Happy 25th Anniversary, Hubble!

Hubble Space Telescope, taken on 2nd servicing mission. Photo credit: NASA
Hubble Space Telescope, taken on 2nd servicing mission. Photo credit: NASA

On April 24, 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) was launched from  the Space Shuttle Discovery. Previously, telescopes had been positioned on remote mountaintops and away from city lights in order to prevent distortion from Earth’s atmosphere. Now Hubble was being propelled into Earth’s orbit to prevent atmospheric distortion literally by rising above it.

That atmosphere is what causes start to look as if they are twinkling (sorry romantics, they don’t really twinkle….)1 But, once outside Earth’s atmosphere, “… [Hubble] can see astronomical objects with an angular size of 0.05 arc seconds, which is like seeing a pair of fireflies in Tokyo from your home in Maryland.” 2

As telescopes go, Hubble is not large, the mirror measures 7’10” across (2.4 meters), the length of a large school bus3 (the largest telescope in the southern hemisphere is 30 feet).4 Hubble weighs 24,500 pounds – as much as 2 full-grown elephants5 –  and  was named after Edwin Hubble, the man who is credited with discovering the cosmos.

Jeff Hoffman (with red stripes on the legs of his suit) and Story Musgrave work on the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo Credit: NASA
Jeff Hoffman (with red stripes on the legs of his suit) and Story Musgrave work on the Hubble Space Telescope. Photo Credit: NASA

Within a couple of weeks after it was launched, it became obvious that Hubble’s mirror had a flaw.  The curvature was off by off by 1/50 of a human hair – 2.2 microns – enough to cause fuzzy images to be sent back to earth. Hubble was circling Earth at 17, 500 miles per hour and 343 miles above it, and scientists needed to figure out a way to correct Hubble’s flawed mirror. In 1993 the first servicing mission was launched and Hubble’s flaw was successfully corrected. The mission was the first chance to fix the flaw, install new instruments and conduct routine maintenance.6

Hubble was designed to work with the Space Shuttles, the plan being that once it was no longer serviceable, it would be brought back to Earth and displayed in a museum. The retirement of the space shuttles means, however, that Hubble will not be able to be brought back to Earth. Now, a robotic mission is expected to help guide Hubble out of orbit, through Earth’s atmosphere and into the ocean.7


Hubble "Deep Field." Photo released in 1996
Hubble “Deep Field.” Photo released in 1996. Photo Credit


The Hubble Telescope doesn’t travel to distance stars, planets or galaxies, it photographs them and in January of 1996 the “Hubble Deep Field” was released. At that time it was humanity’s most distant view of the Universe. For ten days scientists aimed Hubble at a single spot in Ursa Major (the Big Dipper), taking several hundred photos with exposure times of 15 to 40 minutes.  “The result was a stunning still life of more than two thousand galaxies, a flurry of budding, tumultuous light whipped up in the shadowy primordial vacuum.” (Kanipe. pg 6)8

The brightest galaxies visible in the Deep Field are between 7 and 8 billion light-years away, some from 12 billion years ago. Some of the Milky Way’s oldest stars which congregate in globular clusters, are about 13 billion years old. 9 In fact, “Hubble has peered back into the very distant past, to locations more than 13.4 billion light years from Earth.”10

Mystic Mountain. Photo released for Hubble's 20th Anniversary.
Mystic Mountain. Photo released for Hubble’s 20th Anniversary.


The photo of  “Mystic Mountain Nebula” was released for Hubble’s 20th Anniversary. Mystic Mountain is a pillar of gas and dust, three light-years tall. The brilliant light from nearby stars is eating away at it, while infant stars within the Mystic Mountain fire jets of gas.11



The Sombrero Galaxy.
The Sombrero Galaxy.


