Amazing Submarine Concepts

"QUANTUM SHOT" #430(rev)
Link - article by Avi Abrams

Some of them should just be painted yellow

Made for warfare, exploration and sometimes just for sheer national pride, (let's see who's got the biggest) submarines can be both a technological wonder and an ultimate nemesis, especially 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

These suits could be the next best thing to steam robots in Victorian technology and a clear inspiration behind Jules Verne's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea". This
apparatus is the Carmagnolle brothers' atmospheric diving suit from 1882. Note the rolling convolute joints and the hoist-frame. At 380 Kgs (that's before you add a rather sturdy human), how else would they get this monster in and out of the sea? This suit is housed in the Museé Marin, Paris (more info)

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

This lighter-weight model, which requires added ballast, is from the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco:

(image credit: Avi Abrams)

Not a robot, but definitely looks like one:

Chester E. Macduffee next to his newly patented, 250 kilo diving suit. 1911,via

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:

In 2007 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 its' main purpose 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 number
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 - a deadly menace lurking under the universal cover of secrecy. Truly, Stalin should've entered the submarine design business instead of killing millions. Maybe it would have been somewhat 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):

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" is equipped with 16 Bulava ballistic missiles:

(images credit: RIA Novosti)

Giant Futuristic Submarines

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

"The Iron Whale" (1933) - a monster child of pre-war German engineer Herr Schiff. This "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)

Here is another German futuristic vision from the Cold War era, still gargantuan in its scale:

(image credit: Retro-futurismus)

(image credit: Radebaugh)

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)

However, some weirder ideas definitely were not meant to be realized:

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

A Mystery Spaceship?

This puzzle has been printed in 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 feet high...longer than the perspective itself can 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 the power to intimidate. Just lose the antenna and upgrade the house to some nice Californian suburb.

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend.



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Anonymous Anonymous said...

RE: the leaping dolphin sub, I vaguely remember reading some old - 80's? - british comics about a boy who's inventor father made one for him - articulated tail and all, but can't find any details...

Blogger John Price said...

The stories were in "the Beano" and were about Danny and Penny Gray who owned a red mechanical swordfish two seater submarine called "The Iron Fish" , which was also the name of the stories.It was out in the 1960s when I first read them as a wee boy and I thought they were great . In later years the two seater was replaced by two single seat swordfish so that Danny and Penny could have one each .These new subs also had the ability to fly as welland I think could be operated by remote control .The series was rewritten in the 80s in a comic called "Buddy" with a similar Iron Fish sub and just a single guy called Danny Boyle I seem to remember .


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