By John Protasio The concept of a ship that could submerge beneath the water and then resurface dates back as far as the late 1400s, when Italian Renaissance artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci claimed to have found a method for a ship to remain submerged for a protracted period of time. However, da Vinci refused to reveal his discovery to the world because he feared “the evil nature of men who practice assassination at the bottom of the sea.” The Early Pioneers of Submersible Ships A Dutchman, Cornelis Drebbel, built the first known practical submersible in 1620, using blueprints developed nearly 50 years earlier by English amateur inventor William Bourne, whose plans never got beyond the drawing board. A leather-covered, 12-oar rowboat, Drebbel’s craft was reinforced with iron against water pressure to a depth of 15 feet. He tested the submersible in the Thames while working under contract to the British court. King James I observed the tests, although it is probably apocryphal that the monarch ever made a test dive himself. Despite several successful tests between 1620 and 1624, the Royal Navy eventually lost interest in Drebbel’s invention, and none was commissioned or built. During the latter years of the 17th century, a number of other European inventors and scientists worked on sub


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