulf and Florida ports.

During the Great War, D-1 trained crews and classes of officers and served in experiments in the Third Naval District. After overhaul, D-1 was placed in commission in reserve on 9 September 1919, continuing her work of training new submariners along with conducting experimental and development work. On 17 July 1920, she was reclassified as SS-17 vice Submarine No. 17.

On 15 July 1921 she was placed in commission in ordinary [a non-commissioned status]. Towed to the Philadelphia Navy Yard, arriving on 30 January 1922, she was decommissioned there on 8 February 1922. Her hulk was sold on 5 June 1922.

Updated, Robert J. Cressman

12 May 2021

Published: Wed May 12 08:40:59 EDT 2021