The Malentendu logo is inspired by the flying fish, an ambiguous creature of nature, which is equipped with an urgency dependent, hyper-energetic system of propulsion. It swims when at ease and flies –or rather runs- when in haste. Its name and its ambiguous nature led to the perfect Malentendu of history. In biology and in the French language, flying fish is known as “Exocet”. During the 1982 Falklands’ conflict the Argentine Navy fired French made “Exocet” missiles, which true to the beast’s nature were speeding at their British targets like airborne torpedoes. For a moment the Exocets were recognized as Friendly Fire, certainly one of the deadliest of misunderstandings. HMS Sheffield went down with one flying fish in its belly. Apart from the tragic consequences, the killing of ships by counter ships is also a law of nature, given the fact that ships and torpedoes are cousins, originally invented and built by the same creator.

Robert Fulton (1765-1815), well known for his first American steamboat, was born in America and had trained himself first as jeweler, miniature painter and hair worker and then as –marine-engineer. His research resulted in 1796 in the Treatise on the Improvement of Canal Navigation. However, since canal navigation in the days of warfare against the British was not of imminent interest, Fulton turned to more drastic ways of navigation. After his arrival in France in 1797 he started work on what should have become his second most famous invention: The Torpedo. Tests were carried out in 1805 with great public interest. The London Picture Magazine recalled: “the first explosion of a torpedo occurred in the year 1805. The inventor was Robert Foulton (sic!). The experiment was carried out on the 15th of October, 1805, in the presence of Mr.Pitt, then Prime Minister, in the Bay of Walmer, about a mile from Walmer Castle, which was then Mr.Pitt’s residence. The ship which served for the purpose was a 200 ton Danish brig, the “Dorothee”. At 4.40 p.m. the torpedo was launched , and eighteen minutes after the ship was seen to be lifted, in the midst of an enormous column of water, 6ft. above the surface, and blown in two. Twenty seconds later nothing could be seen of her but a few floating timbers.” (Illustration) Yet, although tests had proven successful, the project was abandoned. In the mean time Fulton had travelled to Scotland where he saw the first boat driven by a steam engine, at Dalswinton Loch, Dumfriesshire, made by Patrick Miller in October 1788.

Fulton started to design his own version of the steamboat which made its trial run on the Hudson River August 9, 1807, followed by the historical 150 mile opening trip of the New York Albany line. It was an unusual but not illogical equation that Fulton, before he set out to deploy steamboats in his native America, had devised a means to destroy them.

In truly demiurgical wisdom, Fulton provided his steamboat with its destroying agent: the torpedo, an emergency break of pitiless efficiency in case the thing would run out of control.

 

“The First Torpedo.” Robert Fulton’s torpedo hits the brig “Dorothee”, 15 October 1805. From: The Picture Magazine, January to June 1894, p.174  Thomas A P Van Leeuwen