"He had a marvelous criminal vision," Colombian navy Capt. Luis German Borrero said. "He introduced innovations such as a bow that produced very little wake, a conning tower that rises only a foot above the water and a valve system that enables the crew to scuttle the sub in 10 minutes. He is very ingenious."In Colombia, they call him Captain Nemo
Portocarrero was living well. Police, who reported finding $200,000 hidden in the spare tire of his car, say he had invested his reputed $1-million-per-vessel fees in the purchase of five shrimp boats.
Administrative Security officials allege that Portocarrero helped invent "semi-submersibles," as the narco-vessels are called, because they don't dive and resurface like true submarines, but cruise just below the surface.
Portocarrero's craft are difficult for counter-narcotics officials to detect on the open seas because their tiny wake creates a negligible radar "footprint." Also, authorities say, the exhaust is released through tubing below the surface, frustrating patrol aircraft's heat-sensing equipment.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. His new book is Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects