Each and every single military vessel in the world comes with a story. How can you possibly not get curious when you find an abandoned submarine? It has stories from a long time ago that you will never believe. It’s already impressive when you consider the processes that went into its creation, but what they have witnessed on the battlefield is even more incredible. This is going to be a good learning experience, so get ready. Read on to get your daily dose of history!
Soviet Naval Base
Simushir Island is on an island chain formed by volcanic activity. It lies about 250 miles away from the Japanese coast. The Soviet Union used it as a secret submarine base after blasting a channel through it to access Broutona Bay in the ‘70s. They made a whole town around the base and 3,000 people lived there in its heyday. They built 3 submarine docks, one of which remains to this day. They planted mines and explosives in northern Japan and helped radar in the part. These days, it is only full of submarines, murals, signs, and maps.
The Sub Marine Explorer
The Sub Marine Explorer might boast of the most tragic story on a list full of those. It was created by a pair of inventors: Julius H. Kroehl from Germany and Ariel Patterson from the United States. It was actually one of the first underwater vessels but the very first one that could head down below 100 feet for a couple of hours. Six members could ride the Explorer together. It is surprising to hear that it was developed not for the military but for the Pacific Pearl Company. Sadly, the inventors had been unaware of how decompression impacted the human body. It was a disaster because the crew members got “the bends” and later died. Kroehl was actually the first one to pass away after they did trial runs. Eventually, they abandoned it thanks to this condition and the overfishing of the pearls. The vessel was discovered decaying in the waters of Panama by an archaeologist named James Delgado.
German Submarine U-352
The German Submarine U-352 was first used in 1942 as part of the Wolfpack under the Kriegsmarine during the Battle of the Atlantic. It made its way to North Caroline where it tried to put down the SS Freden. Firing at a U.S. Coast Guard cutter after thinking it was a merchant ship on April 7, 1942 proved to be a fatal mistake. It was a goner after the other side fired back. The wreck is now a popular scuba spot full of colorful fish and artificial reef. Heinz Karl Richter survived the attack and explained that Captain Rathke wanted to sink many ships in his quest for the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.
You will find an abandoned military graveyard called the Guzz outside Plymouth, England. It houses once advanced watercraft that formed the nuclear submarine fleet back in the Cold War. HMNB Devonport is home to various submarines, many of whose nuclear engines remain intact. Britain stored these things near residential areas, which made the locals angry. It is very possible that this will impact their health!
Hara Submarine Base
Hara Submarine Base had been a busy Soviet Union military hub for four decades. It has since been abandoned and vandalized. Built by the Russian military in the ‘60s, it was the base of operations for the occupation of Estonia. Who would have thought that hundreds of military personnel used to live here? In 1989, Estonians linked hands with the neighboring countries and dismantled this base. The world paid attention and chased the Soviets out after the USSR collapsed.
The USS Ling
In 1945, a high-speed submarine known as the USS Ling was commissioned by George Garvie Molumphy as a way to combat the German U-boats. It did not see any action, however. In 1946, it was brought to the Panama Canal Zone before it got decommissioned the following year. It then went to the Atlantic Reserve Fleet where it was converted into a training ship. It was brought to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and got recategorized as an Auxiliary Submarine. It is now in the New Jersey Naval Museum in New Jersey.
The Quester I
The SS Andrea Doria was an Italian ocean liner dubbed the Titanic of the ‘50s. It went down by the coast of Massachusetts after a collision. It went down with 46 people and millions’ worth of treasures. Jerry Bianco of Brooklyn Shipyard heard about this, created a 45-foot submarine using salvaged metal, and attempted to find the sunken treasure. Called the Quester I, it got stuck in since the operator didn’t follow the instructions as he lowered it. It is now abandoned in a Coney Island Creek ship graveyard.
