Submarines represent the pinnacle of underwater wartime technology. They are large, crewed vessels which in some cases can also be remotely operated. Design and construction attempts started in the 19th century and they played a vital role in World War I, World War II and The Cold War. They were used to attack merchant and military surface ships and other submarines. The could also protect aircraft carriers. Their functions included blockade running, reconnaissance and covert insertion of special forces. Beyond their wartime capabilities, subs are also used in marine science operations, tourism and undersea archaeology.
Council of American Maritime Museums
Due to the nature of the way they’re built and used, recovery of sunken or abandoned subs can be extremely difficult. The remains of some of these vessels can be found all over world. This article features lost and forgotten subs, bases, pens and docks. Some are genuinely haunting while others have been turned into museums and tourist sites. Stick around until the end to learn about subs that weren’t abandoned, but seized by the government for illegal activity. There is also information about a controversial hoax involving the supposed recovery of a Nazi sub in American waters...
This World War II submarine is abandoned in New Jersey’s Hackensack River. It’s a 2,500 ton, 312 foot long Balao-class sub named after the ling fish, also known as the cobia. The Navy gave it to a group of local veterans in the early ‘70s and it has been docked at the New Jersey Naval Museum ever since. The sub was battered by Hurricane Sandy is 2012. It is currently inaccessible to the public and is threatened by a luxury development project. Many want to restore it but can’t seem to find the funds to do so.
The ship was launched in 1943 and commissioned in 1945 with Commander George Garvie Molumphy in command. It was built to face German U-boats but never actually saw combat. As a result it is the only remaining high-speed submarine from WWII. It went from the Naval Submarine Base New London in Connecticut to the Panama Canal Zone but was eventually decommissioned and added to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet and moved to the Brooklyn Naval Yard in Brooklyn, New York where it was used for training. It has since received a battle star for its service.
This VIIC Nazi U-boat was an upgrade from its predecessor and by far the most common of German’s fleet at the time. It started its journey in 1942 when it was assigned to the Wolfpack, which was made up of a dozen boats meant to patrol the convoy routes just west of Rockall Scotland. It eventually made its way to the U.S., specifically North Carolina, where it attempted to sink the Swedish ship SS Freden. It was unsuccessful and later spotted by patrolling aircraft but escaped unscathed. Although its luck would soon run out...
Later that year it fired two torpedoes at what was mistaken for a merchant vessel it had been searching for. Unfortunately for the U-352 the target ended up being Icarus, a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter. A fierce battle ensued that ended in the sinking of the Nazi ship. It was lost until a few years later when it was located by a history fanatic and a group of divers. A decade later Olympus, the company responsible for finding the sub, hosted a reunion of the battle’s survivors. Many of the artifacts have been recovered and preserved and are on permanent museum display.
Above is one of two midget submarines corroding on the east coast of Scotland. These XT class vessels were built by Vickers-Armstrong Limited in the early ‘40s and used in training. The men were preparing for an incredibly dangerous mission during World War II. After crippling Germany’s Tirpitz battleship, they were moored in the bay and used for military target practice.
Project 651 was a class of Soviet diesel-electric submarines armed with cruise missiles. This was also known by its NATO reporting name of Juliett-class. The K-77 was launched in 1965 as a part of the Northern Fleet. It was later used as the set of the Harrison Ford movie K-19: The Widowmaker. Afterwords it became a museum before sinking during as storm. It spent its final days docked in Rhode Island.
This Zulu V class B-80 submarine was a part of Soviet Project 611. It was a navy attack sub used in World War II. Its design was influenced by the German XXI U-boat and became the basis for the Foxtrot-class subs that were very successful. The one above ended up being used as a museum ship in the Dutch Navy port of Den Helder and is currently in Amsterdam's Maritime Quarter where it is rented out for parties.
Before becoming Vizag, Asia’s first submarine museum, this ship traveled a total distance greater than the earth’s diameter. The INS Kursura served for over three decades across multiple countries as both a wartime machine and messenger of peace. Once docked and converted, it was almost flooded after the Hudhud cyclone but the state government intervened and saved it.
This submarine was the first submersible that was able to dive and rise without help from the surface. It was built by the German inventor Julius Kroehl in 1866. It could go below 100 feet for hours at a time. But there was one big problem, read ahead to find out what ultimately sank this once-innovative ship...
While it was initially considered a wonder of contemporary naval design, the Explorer ended up causing passengers to experience a strange fever after dives. This decompression sickness, also known as “the bends,” even killed the man who built the sub following a year’s worth of proof of concept trials. Despite its issues, the submarine was still used, but did it continue to make people sick…?
Yes it did. Many crew members died before the historic ship was abandoned. But in 2001, over a century later, it was discovered in Panama by archaeologist James Delgado. Despite its severe state of decay, preservation attempts have been discussed. It is the subject of documentary films, television shows and is now included in the Historic American Engineering Record of the U.S. National Park Service.
This Hidden City
The Quester I is a 45-foot vessel that was initially painted bright yellow. Over time it became more of an orange rust, except for the cap. This was due to the zinc chromate paint used in its construction. It failed to launch in 1967 after being conceived as part of an attempt to recover sunken treasure from the Andrea Doria. There are multiple, conflicting stories around what happened after it got stuck...
The New York Times / Robert Stolarik
Some say the builder attempted to recover it but couldn't raise the funds. Others say it became unstuck and floated up and down the bay before eventually sinking. Either way it was later discovered and some of its parts were stolen. After being the target of vandals and thieves in the ‘70s, a storm later tore it from its moorings and carried it to...
This Hidden City
The Quester I is now part of a ship graveyard along Coney Island Creek. There are around two dozen vessels there, but their origins’ are unknown. They could be whaling ships, forsaken barges or ancient US Navy vessels. The Jules Verne-like Yellow Submarine is now the home of birds and blue crabs, and is also used as a fishing platform.
HMNB Devonport is the home of over a dozen submarines, including the HMS Courageous, the HMS Vanguard, the HMS Victorious and the HMS Tireless. It is connected to The Devonport Naval Heritage Centre. After previously operating in the U.K.’s Cold War efforts, Britain’s former nuclear submarine fleet is currently in the dockyard with much of its radioactive cargo still intact. But is it safe…?
Located outside of Plymouth, England, it is the largest naval base in Western Europe and the sole repair and refueling facility for the Royal Navy. There are fourteen dry docks over four miles of waterfront. It started as the Royal Navy Dockyard and focused on shipbuilding between the 17th and late 20th century. There have been a number of nuclear waste leaks on the site...
The HMNB Devonport is also called Guzz by sailors and marines, which could come from the Hindi word for “yard” used as a shortened version of dockyard. This nickname also might come from the word “guzzle," which probably refers to the eating of a local delicacy, or GUZZ, the radio call sign for the nearby Admiralty station at Devil’s Point. It was more than likely one of the former as opposed to the latter, which has been disproved.
Another English sub location is Horse Sand Fort, which was one of the largest Royal Commission sea forts. It was equipped with a variety of weapons behind protective layers of granite, concrete and iron-armor. After being used during the second World War, it was purchased by AmaZing Venues with the intention of turning it into a museum.
At the northern end of Simushir Island, around 250 miles off the coast of Japan, lies a secret Soviet Union submarine base. The island, which is in the northwest Pacific Ocean’s Sea of Okhotsk, is part of a chain that was formed by volcanic activity. Its unique formation features a massive, open caldera. Simushir was formerly known as Marikan. Read on to find out how the Russian’s took over...
John Jemi Blogspot
Following the Soviet military’s arrival during WWII’s Battle of the Kuril Islands, an entire town was built around the base. It was surrendered by the Imperial Japanese Army without resistance and was used by the navy as a secret sub base through the late eighties into the early nineties. At one point it was home to roughly 3,000 people. Only one of the three docks remains, and the rest of the location has rusted over time…
The island is currently uninhabited and administered as part of the Sakhalin Oblast of the Russian Federation. There are giant signs, maps and murals all over the abandoned base and even some sub remains floating in the caldera. The location, which was supposedly also a radar station with extensive recon and monitoring equipment, can still be seen clearly in satellite images.
Located in the Firth of Forth, an estuary of several Scottish rivers, is a National Nature Reserve that’s owned and managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. On January 31, 1918 a sequence of accidental collisions between Royal Navy warships resulted in two sunken submarines with four more being damaged. Read on to learn more about this historic event that was so embarrassing it wasn’t even public knowledge until much later...
The military disaster by the Isle of May didn’t involve any enemy ships. It instead came from a group of K Class submarines colliding in the dark of night. The subs, which were notoriously dangerous, changed direction suddenly and hit other vessels including a battlecruiser. There were multiple casualties and the incident wasn’t talked about for many years to follow.
What is currently a Naval museum complex started out as a top secret underground submarine base that was used during the Cold War. Today the Cold War Museum also features information about the Crimean War. It was once known as Object 825 GTS, a hollowed out mountain side that was equipped with a water channel and dry dock outfitted for repairs and weapon storage...
It was built in the 1950s in a way that made it so that the subs didn’t have to surface outside of the base’s underwater access point. This was a huge part of the location’s secrecy. It could withstand a direct nuclear attack and function as an emergency nuclear shelter that could support the entire population of the nearby town. It was abandoned in the ‘90s but repurposed later...