The Sombrero Galaxy is just beyond the visibility of the naked eye, but can be seen with small telescopes. There are nearly 2,000 globular clusters which range in age from 10-13 billion years old. This is 10 times as many globular clusters as the Milky Way.12


Pandora's Cluster. Photo published 2013.
Pandora’s Cluster. Photo published 2013.

Pandora’s Cluster appears to have a complex and violent history. It seems to be the “… result of a simultaneous pile-up of at least four separate, smaller galaxy clusters. The crash took place over a span of 350 million years.”13




The Rose of Galaxies
The Rose of Galaxies

To celebrate Hubble’s 21st anniversary, scientists pointed it a group of interacting galaxies called Arp 273.  The larger of the spiral galaxies is distorted into a rose-like shape by the gravitational tidal pull of the companion galaxy. The blue jewels across the top are combined light from intensely bright and hot young blue stars. They glow intensely in the ultraviolet light.  The series of unusual spiral patterns are signs of interaction.14

In the 25 years since Hubble was launched it has made more than 1 million observations. Astronomers using that data have published more than 12,700 articles, making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built.  It has circled Earth and traveled more than 3 billion miles and produces about 10 terabytes of new data each year.15 The policies governing Hubble have helped make it so rich in data and productivity. Any astronomer in the world can submit a proposal and request time on the telescope. When a proposal is chosen by a team of experts, that astronomer has a year to pursue their work. Once the year is up  the data is released to the scientific community, which has given rise to numerous findings – many not predicted in the original proposal.16

Happy 25th Anniversary!!



  1. Zimmerman, Robert. 2008. The universe in a mirror: the saga of the Hubble Telescope and the visionaries who built it. Princeton,
    The Universe in a Mirror Engineering Library QB500.268 .Z56 2008
    The Universe in a Mirror
    Engineering Library QB500.268 .Z56 2008

    N.J. : Princeton University Press. Engineering Library QB5.268 .Z56 2008

  2. Hubble Space Telescope. Feb. 20, 2015. NASA.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Southern Africa Large Telescope (SALT). Dec. 29, 2011. Space.com
  5. Hubble Space Telescope. Feb. 20, 2015. NASA.
  6. The Hubble Space Telescope. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Goddard Space Flight Center. This website is kept for archival purposes only and is no longer updated. Accessed: April 2015.
  7. The Telescope Hubble Essentials. HubbleSite. Date Accessed: April 2015.
  8. Kanipe, Jeff. Chasing Hubble’s shadows: the search for galaxies at the edge of time. 2006. New York : Hill and Wang. Engineering Library QB500.262 .K36 2006.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Hubble Space Telescope. Feb. 20, 2015. NASA.
  11. Newscenter. April 22, 2010. HubbleSite.
  12. Gallery. HubbleSite. Date Accessed, April 2015.
  13. Newscenter. June 22, 2011. HubbleSite.
  14. Newscenter. “Rose” of Galaxies. April 20, 2011. HubbleSite.
  15. Hubble Space Telescope. Feb. 20, 2015. NASA
  16. The Telescope Hubble Essentials. HubbleSite. Date Accessed: April 2015.


  1. Chaline, Eric. 2012. Fifty machines that changed the course of history. Buffalo, N.Y. : Firefly Books. Engineering Library TJ15 .C44 2012
  2. Weintraub, David A. 2011. How old is the universe? Princeton, J.J. : Princeton University Press. Engineering Library QB501 .W45 2011
  3. O’Dell, C. Robert. 2003. The Orion Nebula : where stars are born. Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap press of Harvard University Press. Engineering Library QB855.9.O75 O34 2003
  4. Zimmerman, Robert. 2008. The universe in a mirror : the saga of the Hubble Telescope and the visionaries who built it. Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press. Engineering Library QB500.268 .Z56 2008.
  5. You and the rest’: twenty years since NASA’s dramatic Hubble repair mission (part 1)AmericaSpace. Date Accessed: April 2015
  6. Expect the unexpected in a Hubble 25th anniversary video. April 10, 2015. NASA.
  7. The Hubble Space Telescope turns 25 – here are its best 25 imagesApril 20, 2015. Extreme Tech.
  8. Highlights of HubbleApril 15, 2015. Nature: International weekly journal of science.
  9. Biography of a space telescope: Voices of Hubble. April 15, 2015. Nature: International weekly journal of science.




