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Drebbel’s 1620 submarine replica wanted by Alkmaar

To play role in city’s anniversary

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

ALKMAAR - The Dutch city famous for its historic Cheese Market, is celebrating in grand style that it received a city charter 750 years ago. One of the events planned for the months-long celebrations in Alkmaar is the ‘return’ of the 17th century submarine invented by Cornelis Jacobsz. Drebbel, a local man who was born in 1572.

The replica of the first-ever ‘submarine’ now is in London, England, where Drebbel made the first trial runs - on the river Thames - of his contraption in 1622. He already had patented the invention in 1598. The replica was made for a BBC television program.

In Alkmaar, Drebbel attended the Latin School where he specifically was enraptured by mechanics. Drebbel later specialized in chemics and physics as well, worked as an engraver and map maker and gained a reputation as an inventor. In 1604, he had written about how one could ‘make’ oxygen. It is not inconceivable that Drebbel used pure oxygen when he and his crew made their first submarine run on the Thames. The craft was propelled by manpower however, the crew of twelve rowed the boat under water.

Drebbel, whose portrait is shown next to that of Italian inventor Leonardo da Vinci in a display at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, invented a great number of things. He improved the way chimney flues worked, made a perpetual watch and created a harpsichord operated by solar power. He also invented an early microscope, and a number of other technical and mechanical novelties. One of his other inventions was a torpedo, which the British were quick to deploy in 1628 against the French fleet. Because of faulty explosives, the torpedoes failed to cause any damage, but did keep the French fleet at bay.

Drebbel had settled in England upon the invitation of the King. He also worked at the Royal court in Prague. Drebbel died in London in 1633. A crater on the Moon has been named for the Dutch inventor. An exhibit on Drebbel at the Municipal Museum is one of the highlights of the celebrations of Alkmaar 750.