Sketch as appears in some history books
|Fate:||scuttled January 16, 1881|
|Length:||48 ft (15 m)|
|Speed:||4 knots (7 km/h) (submerged)|
|Complement:||1 officer, 10 enlisted|
The Toro Submarino (lit. "Submarine Bull") was a Peruvian submarine developed during the War of the Pacific. While it was completely operational, the submarine never saw action before the end of the war, when it was scuttled to prevent its capture by Chilean troops.
In 1864, a civil engineer of Peruvian Nationality, born to a German father and Venezuelan mother, Federico Blume Othon (1831–1901), developed the design of the first submarine for the Peruvian Navy. Blume who participated in the construction of railroads in Peru, presented his idea after the Spanish Pacific squadron occupied the Chincha Islands during the Chincha Islands War. His purpose was to create a device that could confront, with minimum risk, the powerful enemy fleet. The result was the Toro Submarino (Submarine Bull). It was a revolutionary design for the ships of those days.
She floated and could dive by opening the seacock and filling the ballast tanks. It could also renew the air being submerged using the principle of the snorkel. The war with Spain however came to an end in 1866, and the submarine was not built, but during the war with Chile, Blume once again offered his services to the Peruvian Navy, presenting an improved version of his 1864 submarine. The engineer started to work on his machine in June 1879, only two months after the declaration of war, financing the project with his own resources. The work was carried out in secrecy during four months at a factory property of the Piura–Paita Northern Railroad. The submarine, a 48-foot-long (15 m) cylindrical, 1⁄4-inch-thick (6.4 mm) iron boiler, bound together by iron strips and rivets, could be operated manually by eight men out of a total crew of eleven who, at the same time, could move the air fans and the water pump. The ventilation tubes were made of brass, and they could be raised or lowered through a special device. Ship instrumentation included internal pressure gauges, depth meter and ballast tank water level. The submarine used an Otto-type gasoline engine for surface running, and electric motors for submerged operations.
On October 14, 1879, Blume, together with his son and eight railroad workers, started testing the submarine off the coast of Paita. Testing lasted almost three weeks and proved that the submarine could reach a depth of 72 ft (22 m) and a maximum speed of 4 knots. News about the amazing weapon reached Supreme Director Nicolás de Piérola, who became very enthusiastic about the idea of using it against the Chilean Navy, so preparations were made to show her capability to the authorities.
The submarine was brought to Callao under the utmost secrecy, hidden in the transport Limeña. In July 1880, the "Toro" made its first official submersion. Among the passengers was the Peruvian Minister of War. During those maneuvers, the submarine remained submerged for 30 minutes without suffering any damage, proving that it could be used as a reliable weapons platform; the Minister was very impressed. His report to the government about the capabilities of the submarine was favorable, and a decision was made to use it against Chilean warships.
The first task conferred upon the Toro was to advance at night towards either of the enemy armored frigates (Almirante Cochrane or Blanco Encalada), which were anchored at the San Lorenzo Island a few kilometers off Callao, pulling two torpedoes. The submarine was to deploy under one of the battleships and release the torpedoes, which, activated by a time device, would explode and sink the objective. However, as Toro was preparing to attack and already under 36 ft (11 m) of water, the Chileans, informed by their spies of a Peruvian secret and powerful weapon, moved their battleships to the south and the mission was aborted.
On January 16, 1881, after the Battle of Miraflores and at the brink of the occupation of the Peruvian capital, Blume's submarine was scuttled with the other ships of the Peruvian fleet to avoid capture by the enemy. Some naval war analysts still believe that, had Toro been successful, it would have changed dramatically the course of the war in favor to Peru; however, many modern historians have expressed skepticism that it would be possible.