Wearable Tech Is All Around Us

Maxwell Smart’s Watch…


Wearable technology is all over the news these days, but we have been dreaming of it for a long time (remember Dick Tracy, Inspector Gadget, and Maxwell Smart?)

Wearable technology spans a multitude of different forms and uses – from frivolous and fun to life-enhancement and survival. From prosthetic limbs, expensive smart watches, fitness bands, to clothing you can make yourself, wearable technology is all around us.

The new Apple Watch© will be in stores tomorrow (April 24, 2015). It is the first of the major smart watches to support mobile payments and with Digital Touch you can scribble emoji or send audio messages like a walkie-talkie (remember Dick Tracy?). It also can replace the fitness band, tracking calories, exercise and even time spent standing.1

To go with that new Apple watch, Fitbit, or Jawbone fitness band, why not try having your music play faster with “Perform-o-shoes.” Developed by Andrew Schneider, Perform-o-Shoes have a photocell embedded in the heel of the shoe. The higher the heal is lifted off the ground, the faster the music track plays.This might help you reach those fitness goals more quickly!

Prosthetic body parts have been around a very, very long time. A 3,000 year old Egyptian mummy was found to have a wooden big toe grafted to her right foot. It was expertly carved and painted to match her skin tone.3 Over the years, artificial limbs have become more and more sophisticated. Prosthetic limbs that can feel are now being developed. Sensors were wired into the fingers of an artificial hand to sensory nerves in Dennis Aabo Sorensen’s upper arm. He is now able to feel “…round things and soft things and hard things….” That sensory feedback also improves a patient’s ability to control the prosthetic.4  

Liam and his Robohand
Liam and his Robohand

Richard van As and Ivan Owen launched the company “Robohand”  in 2012. Robohands are affordable mechanical prosthetics made with 3-D printers. The first one was created for five-year-old Liam, who was born with no fingers on his right hand. “Within minutes of being fitted with his newly printed mechanical hand, Liam beamed excitedly and expressed how he could now ‘pick up stuff,’ describing its movement by saying: “it copies me.”5

Google has just filed a patent for “Nanoparticle Phoresis.” It proposes tiny magnetic particles in the patient’s bloodstream, which, when activated by a smart wristband, would attack cancer cells.6

High-tech clothing is being developed with an eye for various uses. Some of this high-tech clothing is being used with autistic children. The clothing has a GPS tracker slipped inside a soft pocket on each garment. The child doesn’t see or feel it, and parents have the peace of mind that comes with knowing their wandering child can be safely tracked.7  There is another innovation in wearable tech can also put a parent’s mind at ease. A smart shirt may be able to be used with infants to help eliminate Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The smart shirt is customized to monitor vital signs and other data from sensors that are woven into the fabric.8

Are you often cold? Smart shirts and jackets can now measure skin temperature and then heat the clothing to a comfortable range. In Wearable Electronics and Photonics we learn about Reima, a survival suit. It is designed to help prevent accidents and assist in survival in harsh winter environments. With its integrated sensors it monitors the wearer’s location, movement and health. The suit will also contact an emergency office when the user has an accident or an abnormal situation is detected.9

Invisibility Cloak, developed by Susumu Tachi.
Invisibility Cloak, developed by Susumu Tachi.