The SFRY Submarine Tunnels
You will find an abandoned site full of submarine tunnels along the Adriatic Sea. The tunnels in what is now Croatia had been an important military location for those fought for the Island of Vis during the German occupation in WW2. The tunnels were drilled into the hillsides. It was a base for the Yugoslavian army, but it was abandoned when after the collapse of Yugoslavia in the ‘90s. It is now a tourist spot.
The Isle of May Disaster
The Battle of May Island is one of the biggest military disasters ever. They actually hid it from the public until everyone involved passed away. There were no enemies involved but three submarines and a battlecruiser ship were there. In January 1918, the British Royal Navy K class subs collided at night after changing direction to Scapa Flow after noticing minesweepers in the area. Two submarines sank and the K4 crew members died. On the K17, 51 out of 59 members died.
XT-Craft Midget Submarines
If it is low tide, you might get the chance to see the Royal Naval XT class midget submarines from WW2. You will see the corroded ruins of the two submarines along the coast of Aberlady Bay, Scotland. They were T-Training vessels created by the Vickers’ Armstrong Ltd in the early ‘40s. They took on a mission to fight the Kriegsmarine Tirpitz battleship in September 1943. The crew members succeeded, which made the Royal Navy and Air Force sink the Tirpitz the year after that. Two of the subs were taken to the bay and then moored. The RAF continued to use them for practices and tests.
Off the coast of Albania, you will see the former home of Soviet Whiskey submarines. Now abandoned, there are old vessels and tunnel networks in the area. The Soviets ran their chemical and biological weapon plants in the area, although it was seized by Albania after abandoning the Warsaw Pact in 1968. It helped increase its navy. By the ‘90s, the subs were obsolete and got neglected before they were completely abandoned. It is now nothing more than an empty base with a gorgeous landscape around it.
U-475 Black Widow Or Foxtrot B-39
The huge attack submarine had been part of the Soviet Navy during the Cold War. They used it to train Indian, Libyan, and Cuban submariners. It was commissioned in 1967 and categorized as Soviet Project 641 class submarines, but the Western forces called it Foxtrot. In 1994, it was decommissioned and acquired by private individuals before they were taken to an English public museum ship. Four years later, it was on display in Folkestone. At the moment, it awaits restoration in Strood, England.
Foxtrot Or Zulu V Class B-80
You might be surprised to hear that they repurposed a navy attack sub into a party vessel! This was what happened to the Soviet Zulu V class B-80 submarine, which was part of the Soviet Project 611. The post-war attack vessel was later renamed Foxtrot and taken to the Maritime Quarter in Amsterdam North. It was in the middle of the harbor because sub enthusiasts wanted to bring it to the Netherlands. Initially used as a museum ship in Den Helder before it was converted into a party venue. How cool is that?
Balaklava is a picturesque town in Ukraine that hides a series of tunnels in the mountain. It was a part of the Soviet project to build a submarine base with a water channel and dry dock. It was called Object 825 GTS and created in the ‘50s to prevent enemies from spotting the submarines. The network had a nuclear shelter to protect the residents of the nearby town should a nuclear attack happen. It also had a weapon storage facility. In 1996, the base was abandoned and turned into a Cold War Naval Museum.
The Balaklava Soviet Naval Museum also had a huge technical and repair base code known as Object 280. It was created to store and maintain nuclear weapons transported to the Tavros mountain tunnels. Object 280 was a special tunnel used for loading equipment during wartime. It made sense because Object 825 GTS was created to maintain, repair, and store vessels from Project 633 and 613.
There are drub subs or narco-submarines as well! The Bigfoot submarine is one such unmanned submersible water vessel created to smuggle drugs and contraband from somewhere remote. This one was found in Ecuador in July 2010. Colombian drug cartel members were discovered to smuggle cocaine to the US via Mexico. It used sophisticated technology that evaded radar, sonar, and infrared. It was called Bigfoot since people once thought that it was nothing more than a myth.
