Dive Deep: 50 Incredible Facts About Submarines

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1Spain’s Expensive Submarine Error

Spain’s Expensive Submarine Error

Spain's S-80 submarine program designed submersibles that were 70 tons too heavy and likely to sink when submerged. In 2013, the anticipated cost overruns to fix it reached $9 billion. An engineer misplaced a decimal point, causing the problem and earning the title of the most expensive math error ever.


2. In 1921, the US submarine USS R-14 ran out of fuel about 190 kilometers from Hawaii while searching for a lost tugboat. The submarine had a week's worth of rations on board and no radio communication. The crew rigged up blankets to make a sail, and the submarine successfully sailed to Hawaii in a couple of days.


3. U.S. billionaire Howard Hughes built a $350 million drillship in the early 1970s to collect "mineral riches" from the ocean floor, but it was actually a cover for the CIA. It was used to lift a lost Soviet submarine loaded with nuclear missiles from the Pacific Ocean floor, 3 miles deep.


4. In 2001, the U.S. Navy submarine USS Greeneville performed an emergency ballast blow maneuver to impress civilians onboard. It surfaced at high speed directly under a Japanese ship, cutting it in half and killing nine people on board.


5. Drug smugglers build small submarines deep in the Colombian jungle, capable of transporting over $400 million worth of drugs. They are nearly impossible to detect, and prior to 2006, the U.S. Coast Guard called these "Bigfoot," thinking their existence was only a rumor.


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6USS Miami Fire Decommissioned

USS Miami Fire Decommissioned

A civilian on the USS Miami submarine in 2012 started a fire in an attempt to leave early, which quickly spiraled out of control and led to the submarine's decommissioning. The court sentenced him to 17 years in federal prison and ordered him to pay $400 million in restitution.


7. In 1942, German submarines sank a British passenger ship. They surfaced to collect survivors, announced their presence to the Allies, and sailed under a Red Cross flag. Allied planes attacked the U-boats, forcing the submarines to dump all the survivors back into the sea and crash-dive.


8. In 2009, due to the exceptional cloaking of modern nuclear submarines, French and British nuclear ballistic missile submarines collided in the Atlantic Ocean by pure accident. Moving very slowly, just feet apart, they were unable to detect each other.


9. The UK Royal Navy's Astute-class nuclear-powered submarines can purify their own air and water and run on nuclear fuel, limiting their endurance to only 90 days due to breakfast storage capacity for 18,000 sausages and 4,200 Weetabix.


10. A British nuclear submarine checks whether BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting to see whether the government is still functioning.


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11ARA San Juan Disappearance Noise

ARA San Juan Disappearance Noise

When the ARA San Juan submarine disappeared in 2017, initial search crews detected a banging noise at the search site, similar to tools hitting metal. The audio analysis revealed that the sound did not originate from the submarine but was most likely from a biological source.


12. In 1969, the USS Chopper submarine suffered an electrical failure while diving, causing it to point nearly vertically downward and almost reach crushing depth. During the crew's efforts to regain control, the submarine eventually shot up, nose-up, nearly completely out of the water.


13. During World War II, the U.S. submarine Archerfish sank the Japanese aircraft carrier Shinano, but the U.S. Navy did not believe it had actually sunk a carrier until the acting commander drew a picture of the carrier.


14. In 1995, a Russian nuclear submarine base had its electricity cut by an electricity company due to unpaid bills. One of the submarine's cooling systems ceased to function, and its reactor came close to meltdown.


15. No U.S. Navy submarine is ever considered "lost" if it does not return. It is considered to be "still on patrol."


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16Nazi Submarine Toilet Mishap

Nazi Submarine Toilet Mishap

During World War II, a Nazi sailor flushed his toilet incorrectly, causing his submarine to flood with seawater. The sub was forced to surface in view of the British forces, who then attacked, resulting in the vessel's destruction, four Nazi deaths, and 46 Nazis being captured.


17. In 1968, the US nuclear submarine USS Scorpion sank in deep water, and it is still resting at a known location at the bottom of the sea. We've never recovered the nuclear reactor or nuclear weapons. In fact, in 1968, four submarines sank mysteriously. In January, an Israeli sub vanished, and four days later, a French sub vanished without a trace. In March, a Soviet submarine exploded and sank, and in May, the USS Scorpion also exploded and sank-both causes remain officially unknown.


18. The German submarine U-505 was secretly captured by the U.S. Navy on June 4, 1944, by Task Group 22.3. The crew attempted to scuttle it, but a U.S. 8-man boarding party rushed inside, keeping it afloat for a 3,150-kilometer tow back to Bermuda. Until after the war, they kept the ship's capture a secret.


19. In September 1978, a 15-cent paint scraper jammed the loading piston in the cylinder of the US nuclear submarine USS Swordfish's torpedo launcher. Divers failed to free the piston, leading to the sub's drydocking and repair at a staggering cost of $171,000.


20. The Pentagon freaked out in the 1980s when they realized Finland had, against their expectations, managed to build two Mir submarines capable of diving to 6,000 meters. They went on to shut down the entire Finnish submarine industry by privately threatening the country with heavy sanctions.


21Noisy Collins Class Solution

Noisy Collins Class Solution

Australia's entire submarine fleet, the Collins Class, was unfortunately way too noisy underwater until the next-door neighbor of the submarine base met the fleet commander and sketched a design on the whiteboard that was subsequently retrofitted across the fleet.


22. The Soviet Navy Whiskey-class submarine S-363 ran aground on October 27, 1981, on the south coast of Sweden, approximately 10 km from Karlskrona, one of the largest Swedish naval bases. This incident sparked an international incident, often referred to as the Whiskey on the Rocks incident.


23. When Berlin fell at the end of World War II, two Nazi submarines refused to surrender and were instead submerged for two months before landing in Argentina. There are reports that one of the submarines offloaded a Nazi officer prior to detection.


24. During World War II, Allied submarines would lie on beds of pistol shrimp. The shrimp's loud snapping sound prevented Japanese sonar from picking up the submarines.


25. Soviet-designed Typhoon-class submarines had a swimming pool and a sauna on board, along with other luxury features like a full gym and wood-paneled walls.

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