Some of them should just be painted yellow

Made for warfare, exploration and sometimes for sheer national pride (let's see who's got the bigger boomer) submarines can be both a technological wonder and an ultimate nemesis (when stuffed with nuclear weapons capable of destroying Earth 10 times over). Here are some of the most interesting sub concepts in history:

Old Underwater Diving Suits

Next best thing to steam robots in Victorian technology and a clear inspiration behind Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". This one is from the Museé Marin, Paris (The Carmagnolle brothers' atmospheric diving suit from 1882 with rolling convolute joints, more info) -

(images credit: Sam /TudoAzul and Vincent Roc Roussey)

And this one is from the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco:

(image credit: Avi Abrams)

Not a robot, but definitely looks like one:

One of the earliest dive boats by Wilhelm Bauer (1852):

(image credit: Deutsches Museum)

Rather more antique is the "Turtle" - an invention by Ezra Bushnell from 1752:

Last year New York artist Philip "Duke" Riley created a replica of it - and proceeded to test it around Rhode Island. It did descend to 200 meters, but the adventurers later were stopped by police for doing it without authorization at the Red Hook Brooklyn cruise ship terminal.

World War II sub curiosities

We will start with rarely-seen and interestingly shaped Nazi U-Boats. Yes, one of them looks like a shoe, but who cared about that as long as its specs were great?

UPDATE: "This is the rarely known VS-5, an experimental prototype of a mostly-submerged vessel. It could not dive, but was to test an experimental hydrodynamic hull shape. Possible applications would have been as a motor torpedo boat, but the German navy wasn't even interested in the prototype." (thanks, JGCR)

World War II spawned even stranger ideas in military submarine technology. Here is the legendary I-400...

Japanese Sub Plane Launcher:

These were the giant submarine aircraft carriers, complete with a launching catapult and three planes, plus a good deal of torpedoes. It had enough fuel to go around the world 1.5 times... and it was the biggest underwater boat ever made (before the advent of nuclear submarines).

Russian Subs Lurking in Deep Waters

Huge, dark, bloated shapes were swimming in the minds of Soviet sub boat designers during Stalin's era. Look at some of the concepts below - they seem to illustrate the very spirit of the times: deadly menace lurking under the universal cover of secrecy. Truly, Stalin should've entered the submarine design business instead of killing millions - maybe it could have proved therapeutic to his dark soul.

The dream of crossing the North pole beneath the Arctic ice cap was first realized in 1958. K-19 was the first Soviet nuclear submarine, and the first Soviet sub to reach the North Pole (earning a nickname of "Hiroshima", or "Widowmaker" because of the frequent fire and radiation leak accidents)

As recent as July 2007, a Russian nuclear sub planted a flag on the seabed at the North Pole, effectively saying to the world "the Arctic is Russian". Read the full story here.

Here is a historical line-up of Russian / Soviet Navy Fleet submarines, starting from the World War I "Bars"-class (1915) and ending with the first nuclear sub series (more info) -

(image credit: N. Rozhoi, TM)

First Russian ballistic missiles nuclear submarines were called Hotel-class:

As the Cold war progressed they were getting bigger and deadlier:

The newest Borei-class submarine "Yury Dolgoruki" was recently launched in Russia - equipped with 16 Bulava ballistic missiles. Two more boats of this class are on the way:

(images credit: RIA Novosti)

Giant Futuristic Submarines

Frank Herbert (highly-praised author of "Dune" and also of the top-notch submarine thriller "Under Pressure" - see review) would have loved this one:

In terms of sheer size, this concept from Bohn Aluminum & Brass Corp. (from the 40s) clearly wins:

"The Iron Whale" (1933) - a monster child of pre-war German engineer Herr Schiff. The Star Wars-kind of sea monster even comes equipped with electric eyes in front and a flexible tail... -

(image credit: Modern Mechanix)

Try this one for size: an underwater hotel and cruise ship from the 1950s (a Russian concept) -

(image credit: TM, Russia)

Another German futuristic vision from the Cold War era: still gargantuan in its scale -

(image credit: Retro-futurismus)

(image credit: Radebaugh)

Modern submarines can be intimidating too. To really appreciate their size, check out this photo of transporting a part of nuclear sub to another base across land:

Micro-submarines of the future

Remember this wonderful little submarine from the quintessential steampunk art book "Dinotopia: The World Beneath"?

