The Fulton
(Type 7 Prototype)

A-11-Fulton Launch

Photo provided by Richard Knowles Morris

A-02-Fulton Drawing

Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Transactions, 1902

Length 63 feet 4 inches
Diameter 11 feet 9 inches
Displacement 120 tons

The Fulton was the prototype for the type 7 design which included the American 'A' Boats, the British 'Hollands', five Japanese submarines, six Russian submarines and the Dutch O-1. The Fulton and five of the 'A' boats (Plunger, Adder, Moccasin, Porpoise and Shark) were built at Lewis Nixon's Crescent Shipyard in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

"From the very inception of the renewed submarine work at the Crescent Shipyard, conflicts arose that were reminiscent of the interference Holland experienced with the Plunger. The government assigned Naval Constructor Lawrence Y. Spear to supervise the building of the [type 7] submarines. He was an able technician, but his thorough, conservative, traditional way of doing things had so prolonged the production schedule of the surface torpedo boat Rowan at Seattle that she had been completed too late to serve in the conflict with Spain. He was not familiar with submarines, in theory or in practice, and yet his will was felt even in the construction of the Fulton."1

The Fulton was launched 12 June 1901 - a mere forty days ahead of the Adder. In November, Frank Cable, Captain John Lowe, Lieutenant Arthur MacArthur, Jr. and the rest of the Fulton's crew set a record by spending 15 hours submerged in Peconic Bay, New York. A month later, the Fulton sank at her dock in New Suffolk. In April 1902, the Fulton's habitability was tested by making the trip from New Suffolk, Long Island to Delaware under her own power.

"The first leg of the journey, from New Suffolk to New York, was made through Long Island Sound at an average speed slightly exceeding eight knots. The second leg, from New York to the Delaware capes, was made under half power at an average speed of six knots, except for an hour and a quarter during the journey which was occupied by submerged runs. Her ultimate destination on this trip was Chesapeake Bay, but the voyage was brought to an abrupt termination at the Delaware Breakwater by an explosion of battery gas, which had been allowed to accumulate underneath the battery deck.. The presence of the gas was due to deterioration of the battery caused by accidental submersion in salt water."2

After the 'A' boats were delivered to the United States Navy, the Fulton was sold to Russia. On the morning of 25 June 1904, the submarine was hoisted aboard an English freighter anchored in Gardiners Bay and shipped to St. Petersburg, Russia where Frank Cable trained her crew. From the time the Fulton left American waters until she was accepted by the Russian Imperial Navy, she was referred as Madam.3 She was accepted by the Russian Imperial Navy on October 10, 1904 and renamed Som (Catfish).4

One accepted, the Som was transported to Vladivostok via the Trans-Siberian Railway. She arrived on December 29 and was ready to be deployed by February 1 except for the fact that the torpedoes ordered from Germany had not yet arrived. On April 28, 1905, the Som was on patrol 70 miles from Vladivostok when she spotted two Japanese torpedo boats and submerged to begin her attack. One of the torpedo boats spotted the Som submerging and counterattacked. The Som dove to a depth of 12 meters. Several minutes later, she came to periscope depth and discovered that the torpedo boats had broken off their attack. The Som prepared to resume the attack, but fog rolled in and obscured the torpedo boats.5

In December 1914, the Som was shipped by rail car to Sevastopol and then to Odessa. In July 1915, she was shipped by rail car to Petrograd. At 4:00 am on May 10, 1916, the Som was lost in an underwater collision with a Swedish steamship near Olandsgafa. The boat, 2 officers and 16 men were lost.6

A copy of the original Type 7 specification (dated November 1899) was included in the John Lowe manuscript (Library of Congress).

  1. Morris, Richard K., John P. Holland: Inventor of the Modern Submarine. (Annapolis: U.S. Naval Institute, 1966; 2nd ed., Univ. S.C. Press, 1998), p. 117.
  2. Spear, Lawrence, "Submarine Torpedo Boats - Past, Present and Future," New York:Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers Transactions, 1902, pg 335.
  3. Cable, Frank. p. 220.
  4. Russian Imperial Navy website -
    (English Translation)
  5. Russian Imperial Navy website -
    (English Translation)
  6. Russian Imperial Navy website -
    (English Translation)

Copyright 1999,2000,2001,2002 Gary McCue