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A replica of one of the two Resurgam submarines that were built in 1878-79, was built in 1997 and is on display close to the Woodside terminal of the Mersey Ferry in Birkenhead, Wirral

Resurgam (latin: "I shall rise again") is the name given to two early Victorian submarines designed and built in Britain by Reverend George Garrett as a weapon to penetrate the chain netting placed around ship hulls to defend against attack by torpedo vessels.

Resurgam I

The first Resurgam, built in 1878, was a 14 ft (5 m), hand powered, one-man vessel nicknamed "the curate's egg" due to its shape.[citation needed] Its small size and one-man crew meant it would have been ineffective as a weapon.

Resurgam II

Sketch of the design of Resurgam II by George Garrett

The second Resurgam was built by Cohran & Co. at Birkenhead, England, and launched on 26 November 1879. Her construction was of iron plates fastened to iron frames, with the central section of the vessel clad with wood secured by iron straps and as built, she was 45 feet (14 m) long by 10 feet (3.0 m) in diameter, weighed 30 long tons (30 t), and had a crew of 3. She was powered by a closed cycle steam engine originally patented in 1872 by the American engineer Eugene Lamm which provided enough steam to turn the single propeller for up to 4 hours. She was designed to have positive buoyancy, and diving was controlled by a pair of hydroplanes amidships. At the time she cost £1,538.[1]

After successful trials in the East Float at Wallasey, it was planned that Resurgam should make her way under her own power from Birkenhead to Portsmouth for a demonstration to the Royal Navy.

However, during the voyage mechanical problems caused the crew to dock at Rhyl for repairs. Once completed, the crew set sail at night in a high wind, towed by the steam yacht Elphin, which Garrett had bought to act as a tender. The Elphin developed engine problems and the Resurgam's crew transferred to her to assist. Because the entry hatch on the Resurgam could not be fastened from outside, the submarine began to ship water and the towrope broke under the added weight, the Resurgam sinking in Liverpool Bay off Rhyl on 25 February 1880.

Discovery of wreck

For many years the exact location of Resurgam was a mystery. In 1995, it was found by an experienced wreck diver, Keith Hurley, while he was attempting to clear snagged fishing nets in 60 feet (18 m) of water and on 4 July 1996 was designated protected wreck n.o 42 under the Protection of Wrecks Act. The site of the wreck covers an area 900 feet (270 m) in radius at 53°23.78′N 03°33.18′W / 53.39633°N 3.553°W / 53.39633; -3.553Coordinates: 53°23.78′N 03°33.18′W / 53.39633°N 3.553°W / 53.39633; -3.553.

The Resurgam's hull is intact although partially damaged and remains at risk from illegal diving and trawling. Since her discovery, the conning tower steering wheel has been broken and portable items have gone missing. In 1997, a project called SUBMAP was undertaken by the Archaeological Diving Unit to study the wreck site. Over one hundred volunteer divers, coordinated by the Nautical Archaeology Society, surveyed the structure of the hull and the colonising marine life around it by using remote sensing equipment to search for debris in the surrounding area. The results of the SUBMAP project have been published as a comprehensive digital archive using Site Recorder.[2] The wreck is currently protected against further corrosion by sacrificial anodes that had been attached to the hull. Plans to raise her have so far not been fruitful.

A replica of the vessel was put on display at Woodside, Birkenhead, in 1997.

In 2012 divers from the British Sub-Aqua Club in Chester undertook conservation work on the wreck placing zinc corrosion inhibitors on the wreck.[3]

In popular culture

  • Resurgam was featured in the TV programme Wreck Detectives in 2004.
  • "Resurgam was featured in the TV programme "Supernatural" in 2012.
  • Kevin Rolph Ronan's novel Peregrine's Funny Adventure on Board the Resurgam, 1990. Random House Ltd., Sydney, Australia
  • 'Resurgam' is inscribed on the headstone of the character Helen Burns in Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre.

See also



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