The Argonaut Jr., a wooden, 141⁄2-foot long copy of Simon Lake's 1894 submarine, was created by Tulsa couple Doug and Kay Jackson with several friends for five recent exploratory dives at Lake Tenkiller's Strayhorn Landing. "AJ," as "she" often is called by the Jacksons, is now available as an educational tool for area schoolchildren.
"The Argonaut Jr. will be available for schools to show how dives are done and how submarines are built and how they operate," said Kay Jackson, 50. "Schools won't be taking the submarine in the water, but they can use her as a demonstration to show what all goes into creating and maneuvering one."
Made of quarter-inch plywood, steel rings and other materials, the Argonaut Jr. will be featured in the October issue of Popular Science magazine. She is based on the engineering vision of Simon Lake, a forefather of the U.S. submarine fleet, and weighs about 2,600 pounds when she is free of her lead weights. The lead weights alone weigh about 5 tons.
The submarine stands about 8 feet tall, Kay Jackson said. Inside the Argonaut Jr. are four scuba tanks and PC piping that allow the movement of water to different inside tanks, she said.
"In a couple months, we'll have curriculum available to go along with the submarine for school districts," said Kay Jackson, who was a teacher for 20 years in Oklahoma, New Mexico and South America, among other areas. "She's really easy to pull. You can pull her with a Suburban when the lead is out."
During the Argonaut Jr.'s recent dives at Lake Tenkiller, the Jacksons and their friends experienced excitement, although no real lost treasures were discovered on the lake's rocky floor.
"We mostly saw through the bottom, diver's hatch, and it was mainly rocks," Kay Jackson said before laughing. "We did find a piece of our own equipment that drifted away from us and sank. We didn't find any old shoes or fishing reels, though. It was a pretty clean area."
The idea to create the Argonaut Jr. happened when Doug Jackson, 49, built a submarine in 2003. Kay said she and Doug later decided to build the Argonaut, just "to prove that it would work."
"We thought, well, why not try it?" she said. "We wanted to do it to prove that it worked in 1894 and it can work again today, and it's been a lot of fun."
"I learned more about submarines in the eight months building and diving the Argonaut Jr. than I would have learned in eight years sitting in a classroom," Doug Jackson added.
The project was so exciting that the Jacksons have decided to build a 74-foot sailboat, which is expected to take eight years to build.
"We'll take the sailboat all the way down to New Orleans," she said. "There's only one bridge that isn't tall enough for us to sail under with the masts high, and that's a bridge in Little Rock.
"What you do in that situation is, you have the boat go in at an angle, so it can go under the bridge safely," Kay Jackson added. "We're calling that sailboat our retirement/vacation project. We are hoping that we can finish it in eight years."
School officials interested in having the Argonaut Jr. available for demonstrations and lessons can call Kay Jackson at (918) 510-1178.
For information, visit www.argonautjr.com.