Friday, 4 June 2010

Aquanef: Submarine Revenge of the Militarists

I've recently got to thinking about how the whole Nemo vs. the Militarist factions of the Pacific War 1879 might develop, and in particular how the more conventional historical based vessels might actually cope when taking on the steel monsters of the Deep.
There are rifled muzzle-loaders and Dahlgren guns a-plenty, but could these really compete with the armoured submarines of Nemo and his Allies?
It seems to me that the Chileans and Peruvians, in response to the superior armaments of their mutual foe, would soon have to come up with some super weapons of their own, so I have been delving into the contemporary navies for a few ideas.

Imagine my surprise, then, to discover that it was not the 'Hunleys' and 'Alligators' of the ACW that had cornered the market in early subs, as indeed, both Chile and Peru had tested advanced designs of their own in circa 1864, and actually come up with some decent machines.

Chile, in response to conflict with Spain, had commissioned an immigrant German engineer named Karl Flach to design a submersible that would help to offset the superiority in shipping of their Continental enemy. His steel creation was 12.5 metres in length, pedal powered by a crew of 11, and featured two cannons, one built into the nose of the vessel itself!

Unfortunately, disaster struck on a proving run, and the designer, his eleven year old son, and another nine men were lost. There are some details on this Wiki page here:

also, more interestingly, some artist's impressions of how she may have appeared here:

and details on the current search for the whereabouts of the wreck, with a view to raising her for posterity:

The tragedy curtailed Chile's submarine ambitions, but the same conflict with Spain also motivated Peru to seek a similar technical advance.

In 1864, Federico Blume, a railway engineer, developed the 'Toro Submarino' or submarine Bull, which included such innovations as ballast tanks and a rudimentary system of air schnorkels; the end of the conflict with the Europeans saw it retreat to the drawing board, only to resurface when the strife with Chile began.

Blume's vessel was a 48' craft built from 1/4" boiler iron, was crewed by eleven men, and launching in June 1879, attained in trails an operating depth of twelve fathoms for a duration of thirty minutes, and a speed of 4 knots. In October of the same year, she was deployed to engage the Chilean Blanco Encelada and Almirante Cochrane near San Lorenzo Island near Callao with a pair of towed torpedos, but the mission was scrubbed when the vessels moved the location of their anchorages at short notice:

Once Chile's star was firmly in the ascendant, the submarine Bull was scuttled with the rest of the Peruvian Fleet, and so the underwater advances of these two South American nations were stillborn - doesn't mean I can't resurrect them however, does it?

I think I feel a bit of a scratch-build coming on...... :-)

Taking things somewhat further, I've also been considering beefing up the surface vessels of the belligerent nations, with input from some contenders available from Brigade's Aeronef ranges. Now of course these are supposed to be aether craft, but a bit of surgery to remove the tail apparatus and a few additional bits and bobs, and these should make some decent looking 'super-Monitors' or 'Ironclads-on-steroids' to take on Nemo and his ilk.

(Of course, Peru had some real ACW-era Monitors serving in their historical fleet; see here for the Mano Capac:

and the Athualpa:

both bought surplus from the USA.)

First up then, I'm looking at the VAN 1401 Peruvian Sanchez Carillon class Frigate, which with the tailplanes off and the bottom of the hull filed flat, should make an interesting addition to the mix:

Additionally, we have the VAN 803 Brazilian Gustavo Sampaio class Light Cruiser, which will see some similar attention to produce an ocean-going heavyweight worthy of a fight with Nemo:

So hopefully lots to look forward to here, whether some revivified historical subs, or some more imagineered surface craft!

In a coming post I'll be looking to put down on paper some technical specs for the respective fleets, as well as hopefully some scenario ideas based around the real events of the Pacific War - so stay tuned for more Aquanefiness to come.....


  1. Well, Well.
    I had never heard of the Peruvian 'Toro'. I will add one to my fleet. Thanks for the info. Very interesting stuff.

  2. You're very welcome Mr Marx, definitely one of those almost-but-not- quite moments in history......South America leading the world in submarine technology....brings up some intriguing possibilities for the table top.