It hasn’t changed much since it was a functioning, top secret base. The long, coldly sterile tunnels and thick walls and doors give it an eerie, powerful feel. Apparently, there was even a phase during its operating period when the Russians were attempting to train dolphins for underwater missions like attaching explosives and beacons to ships and submarines...
Located in Mount Tavros, the facilities caisson gates could be used to seal off the entire complex. It housed, repaired and maintained Project 613 and Project 633 submarines. There was even a special tunnel used for loading equipment into the base during wartime. It also included a technical repair base, codename Object 280, which was designed for its nuclear arsenal.
Johnston Atoll, located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, is one of the most remote military bases in the world. It was discovered by accident when an American captain ran aground in the early 20th century. What was once a bird refuge eventually became an important military site used for crucial refueling, maintenance and repairing aircrafts and submarines...
Flickr / USFWS Pacific Region
It was operational for almost 70 years under the control of the U.S. military. In 1935 the U.S. Navy began construction which continued up until it was designated as a Naval Defensive Sea Area and Airspace Reservation in 1941. Then the building of an airfield commenced and was completely later that year...
Flickr / Michael Chapman
During World War II it was shelled by a Japanese submarine and the next year its civilian employees were replaced by Seebees, or the Naval Construction Battalion. At its height it housed around 1,300 people. It is currently still under the control of the U.S. Air Force but will eventually revert back to being a wildlife refuge. Read on to learn about the most controversial part of its history...
Johnston Atoll was also a chemical weapons and Agent Orange storage and disposal site. These activities left the area environmentally contaminated. Remediation and monitoring continue today. The chemical weapons disposal plant was responsible for the leaking of Agent Orange into the environment. The testing that took place during the 1950s and 1960s has led to the continuous leaking of various petroleum products.
Another amazing abandoned submarine base is located in Estonia. The Hara submarine base hasn’t been abandoned for too long, but definitely looks like it has. It was once occupied by a Soviet invasion force but is now being invaded by urban explorers. The base was built by the Russian military in the late 1950s and used during the occupation of Estonia until 1991 when it achieved its independence...
It was a major base of operations that housed several hundred military personnel. The waters around Hara were covered in sensors and other advanced electronics. Following a peaceful protest that involved millions of people, which drew worldwide attention, the submarine base was abandoned when the Soviet Union collapsed…
It was built using stone reclaimed from the torn-down walls of nearby villages. The metal is now rusting away as the barren concrete structure is strained from years of wind, rain and snow. The remains of an old lighthouse still stand out in the water. It is now a part of Estonia’s Lahemaa National Park.
The SFRY is the home of submarine tunnels built along the Adriatic during the German occupation of World War II. It was an extremely important spot and the first of the modern military tunnels that were dug out along the Vis hillsides. Before being abandoned in 1989, the location was crucial to those who were fighting for the island’s independence...
It housed the former Yugoslavian army for almost a half century during the period of communism. The tunnels were used to hide and the bases were mostly abandoned in the 1990s. This is when Yugoslavia started to fall apart. It entered into a four-year war with the forces commanded by Belgrade, Serbia. After almost half a century the Yugoslavian navy left empty barracks and numerous caves and tunnels which they had previously tended for several reasons...
The island was shrouded in secrecy throughout its operations as a military base. The sub docks, also called bunkers or U-boat pens, were cut deep into a mountainside and connected to a huge network of underground tunnels capable of providing integral military support. There is the Hitler’s Eye tunnel and the Parja tunnel, among others...
The site is now used as a tourist spot and contributes to the livelihood of the island's several thousand residents who coexist with its empty barracks, disused tunnels and empty dry docks. This amazing location is now an attraction for adventure tourists who finally have a chance to explore the tunnels.
This small island off the coast of Albania housed a Soviet submarine base which included a small contingent of its Whiskey-class submarines. The site featured a labyrinth of tunnels and was home to a chemical and biological weapons plant. It now has a small outpost that’s mostly used to monitor pirate and smuggling activity between Albania and Italy, as well as a training field for the Royal Navy.
Above is an image of a narco submarine, also know as a drug sub. They are built and used by drug traffickers to smuggle contraband. They can carry several tons of substances and many have been seized after being detected by radar. The subs can even be unmanned and controlled remotely. The name Bigfoot came because for a long time they were just a myth.
The Daily Check
In 2016 a report surfaced claiming that a Nazi submarine had surfaced in the Great Lakes. Apparently divers discovered it in Lake Ontario and contacted the U.S. Coast Guard. This was shocking news considering the implication that Nazi’s made it this far into America. But anyone who paid attention to the source of the article could clearly see that it came from a fake news site.