The first submarine which we know to have been used was built by a Dutchman, Cornelius van Drebel, in 1620. It was constructed of greased leather stretched over a wooden frame and was propelled by oars extended through the sides and sealed with tight-fitting leather flaps. Hand vices were employed to contract the sides of the vessel and reduce its volume, thus causing it to submerge. King James I of England is said to have gone for a ride in it, 12 to 15 feet below the surface of the River Thames.
But the first use of submarine as a weapon occurred during the American War of Independence. In 1776, the Turtle, a one-man wooden submarine with a screw propeller, invented by an american, David Bushnell, tried unsuccessfully to sink a British man-of-war in New York harbor.
Attempts to build an underwater craft were made as far back as the days of ancient Greece. But practical designs had to wait for the invention of the internal combustion engine and the electric motor at the end of the 19th Century. The first truly successful submarine to travel under the sea in rough water was the Argonaught, a 36-foot, cigar-shaped vessel builty by an american, Simon Lake in 1897. It was driven by a 30 horse power engine.