Pacific Pearl Company

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Stock certificate for the Pacific Pearl Company Pacific Pearl Co. Bond.jpg
Stock certificate for the Pacific Pearl Company

The Pacific Pearl Company was incorporated in the American state of New York on November 18, 1863. Principal officers included John Chadwick as President, George Wrightson as Treasurer, and Julius H. Kroehl as Chief Engineer. Other shareholders included William Henry Tiffany, Charles D. Poston and William M.B. Hartley. The company was a venture to harvest pearls and pearl shells in the Pacific Ocean. The first site chosen was Panama, in particular the Pearl Islands. After Kroehl recovered sufficiently from malaria he contracted while serving the Union Navy during the Vicksburg Campaign, he began designing and building a vessel at Ariel Patterson's Shipyard near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Also being built nearby was the Intelligent Whale under the direction of Scovel S. Merriam. There were many companies active in submarine salvage at this time.

New York (state) State of the United States of America

New York is a state in the Northeastern United States. New York was one of the original thirteen colonies that formed the United States. With an estimated 19.54 million residents in 2018, it is the fourth most populous state. In order to distinguish the state from the city with the same name, it is sometimes referred to as New York State.

Julius Hermann Kroehl was a German American inventor and engineer. He invented and built the first submarine able to dive and resurface on its own, the Sub Marine Explorer, technically advanced for its era. His achievements in architecture, civil and mechanical engineering were also significant.

Panama Republic in Central America

Panama, officially the Republic of Panama, is a country in Central America, bordered by Costa Rica to the west, Colombia to the southeast, the Caribbean Sea to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the south. The capital and largest city is Panama City, whose metropolitan area is home to nearly half the country's 4 million people.

The vessel Kroehl built was later known as Sub Marine Explorer. It operated as a diving bell, but was autonomous as a submarine propeller. It held its fourth test dive on May 31, 1866, receiving notice in many newspapers.

<i>Sub Marine Explorer</i> submersible built between 1863 and 1866

Sub Marine Explorer is a submersible built between 1863 and 1866 by Julius H. Kroehl and Ariel Patterson in Brooklyn, New York for the Pacific Pearl Company. It was hand powered and had an interconnected system of a high-pressure air chamber or compartment, a pressurized working chamber for the crew, and water ballast tanks. Problems with decompression sickness and overfishing of the pearl beds led to the abandonment of Sub Marine Explorer in Panama in 1869 despite publicized plans to shift the craft to the pearl beds of Baja California.

In August 1866, the Company held a meeting to raise funds by selling stock. At this time, Mark Brumagim became president of the company. But the submarine was not dispatched to Panama until December 1866. Whether this was due to insufficient funds, the political situation in Panama, or technical problems with the vessel is unknown at this time.

After arriving at Aspinwall, the vessel was transported via railroad to the city of Panama. It was reassembled, tested, and then shipped to the island of St. Elmo (San Telmo). During a test run around the island, the submarine while skimming the bottom at 30 feet, went over a submarine cliff going down to 75 feet. However, the relative lightness was no problem, and the crew managed to make it back to the surface unscathed.

Colón, Panama City in Colón Province, Panama

Colón is a city and sea port in Panama, beside the Caribbean Sea, lying near the Atlantic entrance to the Panama Canal. It is the capital of Panama's Colón Province and has traditionally been known as Panama's second city. Originally it was located entirely on Manzanillo Island, surrounded by Limon Bay, Manzanillo Bay and the Folks River; however, since the disestablishment of the Panama Canal Zone, the city's limits have been redefined to include Fort Gulick, a former U.S. Army base, as well the former Canal Zone towns of Cristobal, Margarita and Coco Solo.

Panama City City in Panama

Panama City is the capital and largest city of Panama. It has an urban population of 880,691, with over 1.5 million in its metropolitan area. The city is located at the Pacific entrance of the Panama Canal, in the province of Panama. The city is the political and administrative center of the country, as well as a hub for banking and commerce.

Harvesting continued through the summer, resulting in thousands of pounds of pearl shells and many pearls. As the crew was staying in Panama to return the season's harvest, Kroehl had a fatal recurrence of malaria. He died on 9 September 1867. With no funds to continue harvesting, and without Kroehl's leadership, the crew returned to the New York.

The Company continued to retell the story of the success of the harvest in 1868, and later in 1870. But one newspaper account in 1868 noted that the submarine lay derelict for a year and that Kroehl was dead (Philadelphia Inquirer, p. 2, 24 August 1868).

"What has become of the Pacific Pearl Company? Their little submarine boat, which cost one way or another nearly one hundred thousand dollars, has been lying neglected on the sand beach at one of the islands in the Bay of Panama for almost a year past. When its unfortunate builder, Mr. Kroehl, was alive there was a fair prospect of its being a success if funds had been supplied to him to work it, but now it looks as if the boat were entirely abandoned, or if it is not it will very soon, if not already, prove entirely useless."

In 1869, the company resumed its work, with Henry A. Dingee in charge of the operation. In September of that year, the company reported a harvest of pearls and pearl shells. But many workers became ill and died while working the submarine, probably from the effects of decompression sickness.

Decompression sickness Disorder caused by dissolved gases in the tissues forming bubbles during reduction of the surrounding pressure

Decompression sickness describes a condition arising from dissolved gases coming out of solution into bubbles inside the body on depressurisation. DCS most commonly refers to problems arising from underwater diving decompression, but may be experienced in other depressurisation events such as emerging from a caisson, flying in an unpressurised aircraft at altitude, and extravehicular activity from spacecraft. DCS and arterial gas embolism are collectively referred to as decompression illness.

There was interest to harvest pearls in Baja California using the Sub Marine Explorer, and that the "Engineer" was scouting a position. However, the Company recorded no further accomplishments. On April 2, 1924, the Company was involuntarily dissolved.

There are two other companies that operated at different times with the same name, but have no relation with this company. One was a British company which was active around the 1820s and undertook a commercial expedition to New South Wales, Australia. The other was a Japanese company active during the second half of the 20th Century.

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