Want an invisibility cloak?   Susumu Tachi developed the “Optical Camouflage,” or “Retro-reflective Projection Technology.” It uses a projector, camera, reflector and head-mounted display. A little unwieldy for sneaking out of lectures, however!10  Interested in seismology? The “Earthquake Skirt,” designed by Erin Lewis, shakes or shimmies whenever there is an earthquake in the world. It picks up the seismologic data from the internet.11

Do you have an innovative idea for wearable technology? Make: Wearable Electronics can walk you through the design process and creating a prototype. What materials, sensors, power sources, tools – everything you need – is covered. Want to try your hand at creating wearable tech, but don’t have “the” idea? Page through and find your inspiration – from safety shirts that light up to Super Hero Communicator Cuffs – your creation is just an inspiration away!

Jaymes Dec developed “Glowbowz” to help get 4th and 5th grade girls interested in wearable technology.12 If Glowbowz inspires you to want more glow in your life, LED neckties, jewelry, handbags and LED eyelashes are available.13 The eyelashes might pair nicely with the “Galaxy Dress,” designed by CuteCircuit.14

Jaymes Dec's Glowbowz
Jaymes Dec’s Glowbowz
LED Eyelashes
LED Eyelashes
The Galaxy Dress
The Galaxy Dress


      Wearable tech is all round – are you ready to try your hand at creating your own?



Make: Wearable Electronics. QA76.592 .H37 2014
Make: Wearable Electronics. QA76.592 .H37 2014
  1. Apple watch: everything you need to know, so far and hands on impressions. March 9, 2015. c|net, CBS Interactive Inc.
  2. Hartman, Kate. Make: wearable electronics. 2014. Sebastopol, CA : Maker Media. pg. 136.
  3. Once more with feeling. Oct. 11, 2014. The Economist. The Economist newspaper Limited, 2015.
  4. Revolution in artificial limbs brings feeling back to amputees. Feb. 22, 2014. National Geographic.
  5. Carpenter who cut off his fingers makes “Robohand” with 3-D printer. Jan. 15, 2015. CNN.
  6. Conrad, Andrew Jason.Google, Inc. “Nanoparticle Phoresis.” Patent Application No. PCT/US2014054321
  7. These high-tech shirts and pants can help protect kids with Autism. Feb. 18, 2015. Huff Post The Third Metric. Huffington Post.
  8. Cho, Gilsoo, editor. 2010. Smart clothing: technology and applications. pg. 130. Boca Raon, Fla. : CRC ; London : Taylor & Francis.
  9. Tao, Xioming, editor. 2005.  Wearable electronics and photonics. pg 216-219, Cambridge : Woodhead, Boca Raton, FL : CRC Press.
  10. Pederson, Isabel. 2013. Ready to wear: a rhetoric of wearable computer and reality-shifting mediapg. 52, Anderson, SC : Parlor Press.
  11. Hartman, Kate. Make: wearable electronics. 2014. pg. 209. Sebastopol, CA : Maker Media.
  12. Hartman, Kate. Make: wearable electronics. 2014 pg. 137. Sebastopol, CA ; Maker Media.
  13. Hartman, Kate. Make: wearable electronics. 2014 pg. 149. Sebastopol, CA : Maker Media.
  14. Hartman, Kate. Make: wearable electronics. 2014. pg 145 Sebastopol, CA : Maker Media.



  1. King, Paul H. Design of biomedical devices and systems. 2015. Boca Raton, Fl : CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Group.  Engn R856 .K53
  2. Cranny-Francis, Anne. Technology and touch: the biopolitics of emerging technologies. 2013. Houndsmill, Basingstoke, Hampshire ; New York, NY : Palgrave macmillan. Engn T173.8 .C736 2013 
  3. How it’s made. Seasons 1 and 2 (DVD). 2010. [Silver Springs, MD] : Discovery Communications. Engn Circ Desk 37144 DVD
  4. Perkowitz, Sidney. 2004. Digital people: from bionic humans to androids. Washington, D.C. : Joseph Henry Press. Engn TJ211.15 .P4768 2004
  5. Smart artificial skin could give prosthetic limbs feeling. Dec. 10, 2014. IFL Science.
  6. The best fitness trackers you can buy right now. Feb. 6, 2015. c|net. CBS Interactive Inc
  7. Fab Lab Maker Space. Posted Dec. 4, 2013. youtube.


