During World War II, the German navy adopted a device called a Schnorchel, which was a tube that could be extended above the ocean’s surface by a submerged submarine, allowing the submarine to draw in fresh air without surfacing. In 1952, Sheaffer’s Snorkel TM appeared on the market, superseding the very successful Touchdown TM line. (Sheaffer retired the TM trademark, meaning “Thin Model,” shortly after introducing the Snorkel.) Filling the pen uses a tube like a Schnorchel, but in reverse; the pen’s tube allows the pen to draw in ink without the nib being immersed into the ink. The most complex filling system ever applied to a fountain pen, the Touchdown-derived Snorkel system was a last-ditch attempt to fight the onslaught of the ballpoint pen, whose great advantage lay in its convenience: no “dunk” filling, reliable writing, and a long write-out.
The material used for the Snorkel’s plastic parts was a relatively new plastic called Bakelite C-11. This was not the original Bakelite, a thermosetting phenolic plastic, but rather a styrene-acrylonitrile copolymer developed by Union Carbide, which at that time owned the Bakelite Corporation.
There are no less than 14 different Snorkel models, from bargain-priced to solid gold and even a clear demonstrator, at least 15 different colors plus 4 all-metal models, and both palladium and 14K nibs, both open and wrap-around “Triumph.” Collecting every model in each color offered for that model can be very exciting! Stub, broad, flexible and even music nibs can be found, although each is quite rare. Here’s a hyperlink to the original Sheaffer Snorkel filling instructions: View Snorkel filling instructions
[Most of the above was adapted from Richard Binder’s website, www.richardspens.com (thank you, Richard)].