The fifth sub of the Indian Navy was the INS Kursura. It spent 31 years in service and traveled all over the globe. It was used during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War, participated in exercises with other countries, and served as a messenger of peace. It was decommissioned in 2001 and used as a public museum in Vizag. While it almost got flooded during Cyclone Hudhud in 2014, the government managed to save it.
Horse Sand Fort
Here is yet another British submarine base that was used by the Royal Commission at one point. Horse Sand Fort is located at the strait of Solent in Portsmouth. Originally meant to be a part of the Palmerston Forts, the British used it during WW2 and equipped it with advanced weapons and defenses. The iron-armor walls and gates were reinforced with granite and concrete. AmaZing Venues later bought it.
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility is located in Washington, U.S. It has been operating since 1891 as part of a navy recycling program. It now has a submarine tender, four decommissioned aircraft carriers, and 16 nuclear submarines for scrapping. It has a reserve fleet as well. Here is a fun fact for you: the PSNS is the only US shipyard facility that can recycle nuclear ships.
The Johnston Atoll is run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but it was originally a military playground for seven decades. It was one of the most isolated bases on the planet. Before it was turned into a military location during the ‘30s, it was a bird refuge. It was supposed to refuel, maintain, and repair subs and aircraft. In the past, there had been 1,300 personnel working and living there until it was turned into a nuclear testing facility in the ‘40s. It is infamous for the storage and disposal of Agent Orange. They are still cleaning up the petroleum and chemical leak that the testing created.
Soviet Submarine K-77
The Soviet K-77 or the Juliett-class subs were used in Project 651. The cruise missile sub was commissioned in 1965 for the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet. They were pulled out in 1988, but it did not mean that it disappeared. In 2002, it got featured in the movie K-19: The Widowmaker. It was then taken to Rhode Island to be converted into a museum. Sadly, it sank in a storm in April 2007. The following year, they recovered it but found that it was in such poor shape and simply scrapped it.
Type-A Midget Submarine
The Type-A Midget Submarine is a Japanese vessel that dates back to WW2. This killer whale-shaped craft is now deserted on Kiska Island in Alaska. The Japanese forces withdrew from there in July 1943, they destroyed the subs with the use of internal explosive charges. All that remains now is the skeleton, which is now nothing more than an unprotected artifact.
Object 221 or Bunker Alsou
Object 221 is also called Bunker Alsou and Protected Command Point Black Sea Fleet. Save for the subway, the Soviet stronghold in the Mishen Mountains is the largest underground structure in Ukraine. The Soviets used it to keep the Black Sea safe in case the U.S. dealt a nuclear attack. Created in 1977, the tunnels are more than 6 miles in length. The bunker was a Cold War project and served as the Black Sea Fleet’s regional headquarters. It was also the Soviet military’s emergency command center.
Liepāja is a now-abandoned ice-free Latvian harbor on the Baltic Sea. It has 16 terminals to ensure the cargo exchange between East and West Europe. It is the third largest port in the country, but it once had a different purpose. The harbor housed 16 subs and a nuclear deposit in the Karosta neighborhood. It was created as a naval base for Tsar Alexander III before it was turned into the Soviet Baltic Fleet base.
Saint Nazaire Submarine Base
In WW2, the Nazis created a number of large submarine bases all over France. Saint Nazaire was the biggest of the submarine bases created by the Third Reich in Vichy France. They overtook the harbor after they arrived in June 1940 and used it for their submarines. The allies later destroyed the town but left this base intact. It is now a cultural site full of bars, museums, and a French submarine. Interesting!
Submarines of Alexandrovsk-Sakhalinsky
You will find several rusty half-submerged submarines on the shores of Alexandrovsk-Sakhalinsky in Russia. It is a Sakhalin Oblast town beside the Tatar Strait and Western Sakhalin Mountains. In 1918 to 1925, the Japanese occupied it and called it Akō. The area was also a military post in 1881, which explains the corroded subs in the region. Their presence remains a mystery, but it sure adds character.