Happy 45th Anniversary, Earth Day!!

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!

April 22, 1970 was the first Earth Day. Founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson, WI, it brought the environment to the forefront of awareness – on both personal and political levels. It also led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency. In 1990, Earth Day went global, with 5,000 environmental groups in 84 countries participating.1

Dew-Harvesting Greenhouse, designed by Roots Up.

There are more and more creative ways to reuse, recycle, and repurpose our waste products. Many of these solutions are being developed globally. “My Shelter Foundation,” based in the Philippines, uses recycled plastic bottles as solar light bulbs in the project, “Liter of Light.”2 In parts of Ethiopia it doesn’t rain for as much as 6 months in a row, which makes growing food a struggle. “Roots Up,” an organization based in Gondar, north of Ethiopia, has designed a new greenhouse that will use dew to not only water the plants in the greenhouse, but also provide clean drinking water.

A smog-eating building has been designed to help battle air pollution. Torre de Especialidades, a hospital in Mexico City, is shielded by a façade  made with special air-scrubbing tiles. Milan, Italy, is preparing for a world’s fair and the main pavilion is being constructed with photocatalytic concrete with titanium dioxide, which, when hit by sunlight, will break down air pollution. The pavilion also includes a rooftop solar array which will heat the building during the day.4

Wondering what is going on locally this month?

Over the years, Earth Day has evolved into Earth Month, and the University of Iowa Office of Sustainability, along with the UI Environmental Coalition, has scheduled a variety of fun and educational events throughout April. Activities include a Bike Tune Up, Student Garden Open House and a Sustainability Celebration. Visit their website to access the calendar and learn more about the activities. Be sure to like our facebook page and  and check our Twitter feed (@UIEngLib) to find out about all the resources we have here for you!

Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building, a LEED building
Pappajohn Biomedical Discovery Building, a LEED building

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.The LEED program encourages sustainable building practices, believing better buildings are “…places that complement our environment and enhance our communities…”5 The University of Iowa maintains a minimum LEED Silver Certification standard for all new construction and any major renovations. There are currently eight LEED buildings on campus and four more projects pending.

All of the Iowa Universities are working to expand energy efficiency. The UI is implementing “Energy Smart Scheduling” over the summer months. The program “…compacts classroom scheduling and consolidates the use of occupied spaces on campus…” Instead of cooling seldom-used buildings for summer classes, classes are relocated to buildings which need to be cooled. This is the second summer for the program at UI. The first year saw savings of $10,000.7

So, what can you do?

Before you till up the weeds to add a garden – look at which weeds are growing and where. Different weeds require different types of soil and studying them can help you know what your soil is like. Some need an acidic or alkaline soil and others thrive in damp, deep and fertile soil. And, when you do pull those weeds, think before tossing them in your compost pile – the temperature of the compost needs to be warm enough to kill the seeds or when you spread that lovely, rich, compost, you’ll be planting new weeds. 8
Is disposing of food waste in a garbage disposal more green than putting it in the trash? Generally, a garbage disposal is greener than having food waste end up in a landfill, because a garbage disposal more efficiently turns that waste into energy.9 A disposal still uses resources like energy and water, so, an even greener way is to compost food (not all food waste is compostable).10  The greenest way to deal with food waste, however, is to reduce the waste that is produced!11

Have cockroaches? Use thin slices of cucumbers on a paper towel in the back of cupboards. They are also repelled by bay leaves, pyrethrum and vanilla beans.  Spiders? Leave the daddy-long-legs alone. Their pincers can’t pierce human skin, but they are venomous and when they fight with other spiders – they win. Silverfish like cereal, so put some cereal in a glass jar and put tape around the outside of the jar. The tape will help the silverfish climb in after the cereal, but once they are in the jar, they can’t get out!12

Munich Zoo Presents Twin Polar Bear Cubs
Munich Zoo Presents Twin Polar Bear Cubs



Need more incentive to live green? Here are 12 ridiculously adorable reasons to protect Earth!




