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    Barcelona, The Ictineo II
The world's first
real submarine.
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Exploring the harbor of Barcelona, we were amazed to stumble across this large wooded submarine, a reconstruction of the Ictineo II. On returning home and doing a little research, I was even more amazed to learn about the history of this legendary vehicle.
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Above photo - The Ictineo II, reconstruction.
If you read the plaque next to the Ictineo II, the Spanish script will tell you that the submarine was originally constructed in 1862 from the plans of Narcis Monturiol I Estarriol (1819 -1886), and that the original Ictineo II actually navigated the waters in the Port of Barcelona. What the bronze plaque fails to mention is that the Ictineo II was the first vehicle of its time to submerge and navigate below the surface of the sea, the first “real” submarine.

Monturiol’s first attempt at a submarine was called the Ictineo.

Photo above:
Constructed on a smaller scale than the Ictineo II, the Ictineo underwent a successful launch and testing in 1859 but then was smashed by a freighter as it was sitting at the dock. Eventually, Monturiol was able to arrange funding for a second, larger Ictineo. When completed, Ictineo II was a two-walled submarine, outfitted with a steam-driven engine able to operate under water. The Ictineo One was operated by man power. An interior view of the Ictineo II can be seen in this scale model (midway down the page).

Click on the above photo to see a larger version of this photograph of the Ictineo II. This replica of Ictineo II was built in 1992, its outer hull constructed out of wood, like the original submarine built in 1862 by Narcus Monturiol i Estarriol.

The life of Narcus Monturiol i Estarriol is as interesting as the submarine he built. In his youth, he was educated for the priesthood but preferred the study of medicine and science. Switching to the study of law, at 16 he was an advocate for worker rights and a radical promoter of political change. His associates were imprisoned or exiled while he somehow managed to avoid arrest. In his 30’s, Monturiol assisted in the rescue of a drowning coral diver, an event that brought to his attention the dangers of coral sea mining.  Monturiol designed the Ictineo to make the mining of sea coral safe for the worker. In test runs the Ictineo II was able to dive as far as 90 feet below sea level and spend as long as 7 hours below water. Tragically, debt forced the scrapping of the Ictineo II before it ever saved any lives. Apparently, as a life saver, the submarine was not commercially viable, and Monturiol did not conceive of marketing the submarine as an instrument of war.

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Information on this page is from my October 2003 visit to Spain.
This page last updated March 2007