Dive Deep: 50 Incredible Facts About Submarines

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26 Ohio-Class Sub Nuclear Capability

Ohio-Class Sub Nuclear Capability

A single U.S. Navy Ohio-class submarine can launch 240 nuclear warheads, each equivalent to 30 Hiroshima bombs.


27. In 1998, a South Korean fishing net literally trapped a North Korean espionage submarine. As the South Korean navy was towing it to port, the sub sank. When the nine-member crew was salvaged, five were found executed and four had committed suicide.


28. In 2003, when fishermen spotted a periscope above the surface, they discovered the Chinese Ming III-class submarine Changcheng 361 adrift. They found all 70 of the crew members dead. An investigation revealed that the submarine’s diesel engine had used up all available oxygen. The crew, slumped over at their stations, appeared to have died before becoming aware of any issue.


29. The first nuclear submarine used wooden bearings for its propeller. Lignum vitae is the hardest traded wood, the fourth hardest wood ever discovered, and is “self-oiling.”


30. A Japanese submarine shelled California during World War II, and the commander directed his gun to fire at a spot where he had an embarrassing fall before the war.


31 Gotland Outsmarts US Navy

Gotland Outsmarts US Navy

During the 2005 war games, the Swedish submarine HSMS Gotland was able to sneak through the sonar defenses of the US Navy Aircraft Carrier Ronald Reagan and its entire accompanying group. After virtually sinking the US aircraft carrier on its own, the Gotland managed to escape undetected.


32. The Confederate submarine CSS Hunley sank three times, killing her entire crew each time.


33. During World War II, the US submarine USS Wahoo narrowed down vague coordinates and eventually found a Japanese supply base by using a school atlas that one of its crew members bought in Australia for his children back home.


34. In 1959, the USS Barbero submarine fired a nuclear-capable cruise missile carrying 3,000 letters toward a naval base in Mayport, Florida, as part of the Post Office Department’s plan to test the capabilities of ‘missile mail.’


35. The HMS Conqueror submarine stole a passive sonar array from a Soviet ship in 1982. The sub used mechanical pincers mounted on its bow to cut the cable, creating the illusion that it had snagged on terrain. Despite being just feet away from the ship, no one detected her.


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36 Reindeer Aboard HMS Trident

Reindeer Aboard HMS Trident

During World War II, the British submarine HMS Trident had a reindeer doe named Pollyanna onboard. An unexpected gift from the Soviet Union, Pollyanna reportedly adapted well to life onboard, ate several maps, and eventually survived the war to live out the rest of her life in a British zoo.


37. The UK has four nuclear submarines as a nuclear deterrent, each with an identical “letter of last resort.” These letters contain orders from the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom should the government collapse due to a nuclear attack. When a new PM assumes office, they destroy the unopened letters, leaving the PM with only four options to choose from.


38. In a fatal submarine accident in 1963, the nuclear submarine USS Thresher (SSN-593) sank to 610 m (2,000 ft), imploding in 0.1 seconds and killing all 128 crew members. Theoretically, the sub lost power during a failed deep dive test, causing its vital ballast systems to freeze and rendering the ship unusable.


39. USS Tang was one of the most successful submarines in World War II but accidentally sank itself with its own torpedo.


40. On the night of July 22-23, 1945, USN Commander Eugene Fluckey sent a shore party from his submarine, the USS Barb (SS-220), to sabotage a railroad. The raiders became the only Allied force to invade mainland Japan in the war, and the Barb became the only sub in history with a confirmed kill on a train.


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41 HMS Thetis Escape Chamber Panic

HMS Thetis Escape Chamber Panic

During the sea trials of HMS Thetis in 1939, the inner hatch of a torpedo tube opened simultaneously with the outer hatch to the sea. As it began to sink, the submarine’s escape chamber saved four lives, but the fifth person panicked when using it, dooming all 98 others aboard.


42. USS Bowfin is the only submarine ever to sink a bus with a torpedo.


43. USS Triton (SSRN/SSN-586) was the first vessel to execute a submerged circumnavigation of the Earth (Operation Sandblast) in the early 1960s.


44. In January 2005, the US Navy submarine USS San Francisco, traveling at full speed under 525 feet of water, hit an uncharted undersea mount, resulting in one death and many injuries.


45. Submarine sonar is not a “ping” like in movies and games, but it is extremely loud and can kill people and sea life.


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46 Canadian Sub Fire Incident

Canadian Sub Fire Incident

In 2004, a Canadian Victoria-class submarine caught fire because water splashed into an open hatch.


47. Japanese I-400-class submarines, which were active during World War II, were designed to surface, launch their planes, and quickly dive again before being discovered.


48. The Vanguard-class submarine, which forms the UK’s nuclear deterrent, runs on a version of Windows XP called Windows Submarine.


49. Modern military submarines have a rescue buoy that is released during an emergency and remains attached to the submarine by a cable. Once on the surface, it can inform rescuers of the submarine’s position and may include a telephone for communication with the trapped submariners.


50. Submarines dispose of trash using specially perforated metal cylinders, ensuring that the refuse sinks quietly to the bottom of the ocean.


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