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Las Perlas Archipelago is a place full of surprises. Who would imagine that in 2001 a marine archaeologist on holiday was going to rediscover the wreck of one of the first submarines ever made, the Sub Marine Explorer, built between 1863 and 1866 by Julius H. Kroehl and Ariel Patterson in Brooklyn, New York, for the Pacific Pearl Company.
The wreck of the Sub Marine Explorer was rediscovered on San Telmo, in the south east, of the Pearl Islands by archaeologist James P. Delgado of the Institute of Nautical Archaeology. The island is well recognized as an important nesting site for many species of marine birds and turtles. It is also important to the route of migrating whales, especially during the month of September.
The wreck was known to locals, but was assumed to be a remnant of the Second World War. The Explorer was hand powered and had an interconnected system consisting of a high-pressure air chamber or compartment, a pressurized working chamber for the crew, and water ballast tanks. Problems with decompression sickness and overfishing of the pearl beds led to the abandonment of the Sub Marine Explorer in Panama in 1869.
Documentation of the Sub Marine Explorer has resulted in detailed plans, including interpretive reconstructions of the craft, scientific study of its environment and interaction with the surrounding water, bathymetric assessment, scientific analysis of rates of corrosion, and considerable historical research.
The Sub Marine Explorer was the subject of two documentary films; the first was an episode of the “Sea Hunters” that aired on National Geographic International Television in 2004, and the second, by Der Spiegel, which aired in Europe and in the US on the Smithsonian channel in 2010.