The Goubet I submarine was a two-person, electric submarine built by French inventor Claude Goubet in 1885. Manufactured in Paris, the sub has gone down in history as the first to be electrically powered, with a brace of cutting-edge tech advancing more primitive models.
The Goubet I was battery powered, utilised a Siemens electric motor to drive its propeller and power a navigation light, and measured five metres (16.4 feet) long. The craft weighed in at just over six tons. It was controlled from a central position, with its two crew positioned back to back, seeing out of the vessel via small glass windows; they could see up, down and to the sides to some extent thanks to prisms.
After testing in the River Seine in Paris, however, the Goubet I was ultimately deemed a failure, because the submersible wasn’t able to maintain a stable course or depth while moving forward. As a result, while some of its innovative technology lived on in later designs, the Goubet I itself was quickly scrapped.
Whaling ships – otherwise known as whaleships during the 19th century – were sea vessels that were carefully designed for long-haul and dangerous operations. Manned by a skilled crew, their sole purpose was to hunt, capture and asset strip a variety of whales – notably baleens – across some of Earth’s wildest oceans.
‘Assets’ consisted primarily of blubber – a layer of thick body fat found under the skin of all whales, which could be rendered down for its heavy oil content – though bones, meat and other parts were also salvaged. Oil, however, was the major goal for any whaleship, as prior to the introduction of kerosene and vegetable oils, whale oil was the backbone of many everyday products including soap, lamps and even foods. As a result, every whale that was caught could bring in a tidy profit back on land.
Oil was harvested from blubber on board the vessel in a ‘try-works’ – a processing system that consisted of two try-pots and a brick furnace. The blubber was boiled in the pots on the furnace, where its natural oils were siphoned off and stored in large casks below deck. The furnace itself was mounted on cast-iron struts to the deck, with a reservoir of underlying water to prevent the wooden planks from burning. Of course, to render the blubber first the crew needed to capture a whale.
The process of catching whales entailed hitting the creature with deck-mounted harpoon guns and then approaching on smaller whaleboats. Each whaleboat – which were carried like lifeboats on larger ships today – had its own crew and selection of arms, such as handheld harpoons, spears and guns. The carcass was then towed by the whaleboats back to the ship and ‘flensed’ – which involved the skin and blubber being cut off in strips before it was taken on board.
Both in Homeric and post-Homeric Greece, hoplite warriors were considered the most deadly and efficient soldiers on the planet. Armed with a variety of highly refined weapons – such as spears, swords and daggers, protected by toughened bronze armour and adept at executing cunning tactics and formations, these Ancient Greek warriors tore through many an enemy army with considerable ease.
Arguably, hoplites really came into their own around the sixth century BCE. Prior to this point Greek warriors – who were self-armed and trained civilians – fought for personal, familial or national honour singularly. They obviously grouped under city-state banners to wage wars, but when the battle started, the onus was very much on man-to-man single combat; indeed, many battles of this period began with army commanders/heroes facing off against each other solo.
After the introduction of advanced military formations such as the phalanx – see ‘Wall of death’ boxout for more – circa 700 BCE, soldiers began to fight battles as cohesive military units. This increased their battle prowess further and, by the time of the massive Persian invasion of 480 BCE, enabled them to win a series of decisive battles against forces that, going on the numbers, they should have lost.