So Today I went shopping for a Used Submarine


28th Jun, 2013

So apparently Vancouver has something of a submarine graveyard,” says graphic designer/ photographer Emanuel Smedbøl alongside his instagram photos that popped up on my newsfeed and subsequently sent me into a spiral of google searches, from “used research submarines for sale” to “de-militarised Russian sub for cheap“. (I’m easily distracted).

A bathysphere in a Vancouver junkyard, from the instagram account of Emanuel Smedbøl (who you should definitely follow here @secretcities for a daily dose of instagram awesomeness)


Alas, it’s not as easy as one might think in this day and age of online shopping to find a second-hand submarine for sale, and the size of the industry is difficult to gauge. While the sale of submarines catering to tourist attractions and researchers is more visible, decommissioned military attack submarines will go on the market with a little more discretion.

In the decade following the collapse of the Soviet Union, 170 nuclear submarines were taken out of service, but only 40 of those were ever officially dismantled. Even today, Russia doesn’t have enough resources to entirely scrap their former fleet, so they’re still out there somewhere, rusty and non-functioning, discretely on the market for private buyers or even developing third-world navies.

And then there are the narco subs…

Photo via here

Built in the jungle by Colombian cartels designed to carry up to ten tons of cocaine, some are even similar to the nation’s own navy tactical sub. In the last decade, Colombia has seized at least 32 semi-submersible vessels designed to smuggle drugs over the last decade, as well as five fully-fledged submarines.

Photograph by Luca Zanetti from a TIME magazine photostory on Narco subs

The Bahía Málaga naval base in Colombia, with its rows of impounded semi-submersibles has been dubbed “the narco museum”, it’s star attraction; a fully-functional diesel electric-powered narco-sub, seized in 2011 by Ecuadorean police. Coincidentally, I wasn’t able to find any of those on any online auctions.

At this point my Google searches are starting to look a little suspicious/ NSA flag-worthy and so I decide to turn back from the gates of the deep dark web and check out some more friendly, “yellowy” submarines up for sale. This is what I found:

Two man submarine, built in 1986 for $400,000:

A small, lightweight two-man submarine with an operational depth of 600ft (200m), ideal for underwater filming, scientific research, search and salvage. Full listing here.


Yellow semi-submarine sea discoverer, built in 2006 for $300,000:

Full listing here


Two-dive Submarine, built in 2003, for $115,000:


Full listing here


Three man fully-submersible submarine, built in 2001 (rebuilt in 2005) for $90,000:

4 knots submerged, 5 knots surface, max cruise depth 132 feet, full listing here.


Second hand research/ tourist submarine, operation depth of 12,000ft for $5,000,0o0:

“Submersible in excellent condition and dive ready. Suitable for underwater tourism, scientific research, search and salvage, and a range of military tasks. Crew: six (normal), six (diver lockout operations), twenty-two (DSRV operations). Operational Depth: 1200ft (400m). Weight: 22 tons. One large front view port, one large aft view port, four tower view ports, one lower view port. Fitted with external lighting, sonar system, acoustic tracking, communications, manipulator arm, and hydraulic cable cutter.”

Full listing here


3 person Military Spec SportSub III with Auto Depth Control System a.k.a. “The Bond sub” for $69,900:

“This sub was built for a client as a working proof of concept and was a ‘go’ until funding got cut. Now it’s an opportunity for someone who wants the top of the line in SportSubs. Features include Auto Depth Control System, wrap around front window, roof windows, boost thrusters, stainless steel lines, additional air supply, and more.”

Here’s a similar (cuter one?) for half the price at $32,000.00:

Full listing for both here. 

The last submarine on our list (always save the best for last) is a Soviet “whiskey class” ex-military submarine, decommissioned in 1991, listed for the bargain price of $550,000.

This submarine is actually now listed on the site as “sold”, even though on the same site, the submarine is also “de-listed”, mysteriously siting “owner lost”. Sounds a little fishy!

Full listing here


Need somewhere to park your submarine?

Surprise surprise, there’s also a market for defunct submarine bases. Last year, a defunct secret submarine Base in Norway went up for sale at $17.5 million (subs not included).  Sadly you weren’t quick enough though; the Norwegian Ministry of Defense approved the sale of the Olavsvern Naval Submarine Base to an investor group in February this year, that will create a service center for offshore petroleum industry (in case you were wondering what kind of people are in the market for a submarine base).

Photos via TV2

P.S. Anyone know anything more about that submarine graveyard in Vancouver?




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