Maunsell Sea Forts
The Maunsell Sea Forts were built during WW2. The towers in the Thames and Mersey were created to defend the UK by working as army and navy fronts. They were helpful when it came to Nazi air raids and submarines. It was decommissioned in the ‘50s, but it was used for pirate radio broadcasts in the ‘60s.
Head to the Russian Naval base located in Olenya Bay if you want to see a submarine graveyard along the shore. The base on the Kola Peninsula is a grim naval facility that houses Cold War vessels and hardware. This submarine comes from the ‘70s. It was abandoned because the shipyard could not handle any more military vessels. Many submarines were later towed away and abandoned by the Nezametnaya Cove.
Pacific Fleet Submarines Nuclear Shelter
The unfinished nuclear shelter was made to host the Soviet Pacific Ocean Fleet subs. The Pavlovsk tunnels seem to be stuck in time. The base was a hideout for Soviet subs, but it was deserted three decades before it could be used. They started building it in 1960, beginning with two huge parallel tunnels that linked to smaller ones. Sadly, the project was later abandoned. Maybe it will be completed in the future.
You will find the decommissioned Royal Norwegian navy base outside Tromsø, Norway. The huge mountain complex has a submarine hanger built with direct sea access. The government decided to shut it down in 2008 after restructuring the navy. It was even placed on the market in 2011. It went to an oil rig firm for 38 million kroner or $4.3 million! Rumors say Russian military activity is going on there.
The Maginot Line, France
In the ‘30s, the French Government built the Maginot Line, which ran along the German border. It was meant to stall German invasion and allow them to mobilize their army in the meantime. This was a great idea on paper, but it was not very effective. The Germans simply invaded from another direction and conquered the country in only six weeks back in 1941. It was also too costly to maintain, especially during wartime. It still exists, although it has not been maintained or used in a long time.
Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
This station was founded in 1891 and turned into the Navy Yard Puget Sound in 1901. It built ships and boats during WWI. In WWII, its main effort was to repair the damaged fleet of the U.S. and its allies. After the war, it became Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and focused on carrier modernization. It was used to activate ships during the Korean War as well. In 1992, it was named a National Historic Landmark.
More than a hundred years ago, German crew members aboard submarine went aground in France during WWI. They had to surrender and abandon the vessel, which sank during the ‘30s. The shifting sands reveal more and more of the submarine called the UC-61. It has now become a tourist attraction.
The RBU-6000 is a 213 mm caliber anti-submarine rocket launcher. It was used from 1960 to 1961 in a number of surface vessels. Its horseshoe-like arrangement can be directed by the Burya fire control system remotely. It was the most widespread anti-submarine rocket launcher in the Soviet Union navy.
RAF Hethel, England
This was a former RAF station that was also used by the United States Army Air Forces. It was primarily used in WWII. Located near Norwich, it is now owned by Lotus Cars. The carmaker created a factory on this site in 1966. They have since created more factories and engineering centers since those days.
USS Thresher (SSN-593)
The second USS Thresher served as the lead boat of its class of nuclear attack submarines in the US navy. However, a tragedy happened on April 10, 1963. It sank as it underwent deep-diving tests around 220 miles east of Boston. The 129 crew members aboard the vessel died. This pushed the US Navy to implement a thorough submarine safety program called SUBSAFE.
USS Scorpion (SSN-589)
The Skipjack-class nuclear submarine below is the USS Scorpion. The US Navy used it, but it was the sixth vessel to carry this name! It was lost on May 22, 1968. As a result of the accident, 99 crew members died. It is the second nuclear submarine that the US navy ever lost. It was also one of four submarines to disappear in 1968, along with the Israeli INS Dakar, the French Minerve, and the Soviet K-129.
In 1984, the Soviet Union introduced a super submarine that was the first of its kind. The Komsomolets was fast and could go to unbelievable depths. Five years after that, it sunk to the bottom of the ocean, killing two-thirds of the crew and taking nuclear weapons down with it. The sub sank 5,250 feet! Between 1989 and 1998, there were 7 expeditions that attempted to seal the torpedo tubes and prevent the nuclear reactor from releasing radioactivity. According to Russian sources, there was evidence of “unauthorized visits to the sunken submarine by foreign agents.”
