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NavSource Online: Submarine Photo Archive


Introduction courtesy of David Johnston (USN, retired)
In late 1906, Simon Lake authorized Newport News Shipbuilding to build a boat called Simon Lake XV in response to the 1906 naval appropriations bill, which authorized the SecNav to acquire up to $500,000 in submarines. It was a lucrative enough of a deal to goad Lake into once again trying the U.S. market, having spent the last several years building subs for European navies. He contacted NNS in late 1906 and had them build the Simon Lake XV on his own dime, intending to demonstrate it to the Department for approval as soon as it was completed.
Then on 2 March 1907 the Roosevelt administration increased the amount of funding for submarines to a staggering $3,000,000 (most likely because of his ride on Plunger (SS-2) and this prompted SecNav Metcalf to initiate a competition to determine the best type of boat to build. This is exactly what Lake had been arguing for since 1897. Lake was convinced that his new boat was going to win and he submitted it to the trials board after rushing back from Europe. In April and May 1907 Lake was enthusiastic about his chances at the huge pile of money, and his boat, now renamed simply Lake, went head to head with EB's Octopus (later C-1). There was only one problem, Lake lost.
His boat was judged inferior to the Octopus (SS-9) in very nearly every category. The Navy chose the Octopus for series production with four more boats built that later became the C-class.
Unlike the past, Lake let the defeat go unchallenged as the data was unequivicable. In an attempt to prompt the Navy into buying the boat for a different purpose, Lake took it in hand in 1907 and rebuilt it as a underwater salvage vessel, although it still carried three torpedo tubes. He renamed it Defender. It was an attempt to revive his pet concept of diver operations from a submerged submarine, for mine clearance and salvage work. Unable to interest the Navy, she hung around unused at the Lake yard until 1929 when she was refitted once again for submarine salvage work in the wake of the S-4 (SS-109) and S-51 (SS-162) disasters. In June of that year she participated in a salvage demonstration for the Navy off Block Island. The Navy was once again not impressed and nothing came of it. Lake had plans to use her in a scheme to salvage gold from a sunken British frigate, but in true Lake fashion that scheme fell through too. She lingered at a dock in New London, sinking alongside several times, until finally abandoned on a mud flat near Old Saybrook. She was finally “scuttled” by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1946, where exactly is not known for now. I would assume that the final disposal site was close to Old Saybrook, possibly in the Connecticut River. To my knowledge she was never commissioned in the U.S. Navy and remained Lake property until the end.

As built to the specifications:
Overall Length: 92'
Beam: 13'
200 Ton Displacement.
With 10 man crew accommodations

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SizeImage DescriptionSource
Invention Turned Down by United States Gains Remarkable Victory Over Competitors in Fair Contest in Foreign Waters
Photo # 3b36330r, LC-USZ62-89963, courtesy of
Image and text provided by Library of Virginia; Richmond, VA.
Photo from Daily Press. (Newport News, Va.) 1896-current, 08 April 1906, Image 4, via
Defender 52k The crew of the Defender topside circa early 1900's. Photo # 3b36332r, LC-USZ62-89965 by Lake Torpedo Boat Company.
George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress), courtesy of
Photo i.d. courtesy of Ric Hedman & David Johnston
Image and text provided by University of Hawaii at Manoa; Honolulu, HI.
Photo from The Hawaiian Star. (Honolulu [Oahu]) 1893-1912, 10 May 1907, SECOND EDITION, Image 1, via
Defender 110k Submarine Defender as rebuilt with sharply raked bow, and her topsides changed, ready for launch at Lake's Bridgeport base. Above her twin propellers is the shutter of a stern torpedo tube. Lake's characteristic pair of amidships planes have been folded up (they are forward and abaft the big conning tower). Photo Submarine Force Museum and Library & submitted by Robert Hurst.
Text courtesy of U.S. Submarines Through 1945, An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman. Naval Institute Press.
Defender 109k Submarine Defender, circa 1907 at Newport News, VA. She was launched on 27 February 1907. Text info courtesy of Darryl L. Baker.
Photo courtesy of James Price, former STS, 81-84 617B.
Defender 390k The experimental submarine Defender built in 1907 by Simon Lake, and refitted as a salvage craft, on the ways before launching at Bridgeport, Connecticut, 1 January 1929. It was taken to New London, Connecticut, to undergo tests of safety and rescue devices with the salvaged submarine (S-4) (SS-109). The new escape hatch, slightly open, can be seen in the bow, directly beneath the eye bolt. Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, Photo No. NH 69034 via Mike Green.

Crew Contact And Reunion Information
Not Applicable to this Vessel
Additional Resources and Web Sites of Interest
Lake Submarine: The Defender, built in 1907

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