This is the World's Oldest Submarine

Submarine technology is older than you probably think. Cornelius Drebbel built one for the King of England in 1620! Early submarines were successful until they weren't, and the bottom of the ocean is not a good place for the preservation of a wooden submarine. American school children learn about the H. L. Hunley, an ironclad Confederate submarine that sank a Union ship, but was ultimately a failure because all the crew members on each of its three missions died. The sunken Hunley was found in 1970 and raised in 2000. But it is still not the oldest existing submarine.

That would be the Brandtaucher, shown above. This iron submarine was Germany's first, built by Wilhelm Bauer in 1850. It was 28 feet long and weighed 70,000 pounds. Believe it or not, it was powered by two men on a tread wheel! The Brandtaucher wasn't any more successful than earlier submarines, and sank during its first demonstration. However, Bauer learned from his mistakes and went on to design better submarines for the German military. Read about the Brandtaucher, the oldest existing submarine, at Amusing Planet.

(Image credit: Jan Rehschuh)


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According to Wikipedia, "Turtle (also called American Turtle) was the world's first submersible vessel with a documented record of use in combat." It could be called the first, with qualifiers. We don't know so much about the submarine from 1620.
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