Changes are happening globally and locally. Are you making changes?

Remember one person can make a difference!



  1. Earth Day. Earth Day Network. Date Accessed April, 2015.
  2. My Shelter Foundation – Global Lighting Project. 2015. Sculpt the Future Foundation.
  3. This dew-harvesting greenhouse waters itself. 2015. Fast Company & Inc.Kitchen_Chemistry
  4. Smog-eating buildings battle air pollution. March 18, 2015. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc.
  5. LEED. 2012-2015. U.S. Green Building Council.
  6. Energy & environment. The University of Iowa Facilities Management. Date Accessed, April 2015.
  7. Iowa universities expand energy efficiency. April 8, 2015. The Gazette.
  8. Hanson, James Ralph. 2011. Chemistry in the kitchen garden. Cambridge UI ; RSC Pub. Engineering Library QK861 .H332 2011. 
  9. Myth: Putting food waste down the disposal is greener than in the trash. 2009-2015. EcoMyths.
  10. What you can and cannot compostComposting instructions: how to compost at home Date accessed April 2015.
  11. Crampton, Norman. 2008. Green house : eco-friendly disposal and recycling at home. Lanham, Md. : M. Evans ; Distributed by National Book Network. Engineering Library TD171.7 .C73 2008.
  12. Ha, Tanya. 2011. Greeniology 2020 : greener living today, and in the future. Carlton, Vic. : Melbourne University Press. Engineering Library TD171.7 .H3 2011.



  1. Nunan, Jon. 2010. The complete guide to alternative home building materials & methodsOcala, Fla. :  Atlantic Pub. Group. Engineering Library TH4860 .N86 2010
  2. Goldsmith, Elizabeth B. 2009. Green cleaning for dummiesHoboken, N.J. : Wiley. Engineering Library TX324 .G65 2009.
  3. Allaby, Michael. 2010. Plants: food, medicine, and the green earthNew York : Facts on File. Engineering Library QK45.2 .A45 2010.
  4. Roots Up for a personal impact. 2015. Roots Up.
  5. Global Green U.S.A: helping the people, the places and the planet in need. Global Green, USA. Date Accessed April 2015.
  6. Backyard Abundance. 2015.
  7. Rodale’s OrganicLife. Date Accessed, April 2015.
  8. Earth right now. April 8, 2015. NASA Global Climate Change.



It Is National Library Week!

It is National Library Week!!



Do you know how much your Engineering Library has to offer?



The Lichtenberger Engineering Library – YOUR library – has a collection of more than 150,000 books! We also provide access to over 5,000 current electronic journal titles, and over 100 engineering-related DVDs!

On or off-campus, you have access to multiple databases, including Web of Science, Compendex and PubMed.  Compendex is the most comprehensive bibliographic database of scientific and technical engineering research available, covering all engineering disciplines. It includes millions of bibliographic citations and abstracts from thousands of engineering journals and conference proceedings. When combined with the Engineering Index Backfile (1884-1969), Compendex covers well over 120 years of core engineering literature. And that is just one of the available databases!

That’s a lot of information to sift through.  Where do you even start? We have resource/subject guides related to specific departments or resources. Looking for information on patents or biomedical engineering? We’ve got the subject guides to help you get started.  Still at a bit of a loss? Come to us for personal assistance! From locating resources within the library to demonstrations on resources and services for individuals, classes or groups, we can help.  Please interrupt us!

What is a research project or paper without Standards or Patents? We have electronic access to standards from various agencies, including International Standard Organization (ISO), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), ASTM International and many others. You also have access to the patents from many different countries – all available electronically!

