Two Adventurous Seafarers

by Editor | Mar 3, 2008
Two Adventurous Seafarers Simon Lake was born into a family of inventors in Pleasantville, New Jersey. Richard Somers was born in the late 1770s on Somers Point. As a youth, he was remarkable for his sense of purpose. Both became famous men of the sea.

Simon Lake
He was born into a family of inventors in Pleasantville, New Jersey. Jesse Lake had invented the caterpillar tractor and the whistling buoy. His son, Ezra devised the roller shade. And his brothers, James and Wesley had founded Ocean City.

U.S. engineer and architect Simon Lake invented the "Argonaut", the first submarine to operate extensively in the open sea. It was built in 1897 and intended as an undersea research craft. Designed to send out divers, it was fitted with wheels for travel on the sea bottom. Equipped with a 30 horsepower engine, the Argonaut sailed from Norfolk, Virginia to New York City in 1898 - a trip of 300 miles through heavy storms.

His second submarine, the "Protector" was launched in 1901. He built submarines for many countries all over the world. During World War I alone, Mr. Lake built more than 100 submarines. As well, he helped to develop the submarine periscope and other underwater gear. Famous Pleasantville native, Simon Lake will long be remembered.

Richard Somers
Richard Somers was born in the late 1770s on Somers Point. As a youth, he was remarkable for his sense of purpose. In 1798, he received his warrant as a midshipman in the U.S. Navy. It is during this period when service in the Navy was distinguished by famous frigates under John Adams administration giving the country a sense of naval power.

In 1803 when Commodore Preble's squadron was dispatched to Tripoli in a war with the Barbary powers, Somers first commanded the "Nautilus". By September of 1804, he was commanding the "Intrepid" during the blockade operations off the harbor of Tripoli. American reinforcements had been expected for weeks. A plan was devised for destroying the enemy's flotilla as it lay anchored in the harbor. The plan was to fit the ketch "Intrepid" with a hundred barrels of gunpowder, 150 shells and iron. The crew was intended to sail into the harbor, ignite the combustibles and leave the ship in rowboats. Every man on the mission was a volunteer.

After dark, the ketch "Intrepid" passed into the entrance of the harbor of Tripoli where three Tripolitan gunboats were at anchor. While the details are unclear, a tremendous explosion of gunpowder exploded and the "Intrepid" burst into flame sinking many pirate ships in the harbor. Somers and his men had sacrificed their lives and were buried on the beach near the walls of Tripoli.

The U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis has a monument in honor of Richard Somers and his men. In memory of his sacrifice, the U.S. Navy has since had a ship on line named for Master Commandant Richard Somers. A family memorial in Somers Point reads: "he perished in his 25th year, distinguished for his energy, his courage and manly sense of honor."

For more South Jersey History, visit our History page.

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Author: Editor

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