Leonardo with his many drawings of extraordinary clarity and effectiveness has left us projects that touch many sectors, including boating: boat designs … up to those that hypothesize many underwater equipment and the fantastic submarine.
Among his documents on these topics that have come down to us is the Atlantic Code which is the most important and reports Leonardo’s entire intellectual life from 1478 to 1519, collecting his precious contributions to mechanics, mathematics, astronomy , geography, boating, physics and architecture. After going through an endless series of vicissitudes, including a series of restorations, the “Codice Atlantico” is now preserved in the Sala del Tesoro of the Ambrosiana Library in Milan. Even on the manuscript 8936 or Madrid II, consisting of two notebooks, Leonardo noted his observations and reflections on water, the sea and rivers.
In his many writings the main problem that Leonardo poses is that of making shipping faster and easier and for him the shape of the hull was of great importance, he thought of equipping certain boats with large paddles which, operated by means of cranks, increased the oar power. His drawings dating back to 1482 refer to a wheel hull with the study of driving blades for the construction of a “propulsion boat”, having an arm and a half of about one meter; to multiply the power of the rowers, it has wheels with a diameter of over half a meter. Then he elaborates the plans of the “pile driver”, a boat useful for the piling of hydraulic basins, composed of a vertical frame with winch for lifting the weight. He then invented the “lagoon and maritime dredger”, a work boat for cleaning the seabed, mounted on two hulls and equipped with four rotating blades with crank movement.
Leonardo also undertakes to study the activity of man underwater, a “diver”, with specific descriptions of the equipment to be used and their operation, providing a screen to breathe or simple headdresses equipped with very small mugs for war uses , with the adoption of webbed gloves and floating fins. His various sketches depict the diver’s systems to be able to work in water at a certain depth: the leather diving suit with breathing through cane hoses joined with leather joints and a steel spiral inserted into the joints in order to prevent crushing caused by water pressure. Leonardo also provides for the diver a small skin bottle for urinating, a hermetically sealed bag of skin equipped with a valve, to be used inflated or deflated for the ascent or descent underwater and sandbags such as ballast, a long rope, a knife and a horn to signal the end of operations.
There is also a secret invention hidden in sheet 881v of the Atlantic Code: the mechanical submarine-submarine, a weapon that he defines as diabolical, dangerous and innovative which, like many of his innovations and inventions, will not be realized. Its war function is clear: the submarine serves to break through enemy boats as a secret instrument, hooked by ropes to a normal non-war boat that can be sneakily approached to the enemy. Propulsion occurs through two mechanical fins, the alternating motion is transmitted by a gear that receives the thrust from the diver’s legs.
Presented by Romano Pisciotti