Pavlovsk Bay is a secret underground base discovered by some explorers. Now disused, it was originally created to store Soviet submarines. It is believed that the base can survive a nuclear attack, but it looks like it got abandoned before it could be used since the Cold War came to an end. The explorers who discovered it gained access to a series of tunnels because of the frozen water in the area.
You will find Camp X-Ray in the US Naval Station in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. As you can see, the former military base still has a lot of the original infrastructure intact together with a lot of agriculture. Below is an abandoned detention facility. It does not seem like it gets lots of visitors, but who can blame them?
Do not get distracted by that painted eye. This work of art has been added there a long time after the end of WWII. The US military based themselves here during the war. The building was part of their Balta base in the Galapagos Islands. It really is haunting to think that a lot of things have changed since then.
This large indoor space had been a place that the US military once considered during the late ‘00s. This spot in Brdy, Czech Republic was previously a Soviet base. It remains a mystery why the Americans backed out since this was a great place for an anti-missile radar system. It is still abandoned until now.
While it is now out of use, the Greenham Common Royal Air Force station was actively used in the past. It is fascinating to hear that some 35,000 people got together to protest nuclear weapons at one point. The station was shuttered in 1990. These days, all you will hear in this spot would be radio silence.
It is hard to tell if this is a skate park or an abandoned military base. The graffiti in the area can truly be misleading. To be fair, it has been a long time since it as used as a base by the US military. Located in Monterey County, Fort Ord was created during WWI. It managed to hold 50,000 soldiers during WWII. It was tagged for closure in the ‘90s. California State University converted several areas and used them.
Forward Operating Base is found in Afghanistan. It was abandoned by the American military in 2014. However, they made sure to leave an important message behind. The instructions were rather simple but very ominous: “Do not tear down.” Do they plan to return to this area? We have no idea why they would want to leave a message like that if this was not the case.
The US Marine Corps settled down in the California Imperial Valle desert, which spanned 630 acres of land, during WWII. They called it Camp Dunlap. During the ‘50s, it was permanently closed. People started to go to this area and set up their “homes” there. It even earned a new name, “Slab City”. After all, people liked to set up on concrete slabs!
Here is a swimming pool that used to be a part of a base. It has been drained and abandoned together with the rest of the area. The military camp pictured below was Wünsdorf, which was said to be the biggest military base the Soviets had outside of Russia. It looks pretty bleak in the photo, doesn’t it?
Željava Air Base, Croatia
You will find the biggest underground military airbase airport of Yugoslavia on the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia. The construction of this airbase started in 1948 and finished in 1968. Over the course of twenty years, SFRJ spent around $6 million on its construction. The airbase was used a lot during the Yugoslav Wars. After the withdrawal, the runway was destroyed by detonating explosives in pre-built spaces there. The Military of Serbian Krajina wanted to ensure that it would never be used again, which is why it was completely destructed in 1992. The explosion had been powerful enough to shake the nearby city. People continued to see smoke rising from the area even six months later.
Duga 3: Ukraine
The Duga 3 was in operation from July 1976 until December 1989. It was an over-the-horizon radar system that was once a part of the early-warning network of the Soviet ABM. They deployed two radars and deactivated them during the late ‘80s. It is interesting to hear that they all surrounded the Chernobyl power plant.
Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport
Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport serves as the home of more than a dozen subs. It is essentially a time-capsule of retired submarines! A couple of these vessels were used during the Cold War as part of the United Kingdom’s Continuous at Sea Deterrent. During the ‘90s, the submarine HMS went on to be the first one to have the Trident Missile System. If you were interested, you can pay a visit to the maritime museum there. However, keep in mind that some of the subs still carry radioactive cargo!