Even with all these resources, we might not have exactly what you are looking for right here in the Engineering Library. Never fear, there are several ways to get resources to you. If what you are looking for is in another of our on-campus libraries, you may request to have that book delivered to the Engineering Library, ready for you to check out. Is that article or book chapter fewer than 50 pages? You can have it copied and a pdf will be emailed directly to you – for free! That resource in an off-campus library? InterLibrary Loan can help with that.

Pyle PLMT68 Light Meter
Pyle PLMT68 Light Meter


Sometimes you need more than books and articles for an assignment or project. Do you need a light meter, sound meter, eyeball webcam or wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers for that project? We have them, and more! Check out all the tools are available in our Tool Library!




We have two new group study rooms available for you to reserve for those group projects. They both have whiteboard walls and one includes a large-screen TV with laptop connections.  Besides the group study rooms there are several other areas in which to study.  Tables, individual carrels – both upstairs and down, beanbag chairs downstairs, and comfy chairs throughout the library all provide both spaces for collaboration and for quiet study.

When you are ready to pull that research paper or project together we have several software programs available that will create bibliographies and citations in a wide variety of formatting styles. One of the software packages is Endnote and it, along with the others, will help you wind up that paper in style!

Kari Kozak, Head, Lichtenberger Engineering Library
Qianjin (Marina) Zhang, studio portrait
Qianjin (Marina) Zhang, Engineering & Informatics Librarian


Want more information?

Visit our website

email lib-engineering@uiowa.edu

call 319.335.6047

or stop in and meet the staff!



Kari Kozak, Head, Lichtenberger Engineering Library:  Collections, Instruction, Reference

Qianjin (Marina) Zhang, Engineering and Informatics Librarian: Data Management, Informatics

Carol Dewey: Library Assistant IV, Circulation, Course Reserves, InterLibrary Loan

Carol Johnk: Library Assistant III, Social Media, PR

Celebrate National Library Week by stopping in and discovering your Engineering Library!

National Submarine Day

We all live in a yellow submarine....
We all live in a yellow submarine….


When you think of submarines, you might think of sub sandwiches, or start singing “…We all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine, yellow submarine….”1

But, as we recognize April 11th as National Submarine Day, it is good to remember that living on a US Naval Submarine is a hazardous place to be. On April 11, 1900 the first commissioned submarine, the USS Holland, was acquired by the United States Navy. The Holland was not the first Navy sub, however. That honor goes to the Alligator which was the first submarine ordered and built by the Navy, although it was never commissioned.

In 1863, the Alligator was being towed by the Sumpter, with the plan for the two ships to join the Union attack on Charleston, South Carolina. They were caught in a Nor’easter and the captain of the Sumpter made the decision to cut the ties to the Alligator. The submarine was lost in the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” and was forgotten for nearly 140 years. 2

No lives were lost when the Alligator sank, but there have been many submarine disasters since then. As submarines become larger and more sophisticated, more and more crew are needed, and the loss of life becomes more dramatic.

"Potent, lethal, secret. The ultimate war machine."
“Potent, lethal, secret. The ultimate war machine.”


“Potent, lethal, secret. The ultimate war machine. Nothing else on earth is so densely packed with men and firepower. Submarines truly fought the Cold War. Yet for all their might they are no match for the power of the sea. The submariner’s deadliest enemy is not the other side, it is the ocean itself.” 3


The Civil War submarine HL Hunley was the first submarine to sink a ship in combat. It is known as the “murdering ship,” not because of the lives she took, but because her own crew died when she sank. So many lives were lost that World War I submarines became known as the “coffin service.“ 3

There are many causes of submarine disasters and loss of life, including water rushing in through cracks in the submarine’s hull, torpedoes exploding, valves not sealing, electrical problems, and a loss of power. The intense pressure of the deep seas can crush a submarine, causing a “humane,” instantaneous death. Most of the submarine deaths are much less humane and include suffocation and drowning.  After nuclear powered subs were introduced, radiation poisoning also became a threat. 3

