Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Sail-Powered Submarine - USS R-14

On 02 May, 1921 USS R-14 (SS-91) got underway from Pearl Harbor to participate in the search for USS Conestoga (AT-54), an ocean-going tug.

After seven days of searching, R-14's engines had to be stopped due to an excessive amount of water in the fuel. On 12 May, the Engineering Officer, LT Roy T. Gallemore, came up with the idea of rigging a sail. A foresail was made by sewing twelve hammocks together and using the torpedo loading crane as a mast. A top boom was made out of bunk frames.

This sail was enough to propel the submarine at about 1 knot, which turned the propellers enough to allow the batteries to be slowly charged. A main sail was then made by sewing blankets together and lashing them to the radio mast and then a third sail was made with even more blankets.

Together, the three sails provided enough force to move the submarine at about two knots.

On the morning of 15 May, R-14, after three days under sail, was able to begin running her electric motors, and she made port in Hilo, Hawaii at 9:45 a.m.

USS Conestoga was never found.

Image courtesy of Naval History and Heritage Command, Washington, DC.


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