The Story of How the Tsarina Got White Orchids From a Submarine

Stefan Drzewiecki (1846-1938) was a Polish inventor and engineer who is considered one of the pioneers of submarine construction. He is best known for his invention of the world's first electrically powered submarine, the Stenop.

The beginnings of his submarine career were extraordinary. At that time, Poland was divided between three neighboring countries and Drzewiecki was a subject of Russia. In March 1880, the inventor's work on the submarine was reported to the heir to the Russian throne, Alexander III, who was very interested and wanted to see the invention. At that time, Stefan Drzewiecki was trying to raise more funds for the research and development of the "underwater apparatus". He decided to seize the opportunity.

On the 23rd of June 1880, a historic demonstration of the vessel took place in the waters of the Silver Lake in Gatchin. The future Tsar and Tsarina sailed by boat to the centre of the lake, famous for the transparency of its waters, and from there they watched a miniature submarine perform underwater manoeuvres, sometimes even passing under the bottom of the prince's boat.

It looked like a very promising weapon, but the inventor was not just trying to impress the future imperator, whose military ambitions were very high.

As the submerged boat made its way to the harbor, Drzewiecki opened the hatch, stepped out onto the platform, knelt before Alexander's wife, and presented her with a magnificent bouquet of white orchids. Catherine Dolgorukova melted at his compliments.

This was only the beginning of Drzewiecki's successful path as an inventor. We will never know which half of the royal couple was more willing to support his future career. But it was certainly worth sharing the tiny space of the submarine with a bouquet of flowers. The following year, Alexander III took the throne as Tsar, and being in his good graces was crucial to raising future funds.