(art by: James Gurney "Dinotopia")

Well, outside of imaginary Victorian technology, the concepts for personal underwater transport started to appear 'en masse' in the early 1960s - already looking very streamlined in Russian magazines:

(image credit: TM, Russia)

This seems to be a precursor to modern Innespace "Breacher" and "Dolphin" personal subs (see below). Also don't miss our article about submersible concepts of Guillermo Sureda-Burgos.

(image credit: Innespace)

Though some weirder ideas definitely were not meant to be realized:

A few micro-submarines have been built as do-it-yourself projects. Mikhail Puchkov' model navigates various Russian rivers since 1988 - spooking the local KGB authorities:

And Michael Henrik Schmelter from Germany created "2Dive": a two-person boat capable of diving down to 100 meters.

(images credit: Spiegel)

A Mystery Spaceship?

This puzzle was offered inside a vintage issue of Modern Mechanics:
"Would you say that this queer-looking contraption was a jet-propelled life raft, a plane fuselage flying without wings, or some other super-secret, odd invention just released for public view?"

(image credit: Modern Mechanix)

Yep. Just turn it upside down and you'll see that it's a submarine's conning tower.

And we finish with the stuff of nightmares:

A Submarine-Land Dreadnaught (1924)

Eight hundred foot high... longer than the perspective itself could reveal... Luckily this did not go beyond the painting on the cover of Hugo Gernsback's groundbreaking "Science & Invention" magazine. But Hayao Miyazaki probably had a similar dream / nightmare, bringing a few steam Goliaths to the big screen. Even today this picture has power to intimidate. Just lose the antenna and upgrade the house to some nice Californian suburb.

Also Read: "Flying Submarines!", Ekranoplans Showcase

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Did some of the pictures not come through? Looks like we are missing a few -

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Google Picasa, where images are hosted, crashed. I rehosted them on flickr, should show up now. Thank you for the heads up.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

For pure unadulterated submarine fun, check out:

This guy is for real and doing some amazing stuff...

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice collection of submarines. But I myself would never go into a submarine. I'm too scared of crashing underwater and being trapped in a submarine.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

the "Nazi Sub" (subs don't extend their right arm;)) is not a submarine...
It is the rarely known VS-5, an experimental prototype of a mostly-submerged vessel. It could not dive, but was to test an experimental hydrodynamic hull shape.
Possible applications would have been as a motor torpedo boat, but the german navy wasn't even interested in the prototype.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Big Daddy from Bioshock looks a lot like the first diving suit.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone should tell Mikhail Puchkov that in Soviet Russia, KGB authorities spook you.

Blogger alvarhillo said...

I like all about old submarines. I sen you a web page about a spanish XIX century submarine improoved in my city in 1860.
I hope you like it.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

JGCR - awesome info, thank you, updated.

Jerome - that was funny.

Alvarillo - thank you, it'll go in next issue.

Blogger Unknown said...

your Bohn Aluminum & Brass Corp sub is in fact a drawning of a Bel Geddes Ocean line design, or inspired by same.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"As the Cold war progressed they were getting bigger and deadlier", these 2 Russian submarines are the O.S.C.A.R class, built in Sevmash Shipyards, about 50 miles away from Arcangel.

The Kursk was an O.S.C.A.R class sub.

Blogger Unknown said...

The first Soviet nuclear sub wasn't K-19 (it was third). First was K-3, and it lived mostly uneventful life. Also, there's only one Oscar-class sub. The one near the beach is Typhoon/Akula-class, AKA Project 941 -- the biggest subs ever built.

Blogger Avi Abrams said...

Khathi - great info... love your comments.

Blogger Junk Monkey said...

Those dolphin subs immediately reminded me of a comic from my youth:


Blogger Tommosso de Amalfi said...

Do Google "British K class submarine" for information about a class of WW I submarines powered by steam turbines. They belong in this list.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The first Soviet nuclear submarine K-3 "Leninsky Komsomol".
Learn REAL history, frend =) Not only in merican movie.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, the Bohn design is a streamlined surface liner/cruise ship.


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