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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Underwater Pedal Power



Human powered submarines - I know this magazine is about bicycle touring but some things are just too cool. We're a long way from any kind of practical pedal powered underwater travel. I thought it was worthy of a look though.

While this isn't intended as a comprehensive history of human powered submarines a little bit of background is needed. The first real submarines in history were all human powered, but not a great deal was accomplished with them until modern times. Practical submarines didn't really come into being until the advent of battery powered electrical motors. Pedal power is not dead though and there have been a lot of interesting designs within the last couple decades.

Each year there is a competition called The International Submarine Race. It will be held this year June 22-26. Engineering students from around the world will race their human powered machines underwater against the clock. For more information you can visit their website at http://www.isrsubrace.org/.

On YouTube you can see documentary segments on the 2009 edition of the race. I thought it was very cool. This is the link for the initial instalment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xL8UCPPAWEQ. If you wish to see the entire thing YouTube will run you through the whole thing from this beginning through to the last part. I found the whole thing so cool.


The fastest subs were powered by pedals driving some kind of propeller but there are alternative systems that are used. I'm including links to videos about two of them.

The Bogus Batoid swims through the water like a Manta Ray. I'm a woodworker and have built a plywood “canoe” and the workmanship in this submarine is impressive all by itself.




The other machine was built by the same person as the Bogus Batoid and it's called Faux Fish. It attempts to mimic the way a fish swims through the water. While it may be a little impractical a lot can be learned from the way it behaves in the water. I don't think practicality is really the objective here anyway. Again the fact that someone built this and it works is cool enough.





I admire the effort and imagination put into these efforts. If there is ever a functional underwater touring model built, you can be sure we'll be interested.