Ictineo II: The Wooden Submarine

September 5, 2019

Exploring the harbour of Barcelona, we were amazed to stumble across this large wooden submarine, an actual reconstruction of the original submarine, the Ictineo II. On returning home and doing a little research (as we do), we were even more amazed to learn about the history of this legendary vehicle.

This replica of Ictineo II was built in 1992, and its outer hull has been constructed out of wood, like the original submarine built in 1862 by Narcis Monturiol i Estarriol.

Keep reading to learn about the rich history of this great wooden submarine and its creator, Narcís Monturiol i Estarriol- a Spanish artist and engineer. We also have some great tips on making a trip to visit the Ictineo II for yourself!

World’s First Submarine

If you read the plaque next to the Ictineo II, the Spanish script will tell you that the submarine was originally constructed in 1862 from the plans of Narcis Monturiol I Estarriol (1819 -1886). As well as how the original Ictineo II actually navigated the waters in the Port of Barcelona.

What the bronze plaque fails to mention, however, is that the Ictineo II was the first vehicle of its time to submerge and navigate below the surface of the sea, making it the first “real” submarine.


Monturiol’s first attempt at a submarine was called the Ictineo. Constructed on a smaller scale than the Ictineo II, the Ictineo underwent a successful launch and testing in 1859 but then was smashed by a freighter, as it was sitting at the dock.

Eventually, Monturiol was able to arrange funding for a second, larger Ictineo. When completed, the Ictineo II was a two-walled submarine, outfitted with a steam-driven engine, able to operate underwater. While the Ictineo I, on the other hand, was operated by manpower.

Check out this interior view of the Ictineo II, which can be seen in this scale model (scroll down the page), to give you an idea of what the inside of this marvelous submarine must have looked like.

Who Invented The First Submarine?

The life of Narcis Monturiol I Estarriol is as interesting as the submarine he built! In his youth he was educated to become a priest, however, he preferred the fields of medicine and science instead.

Switching to the field of law at 16, he was an advocate for worker rights and a radical promoter of political change. His associates were all imprisoned or exiled, while he somehow managed to avoid arrest.

In his 30’s, Monturiol assisted in the rescue of a drowning coral diver, an event that brought the dangers of coral sea mining to his attention. Monturiol designed the Ictineo to make the mining of sea coral safe for the worker.

In test runs the Ictineo II was able to dive as far as 90 feet below sea level, spending as long as 7.5 hours below water! Tragically, debt forced the scrapping of the Ictineo II before it ever saved any lives.

How Do I Visit The Ictineo II?

Taking the time to visit this replica of the world’s first submarine is definitely something you should do when in Barcelona. This great engineering achievement is a sight to behold, especially to those interested in the history behind it.

While it’s not one of the most visited monuments in Spain, it’s still really cool!


Here are all the details you’ll need to know:

Address: Moll d’Espanya, del Port Vell, 08039 Barcelona, Spain

Public transport route: subway line 4: Barceloneta

Time required: around 20 minutes

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