There is a report in the San Francisco Call newspaper, July 20th 1901, of the launch of the Whale...
The Brooklyn Navy Yard simply teems with relics and curiosities of absorbing interest, says the New York Mall and Express. There is a navy museum on the grounds, with curios of every description, but the curio par excellence of the yard is a large hulk of iron rotting with rust in a remote and unfrequented corner of the grounds having no connection whatever with the museum. This curio is the first submarine boat ever made in this country. The Whale is the odd name of this boat. Nothing could be more appropriate, for the vessel is bulky, ugly and clumsy. The story of the Whale is one of the most tragic chapters in the history of the yard.
She was built during the CivilWar, in the early sixties, and wonderful things were expected of her. The designer of the vessel got Congress Interested in his plan, and the Government made a large appropriation for the building of the boat. Not only did the Government and the designer expect that naval warfare was about to be evolutionized, but the people throughout the whole country as well, much having been published about the vessel in the newspapers. The designer had an idea that he would go down in history as another Ericsson. Instead of that, however, his name has gone to oblivion, and there is not an officer or jacky at the yard who can recall his name.
The vessel was a long time in construction. When, finally, she was completed, arrangements were made for a gala launching. Volunteers were asked for to man the boat on her first trip under water. There were twice as many men volunteered as were wanted. The vessel was fitted with a crew, and then submerged. Half an hour afterward the vessel was fished up from the muddy bottom with her entire crew of sixteen men dead.
The Inventor then discovered a faulty valve, and said that when that was remedied there would be no fault in the boat. The valve was changed and another launching took place, fourteen volunteers going down in her this time. Like their brother jackies of the first experiment, they never again saw the light of day.
It was two years before the Whale received its third and last trial. In the meantime the inventor had made many changes, and he assured all the spectators that "this time there is positively no danger whatever." Notwithstanding his assurance, however, only twelve men dared to enter the boat and be submerged. . For a long time the crowd waited to see her reappear. But she only reappeared after twenty-five minutes, and her reappearance was due to her being hauled out by a derrick. The twelve men had been dead for a good while.
Having killed forty-two men. no further experiments were ever made. The vessel is no longer known to the jackies as the Whale, but bears among them the more appropriate appellaition of "The Man-Killer."