Safety was a concern about submarines from the very beginning. The earliest patents were often for safety equipment on submarines. In 1907 a patent was granted for “Means of Escape from Sunken Submarines.”4 But ways to more reliably rescue crews from downed subs weren’t developed until 1927 when the “Momsen Lung” was developed. The Momsen Lung recycled exhaled air and was hung around the sailors’ neck. It provided oxygen for the ascent and allowed the submariner to slowly rise to the surface, thus avoiding the bends.5

The Steinke Hood.
The Steinke Hood.


In 1962, the U.S. Navy introduced the Steinke Hood, an inflatable life jacket with a hood that trapped a bubble of breathing air and completely enclosed the submariner’s head. The Steinke Hood was standard equipment on all Navy submarines throughout the Cold War. The Navy then began replacing the Steinke Hood with the Submarine Escape Immersion Equipment (SEIE). This was a combination whole-body suit and one-man life raft. It provided protection against hypothermia in the freezing water – which is something that neither the Momsen Lung nor Steinke Hood was equipped to do. 6

Currently the Navy is working not only to improve survival rates on submarines but  also means of escape and rescue. One improvement are the  Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicles (DSRV) which are capable of rescues down to 2000 feet. Another one of the future rescue systems will include the ability to transfer personnel under pressure. This would allow crew members to be rescued at deep depths under immense pressure and then be transferred to a decompression chamber. 

Cross section of a submarine
Cross section of a submarine

For more information on this fascinating subject, check out the resources listed below, and the others we have here in the library.

Engineering Library video record 39620 DVD
Engineering Library video record 39620 DVD



  1. George Martin, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison. Copyright: Sony/ATV Tunes LLC, Sony/ATV Music Publishing (UK) Limited, Northern Songs
  2. Undersea Warfare. Spring 2006. The Official Magazine of the U.S. Submarine Force. vol. 8, no. 3.
  3. Lost Subs: disaster at sea. 2002. National Geographic Television & Film : Burbank CA. Engineering Library video record 39620 DVD
  4. Means of escape from sunken submarines. 1907 patent.
  5. Swede Momsen: Diving & Rescue – Momsen Lung. Science & Technology Focus, Office of Naval Research. Date accessed: March 2015.
  6. Steinke Hood. 2000-2015. Global Security.org. Date accessed: March 2015.
  7. Submarine rescue: ready for the unthinkable. Fall 2000. Undersea Warfare: the Official Magazine of the U.S. Submarine Force, vol. 3, no. 1



  1. The nuclear pioneers: atomic subs and nuclear missiles. 2007. Periscop Film. Engineering Circulation Desk Video Record 39515 DVD
  2. Coen, Ross Allen. 2012. Breaking ice for Arctic oil : the epic voyage of the SS Manhattan through the Northwest Passage. Fairbanks : University of Alaska Press. Engineering Library HE595 .P4 C64 2012.
  3. Fossen, Thor I. 2011. Handbook of marine craft hydrodynamics and motion control. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K. ; Hoboken N.J. : Wiley. Engineering Library VM156 .F67 2011
  4. The story of the AlligatorThe Hunt for the Alligator, The Navy & Marine Living History Association (NMLHA), in cooperation with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR). Date accessed: March 2015.
  5. Delgado, James P. 2011. Silent killers: submarines and underwater warfare. Oxford : New York : Osprey. Engineering Library V210 .D45 2011.
  6. Submarine Frequently Asked Questions. Chief of Naval Operations, Submarine Warfare Division. Date accessed, March 2015. (some of the answers are dated – #10, women are, as of 2010, now allowed to be Naval submariners. See Navy Policy Will Allow Women to Serve Aboard Submarines. America’s Navy. 4/29/2010