The first in the series of submarines that would ultimately lead to the H. L. Hunley was the Pioneer. During the early phases of construction, H.L. Hunley eagerly joined McClintock and Watson in their unusual underwater venture. From sheets of 1/4 inch plate bolted to an iron frame, the Pioneer was fabricated. To provide a smooth hull surface, bolt heads were hammered into counter sinkholes. A small propeller at the stern provided mobility, while on either side, the diving planes enabled the vessel to sink and rise.
In early February 1862, the small submarine was ready for testing. Pioneer, as she was later christened, proved sea worthy, requiring minor modifications to stop leaks. Soon, the tiny sub was towed to Lake Pontchartrain to continue trials.
But the Union was quickly advancing on New Orleans.
Contemporary drawing of the Pioneer I submersible.
Before all experiments could be completed, the sub had to be scuttled against a cloud of burning cotton bales torched by the on-coming forces. Hardly a month had gone by before the submarine had to be destroyed. Union occupation forces were entering the city when the three inventors, carrying blueprints, diagrams and drawings, fled to Mobile, Alabama with the intent of designing an even more formidable submersible attack boat.
Innovation & Evolution
SUCCESS: H.L. Hunley
The Hunley Revealed
H.L. Hunley Simulator
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