The Zalinski Boat
Holland IV

H4-01-Zalinski Boat under construction

The Zalinski Boat Under Construction
Fort Lafayette, 1885

Rare Photograph courtesy of R. K. Morris

Length 50 feet
Diameter 8 feet
Height 10.5 feet

The "Zalinski boat" was financed by the friends and employees of Army Lieutenant Edmund Zalinski. Lieutenant Zalinski wanted a test bed for the Zalinski dynamite gun, while John Holland wanted to develop a one man control station for submarine boats. The result was a submarine 50 feet long and 8 feet in diameter built with a wooden hull. The Zalinski boat was badly damaged on September 4, 1885 when the ways collapsed during the launch. The boat was salvaged, and moved to Fort Hamilton.

The following article appeared in Scientific American on August 7, 1886.


"For some time past, Lieutenant Zalinski has been experimenting at Fort Hamilton, in the Narrows, with a novel submarine torpedo boat, the invention of Mr. John P. Holland, of this city. The boat can be sunk to any desired depth below the surface of the water, propelled in any direction, and brought to the surface at any time. The boat has a wooden hull, is cigar shaped, and measures 50 feet in length by 8 feet in diameter at the largest part. The floating surface, under ordinary conditions, is 30 feet long."
"All the various operations of the boat are controlled by one man in the turret, which is a small chamber placed about the center and provided with a dome-like cap, in the sides of which are glass bulls' eyes, spaced the same distance apart as a man's eyes. Through these glasses observations can be made."
"The propeller is driven by a petroleum engine. The vertical and horizontal rudders are operated from the turret. The two horizontal rudders are placed one at each side of the stern, as plainly shown in the large engraving, and are used to raise or depress the stern, as may be required. When the weight of the boat is but little more than that of the water displaced, these rudders can be used to depress the bow and compel the boat to pass below the surface. But the sinking and raising of the vessel is usually accomplished by admitting or forcing out the water from certain chambers, compressed air accumulated by a compressor serving to expel the water."
"When fitted for actual service, the bow of the vessel will be provided with one of Lieut. Zalinski's compressed air guns for throwing cartridges charged with nitro-glycerine. Just before firing the gun, the muzzle will be raised a little above the surface by forcing water out of one of the compartments in the bow, when the vessel will rest at an inclination, as shown in fig. 2. The recoil will serve to completely submerge the boat. To permit of properly guiding the boat without bringing it above the surface, there will be a tube extending six or eight feet above the top of the turret. The top of the tube will be provided with an inclined mirror, and at the bottom will be a camera lucida prism, by means of which the surrounding may be conveniently viewed by the individual in the turret, which may be kept at a safe distance beneath the surface. A cartridge could be thus thrown at a vessel from a distance of one or two miles, while the only indication of the torpedo's presence during its approach would be the small portion of the tube reaching above the water."
"Another method of attack would be to run beneath the vessel, detach buoyant cartridges to be exploded by electricity when the torpedo boat had reached a safe distance. Still another plan would be to fire a steel pointed cartridge into the bottom of a vessel, and discharge it in the above manner. It is apparent that with a perfect submarine boat, a vessel could in many ways be destroyed without exposing the torpedo to excessive danger. Provision is made for allowing a man in a diving suit to leave the torpedo when the latter is submerged and there is also means provided for the crew leaving the boat should it be unable from any cause to rise to the surface. As an additional safeguard, there are several different methods of accomplishing each of the various operations of the boat, such as raising or sinking, and working the propeller and rudders."
"The torpedo now at Fort Hamilton was designed as an experimental boat to test the plans of the inventor. It has attained a speed of nine miles an hour, and has been successfully sunk to the bottom and raised. It is expected shortly to more thoroughly and severely test the capabilities of the boat by more extended journeys beneath the surface."

H4-02-Zalinski Boat figure 1

Scientific American 7 August 1886

Copyright 1999,2000,2001,2002 Gary McCue