American Turtle Submarine 1776 & 2009

The AMERICAN TURTLE was the first submarine used in war. It was in 1776, not far from Red Hook.  Invented by David Bushnell, the one-man hand-propelled craft was designed to attach an underwater time bomb to an enemy vessel.  On a September night in 1776 the TURTLE made its way underwater to the British flagship, HMS EAGLE, moored in New York Harbor, near where the Statue of Liberty is today. Its pilot, Ezra Lee twice attempted to screw into the hull of the ship so that he could attach a bomb, but twice hit metal he could not pierce.   While retreating, he was spotted by the British.  By exploding his bomb, Ezra and the TURTLE was able to elude capture and scare the British fleet. Unfortunately, for the Americans, soon afterwards a ship transporting the sub was captured by the British and was scuttled.


The story re-emerges in 2009 when the police spotted a strange-looking vessel partly submerged near the ocean liner Queen Mary 2 in the Red Hook cruise ship terminal.  The vessel turned out to be a replica of the AMERICAN TURTLE piloted by artist Duke Riley of Brooklyn.  The Coast Guard issued citations for being unsafe to sail, and the New York Post called him a “Sub Moron”. 




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