Submarine Turtle of 1776

My name is Ezra Lee, Army Volunteer Sergeant Ezra Lee. I’m writing now from the interior of the Turtle, the world’s first wartime submarine. I wish you could be here. Someday, they might design a word for how it feels to be breathing and sitting up under water, and you can try to imagine my disorientation.

I’ll give you a little background. The Turtle was created, built, and tested by the Bushnell brothers, Ezra and David. It is a wooden shell covered in tar and reinforced with steel. It has only enough space for one man, and only enough oxygen for one half-hour.

To submerge, the Turtle takes water into a tank at its bottom. To become buoyant, it requires me to push the water back out with the use of a hand pump. Backward and forward movements are achieved with hand-cranked propellers.

Together, the Turtle and I are to approach a British ship, and drill into its hull. The goal is to plant gunpowder kegs, and win a war that has barely begun.

I can hardly see. Six small panes of glass allow light to come in through the top of the Turtle, and bioluminescent fungus is surrounding me with an eerie green glow. I wish you could witness the strangeness of my situation.

Should the Turtle and I not return whole to the shore, I want you to know that I was thinking of you, wishing that you could join me in this unbelievable and unholy journey. It seems almost a crime against God that we should take ourselves under their ships like this, defying natural need and inflicting unfathomable damage.

But I must do it, and I must do it soon. It becomes harder to breathe, and my legs feel stiff with sitting in this rigid position.

The ship is right above me, and the hull exposed and vulnerable, like the soft underbelly of a giant fish, or the skirted bum of the bar wench.

So why can’t I drill into it? Why will the ship’s skin not give?

Alone, I cannot steady the Turtle and drill into the hull at once. Is there a miscalculation in the balance between the hardness of the hull and the weight of my vessel? Is the hull’s copper too thick? Am I not strong enough to drill through it?

Am I failing completely?

I wish you were here to offer your advice. I hope you’ll be there when I get back, so that I can tell you what it was like, and you can reassure me that no one would have been able to drill through the hull.

I want to feel normal again, like the air is endless and the light is yellow.

My name is Ezra Lee, Army Volunteer Sergeant Ezra Lee, and the Turtle is my vessel of destruction.

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