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© August 2005
revised 26 June 2008

Baroque-era printer's ornament

on maps of London’s Thames river

The maps in this exhibit help to illustrate Cornelis Drebbel’s underwater excursion, in the year 1620, in the first sea-worthy submarine.

The submarine, of Drebbel’s own design, carried an 8-person crew and 12 passengers down the Thames, from Westminster to Greenwich.

Exactly how Drebbel navigated his “diving-boat” underwater for this distance, and what, if any, maps were used to do so, is just one of several unresolved puzzles concerning this extraordinary event in the history of manned submersibles.

Recent speculation that the journey took only about an hour and a half has been used to explain the fact that Drebbel was able to effectively manage the gradual rise in carbon dioxide levels within the submerged vessel. Although air quality did deteriorate in the submersible, the underwater journey was short enough that the accumulating “troubled air” never rendered anyone unconscious.

TOPICS:  submarine topography; history of underwater cartography; 17th-century theories of winds and ocean currents

Baroque-era printer's ornament

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