Asherah (submarine)

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BuilderGeneral Dynamics, Groton, Connecticut
General characteristics
Test depth600 feet (180 m)

Asherah was the first commercially built American research submersible, owned by the University of Pennsylvania and used by archaeologist George F. Bass to examine underwater sites.[1][2] It was named after Asherah, an ancient Semitic goddess known as "she who treads on the sea".[3]

The two-person submarine was commissioned in 1963, built by the Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics in Groton, Connecticut, and launched on May 28, 1964. Asherah was 16 feet long, weighed 4.5 tons, and could move at up to 4 knots, powered by rechargeable batteries. She could dive to a depth of 600 feet (180 m). [4]

Asherah was used to search for and map wrecks. She was also used to develop a new system of stereoscopy, allowing an excavation site to be mapped in three dimensions,[5] and allowed Bass to become the first to use side-scanning sonar to locate a shipwreck.[6]

In 1967, under Bass' direction, Asherah was used to photograph an ancient Byzantine shipwreck at a depth of 285 feet near Yassi Ada island, off the coast of Turkey.[7]

While Asherah proved useful for identifying and mapping wrecks, a lack of navigation equipment, limited visibility from six portholes, and complex operation limited her overall usefulness. This, coupled with an insurance premium that approached $10,000 in 1969, led to her sale by the University of Pennsylvania that year and the end of her use by Bass.[8]


  1. ^ "George F. Bass". Institute of Nautical Archaeology. 2012. Archived from the original on 2 February 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  2. ^ Bass, George F. (2012). "Archaeology Under Water". Institute of Nautical Archaeology. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  3. ^ In Ugarit is mentioned: ʼaṯrt ym, rabat ʼAṯirat yammi, 'Lady Athirat of the Sea'.
  4. ^ Bass, George (1975). Archaeology Beneath the Sea. Walker and Company. pp. 113–114. ISBN 0802704778.
  5. ^ "Expedition Magazine - Penn Museum". Retrieved 2023-04-30.
  6. ^ Keiger, Dale (April 1997). "The Underwater World of George Bass". Johns Hopkins Magazine. Retrieved 19 January 2012.
  7. ^ "Expedition Magazine - Penn Museum".
  8. ^ Bass, George F. (1977-01-01). "1977_The Asherah -A Pioneer in Search of the Past". R.A. Geyer, Ed., SUBMERSIBLES AND THEIR USE IN OCEANOGRAPHY AND OCEAN ENGINEERING. doi:10.1016/S0422-9894(08)71201-7.