Bushnell Submarine Turtle


A ragtag colonial army faced the mighty British Empire in 1776. Could American ingenuity turn the tide? Inventor David Bushnell hoped so. Bushnell built America’s first combat submarine, the pedal-powered Turtle. Its covert mission? Slip into New York Harbor and attach a bomb to a British warship. It almost worked. The pilot submerged beneath the ship undetected, but had to abort as his air ran low.

Rick and Laura Brown of Handshouse Studio—aided by students, professional craftsmen, and the US Naval Academy—built this replica Revolutionary War wooden submarine. Using tools and techniques of the day, they proved that Bushnell’s seemingly radical idea was feasible.

 Illustration for Bushnell'sTurtle (also called American Turtle). :  submarines

Credit: Photograph © 2003 Cary Wolinsky. The David Bushnell Submarine Turtle © 2003 Handshouse Studio, Inc. All Rights Reserved.