Due to its ideal geographical position and the sea depth level, the City of Rijeka became a powerful industrial centre as early as the 19th century. It drew worldwide interest in the 1870-ies being the birthplace of the first Torpedo Launching Station. Today, it stands as a protected monument to the industrial heritage, displaying immense technological and innovative value. Rijeka’s TLS, was soon followed by many others around the world, built on lake shores and sea shores alike.
If you sail frequently or you just found yourself on a touristic yacht trip through the western coast of Rijeka, you have the privilege of a seaside view of Rijeka’s TLS, the first of its kind in the world. You can approach the station from land as well, by docking in a small port located just around 50 meters from the TLS. If you decide to investigate the site from land you need to be very cautious and under no condition should you enter the launching station since it has deteriorated to a nearly ruinous state.
How did it All Start?
Giovanni Luppis, also known as Salvacoste – ‘the coastsaver’, envisioned a defensive weapon against enemy ships and in that way he initiated the invention of the torpedo. Robert Whitehead, the manager of Rijeka’s technical department, changed Luppis’ concept and developed a self-propelled locomotive torpedo prototype which was tested in 1866. By the time of the test launching in 1868, he invented a launch barrel which was built in the Austrian gunship ‘Gemse’, which made ‘Gemse’ the first ship with torpedoes in the world. Rijeka’s TLS was continuously being tested in the period between the years 1875 and 1877. Later, at the same location, more modern launch stations were built and so in 1935 the last TLS construction took place giving birth to the launch station we can see today. The TLS now has the shape of the last reconstruction that took place after WW2.
Further Developments of the Torpedo
After the initial torpedo production it was necessary to hold numerous launching tests in order to reach the maximum technical accuracy and efficiency. The most important devices on the launch station were the launching tubes, engines used for firing the torpedo, the gyroscope and the depth regulator for controlling the torpedo launching route. All the torpedoes produced in Rijeka had to go through a test launch, after which they would be returned to the factory for additional processing and re-launching as many times as it was necessary to fulfill all the required specifications of the customer.
Torpedo Launch Stations around the World
After the first shipment of Rijeka’s torpedoes to the Austro-Hungarian Navy, the licenses for the production and distribution of torpedoes were requested by Germany, France, Suedo-Norwegian Union, Russia, Denmark, Turkey, England, Portugal and many others. Many similar launching objects were built around the world for the purpose of holding training courses for handling torpedoes and to reach the optimal launching results (today 43 such objects are known). These objects are called ‘sea cathedrals’ due to their monumental built, characteristic positioning and historic value. At that time the torpedo, regally stood as a symbol of highest achievements of technology.
Rijeka’s launch station is a monument representing unique technology that marked the 19th and 20th century. It is also a listed cultural monument, noted on the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH). If your sails start humming the municipal anthem ‘My Dearest Rijeka’ (Najdraža Rijeko) drop your anchor for a moment, near Rijeka’s western industrial sector, close to the ‘3. Maj’ shipyard. Take this time to get acquainted with the first torpedo launch station in the world, that will, hopefully, soon be refurbished and open to public in its full cultural, historical, industrial, technological and touristic capacity. Whether you’re a ‘torpedoist’ or just an all-round tourist, whether you’re drawn to Rijeka’s daily allure or it’s the nocturnal offer that beckons you, it’s very simple! As soon as you pass the torpedo launching ramp, you will find yourself on the route to a modern day port of Rijeka where you can moor your yacht overnight, and from there, set out on a nocturnal fun time quest or a pleasant daytime stroll along Korzo. Either way, Enjoy!