Thursday, March 8, 2012

Answer: Fishing over your head?

Short answer:  The submarine H-5 (USS-148) was at least occasionally used for fishing by submariners who would attach fishing line, hooks, bait, and floats to the top deck.  As the submarine trolled underwater, the fishing gear would do its work and the sailors would collect their catch upon resurfacing.  In this way, all of the fishing tackle was ABOVE the sailors, as were the fish themselves!  

And surprisingly enough, the  submarine was originally built for the Russian government!  But she was never delivered, and spent the rest of its days operating out of the San Pedro (California) sub base.

How to search for this:  I knew this was out there somewhere, and tried a bunch of combinations of searches [ overhead fishing ] then [ upside-down fishing ] and similar kinds of queries, ultimately leading nowhere.  I probably spent about 5 minutes trying out different combinations, getting nowhere.  

I then sat back in my chair and thought about the situation, trying to imagine what it might look like.  What set of circumstances could possibly lead to fish being overhead?  

Then I had an insight that was crucial.  Maybe the fishermen were in a submarine!  It sounded crazy to me, but I did the quick search [ submarine fishing ]  and discovered at the 9th result place a link to Fishing History... and fishing from subs

To tell the truth, this looked a bit too much like a bit of fake news.  (There are a number of people who fake old news stories to look just like this.)  So I really wanted to check the original source.  How could I do that? 

The article claimed it was from Popular Mechanics in the 1920s… so I just popped [submarine fishing Popular Mechanics 1920] into my search box and quickly found that Google Books HAS Popular Mechanics (but the article itself wasn’t showing up on the first couple of pages).  

So I went to Google Books and repeated my query. [Popular Mechanics submarine fishing 1920] Now that my query is scoped (that is, just limited to) Google Books (and therefore, Google Magazines as well), I found the original story by John Edwin Hogg from Popular Mechanics magazine, volume 34, 1920, p 591-592.  

Generally speaking, if you know a ship’s name you can usually find out its history.  (It also turns out there are a lot of sailing historians that build up ample documentation on the web.)  

So a quick search for [ submarine H-5 history ] quickly leads to a set of results about submarines named H-5.  That’s not unexpected, but I didn’t know there was ALSO a British submarine named H-5 as well.  (Be careful to not confuse the HMS H-5 with the US ship H-5, aka USS-148. The British sub sank while the USS H-5 was decommissioned and sold for scrap in 1933.)  

The Wikipedia article on the H-5 gets right to the point, and incorporates text from the web site, which is presumably the most authoritative source you can get on US naval vessels.  

The H-5 was built for the Russian Imperial navy during the First World War in 1915 at the Electric Boat company in Groton, CT (now known at the General Dynamics Electric Boat Company), but H-5 was never delivered due to the Russian Revolution of 1917. 

But now I was curious and I wanted to see what the submarine looked like, so I did a quick Google Image search for [ H-5 submarine

Amazingly, I found quite a number of photos of the H-5 on the site, including interior shots showing the torpedo tubes and the “fish” the H-5 carried.  Although the H-5 had “fish” (torpedos) onboard, that wasn’t the fish I was seeking.

And, if you visit the website, you’ll see that the photographs were taken by none other than John Edwin Hogg, the author of the Popular Mechanics article!  It seems that Mr. Hogg was an enterprising writer.  At least he did his research!  

Search lessons:  This week, the lesson is that you sometimes have to step back and re-think what it is you’re searching for.  Once I got the idea that the only way to fish OVERHEAD was from a submarine, I added that term to my search, and everything immediately fell into place.  As crazy as it sounds, yes, anglers can fish from subs.  Once you add that key term into the search, everything works. 

Search on! 


  1. I´m not an English native speaker, so please excuse me for grammar/speling mistakes.
    I´m a librarian from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, abd I almost got this one, or at least the beggining of the solution.
    I figured out there has to be a submarine, but my mistake was typing submarines fishing, and that make all the difference.
    Congratulations on the blog and the quests!

  2. Dan, just a small clarification: your quote-
    The H-5 was built for the Russian Imperial navy during the First World War in 1915 at the Electric Boat company in Groton, CT (now known at the General Dynamics Electric Boat Company), but H-5 was never delivered due to the Russian Revolution of 1917.

    actually, it seems EDC had them built in Vancouver and when they went to Russia, they were shipped to Vladivostok, then overland to the Baltic/St. Petersburg for assembly via the Trans-Siberian RR - that would have been a sight and a journey for the subs to transit the Pacific and never even get wet!

    quote:The AG type was designed by John Philip Holland at Electric Boat Company. The design was known as Holland 602GF/602L,[1][2] which was very similar to the American H class. The Russian abbreviation "AG" comes from "Amerikansky Golland" ("American Holland"). In 1916, the Russian Naval Ministry ordered 11 units.
    The boats were built at Barnet Yard in Vancouver, Canada as knockdown kits. The kits were transported by ship to Vladivostok and over the Trans-Siberian Railroad to European Russia. The boats were assembled at the Baltic Shipyard in Saint Petersburg and its subsidiary in Nikolayev by the Black Sea (now Mykolaiv, Ukraine).[1] Like some of the British H-class boats (of the same design), they were equipped with Fessenden transducers, an early form of sonar.[1]
    The Russian Revolution of 1917 slowed assembly in Nikolayev, but they were completed after much travail. In 1918, submarines AG 21 – AG 26 were included the Ukrainian State Navy.[3] In 1920, one (AG 22) was taken over by the Russian White movement at Bizerta and five were taken over by the Red Army after the Civil war. The submarines were all completed after the war. All surviving Soviet AG submarines were modernized before World War II.[2]
    The Russians had also ordered an additional six submarines, but these could not be delivered due to the Revolution. These were instead taken over by the U.S. Navy as the H class in 1918.

    Barnet Yard in Vancouver[wikipedia]

    also liked this photo of the Garfish USS H-3 (SS-30) - a Holland sub too - in an "un-sub like" Humboldt Bay, CA. (1916) perhaps taking a page from the Egyptians & Druids on moving heavy objects?