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pacific-monograph_bushnell_turtle.jpg (22839 bytes)Pacific Monograph 1776 Bushnell Turtle

By Chris Banyai-Riepl


The Bushnell Turtle came about from necessity during the American Revolution. At the beginning of the war, the British Royal Navy created an effective blockade of American harbors. Since the Americans could not hope to meet this threat with might, it turned to subterfuge, and from the mind of David Bushnell sprang the Turtle. This diminutive boat is one of the first submarines, designed to be propelled by hand under water. To help keep it under water, lead ballast was affixed to the keel by a line that could be let out, allowing the Turtle to remain at a certain depth. The weapon of the Turtle was a torpedo (nowadays called a mine) that was supposed to be attached to the target ship by a screw device.

The Turtle was built in Saybrook, CT, and was transported from there to New York harbor, where it made its first attack. Since there was little hope of destroying the entire British fleet, the plan was to sink the flagship, HMS Eagle, and thus scare the rest of the fleet into leaving. Unfortunately, the copper sheathing of the HMS Eagle did not yield to the Turtle’s screw device, and the Turtle was discovered before any damage could be done. The torpedo was detonated some distance away, though, and that was enough cause for concern that the British fleet withdrew from the harbor and into Long Island Sound.

This wasn’t the last battle of the Turtle, though. During the War of 1812, the Turtle was resurrected and attacked the HMS Ramillies. This time, the screw device managed to penetrate the copper sheathing, but the screw broke loose before the torpedo could be attached.

Although the Turtle was technically a failure, the principle was sound, resulting in the development of the submarine and submarine tactics.

pacific-monograph_bushnell_turtle-resin.jpg (11482 bytes)The Pacific Monograph kit of the Bushnell Turtle is in 1/96 scale, and upon opening the package one is struck by just how small this was, compared to ships of the day. Measuring about " square, this kit has few parts and will go together very quickly. A mix of cast resin and etched brass make up the kit. The resin parts are all on one plug, and will require great care when separating the individual parts. The main shell has three main gates, as well as a rather thick amount of ‘flash’ in between the gates. This most likely reduces the amount of air bubbles in the final cast, but it will take some time to cut free and keep the detail.

pacific-monograph_bushnell_turtle-brass.jpg (11968 bytes)The brass parts are very well done, and include a nameplate. The rudder, propellers, hinges and other such details are provided, and will go a long way to making this kit look the part. Most of these parts are very small, though, so some care will be needed in affixing them. The rudder is made up of two pieces of brass, and the instructions state that this is the hardest part of the kit. I would have to agree with that, as you have to bend one piece of brass around the other to make up the bands on the rudder.

Coloring is hypothetical, as no references exist as to the actual finishing of the Turtle. The most striking finish would be in wood grain, with iron bands and brass fittings. While this would really look sharp, most likely the Turtle was covered in black tar, both to make less visible and to aid in preventing leaks.

All in all, this is a nice little kit of the Bushnell Turtle, and its small size and potentially quick building will leave lots of time to think about displaying it. You could run the lead weight out on a piece of wire and have the Turtle supported up about 6 inches, or you could build a custom holder for it. The more dramatic, and more difficult, way to display it would be next to a 1/96 HMS Eagle, with the screw trying to break into the copper hull. But I don’t think I’ll be trying that one…

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Air Intelligence
1998 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/48 Scale Guide $20.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.00 Postage in the US.

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PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM 87199-0933
(505) 881-9621

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