100-ft-long drug-smuggling, Narco-crafted submarine discovered in Colombia

Members of the Colombian Navy stand guard on top of a seized submarine built by drug smugglers in a makeshift shipyard in Timbiqui, department of Cauca, February 14, 2011. Colombian authorities said the submersible craft was to be used to transport 8 tons of cocaine illegally into Mexico. (REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga).

Reported in the Colombian (Spanish-language) paper El Tiempo here:

The sub presents the use of advanced technology seen for the first time in this country, and its construction must have cost the narcotraffickers more than 4,000 million pesos, according to the Naval police of the Pacific.
There's a related MSNBC article here.

More photos below, because who can get enough of a hundred-foot-long homemade cocaine sub?

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    1. I agree with Xeni that MooseDesign/#35 put in a really good showing, but I’m going to go ahead and award the thread victory to Gregnnn/#1, especially since I love when the frist post wins the thread.

      I believe the technical term for this occurrence is “a boinger”.

  1. We will pass through the American patrols, past their sonar nets, and lay off their largest city, and listen to their rock and roll while we sell cocaine.

  2. THIS belongs in a dedicated issue of MAKE.

    The definition of “Hack” has been corrupted a bit as of late. This is pure Amer^H^H^H^H Yank^H^H^H^H ingenuity.

    Probably not steampunk enough for this crowd, but I’ll reserve judgement until I see the engine compartment.

    1. “The definition of “Hack” has been corrupted a bit as of late. This is pure Amer^H^H^H^H Yank^H^H^H^H ingenuity.”

      Sorry, you were correct the first time. Columbia is, in fact, American.

  3. 4,000 million colombian peso’s is around 2.1 million USD. A sum I certainly wouldn’t say no to sitting in my bank account, but for people who can move 8 tonnes of cocaine product like that doesn’t seem like a huge deal either.

  4. All she needs is a fresh coat of pink paint, a bunch of Army nurses on board, some spare parts scrounged up by Tony Curtis, and Cary Grant at the helm, and she’ll be ready for action.

  5. That’s a lot of fibreglass.

    I would imagine the crew compartment to be fairly small. within that hull. Cocaine surely doesn’t mind if it’s in a pressure vessel or not as long as it’s dry.

    1. It’s a little less conspicuous than this :

      but that’s with one scary German, not scared ones.
      (I remember from a documentary about herzog that he had been approached by some of the locals to assassinate kinski because they thought he was dangerous)

      1. I remember from a documentary about herzog that he had been approached by some of the locals to assassinate kinski because they thought he was dangerous

        Probably an accurate assessment.

      2. At the risk of going too far off topic, my brother and I watched “Fitzcarraldo” on a late night station once. We got to the end of it, and the conversation went something like this:

        BRO: I think I liked it.
        ME: I know I liked it. I think it was one of the most fucked up things I’ve ever seen.
        BRO: Good. You’re ready for “Das Boot.”

        1. Do you really consider Das Boot more f-ed up than Fitzcarraldo? I would think it would be the other way around: Das Boot as a great introduction to Herzog’s films, as it’s an approachable and excellent film (well, as approachable as a German war film can be – both foreign films and really serious war films are hard to swallow for many to begin with).

          Fitzcarraldo is one of my favorite films of all time, though (Das Boot is too). I shocked and amazed a bunch of friends with it in 2004, senior year of high school (had a theater with a 4x8ft screen and a projector in my parents’ basement). Most of them were into anime and Japanese films but hadn’t seen many other foreign films.

          They only rarely came to my theater, and normally we’d watch something less “out there,” but I was so excited about seeing Fitzcarraldo – and I had just received the DVD in the mail, and hadn’t watched it myself, and they happened to come over that weekend – so I made them watch it. They all enjoyed it, but in the beginning there were several “what the heck is this?” comments :) (I was always a huge film buff and watched a lot of foreign stuff, usually by myself or with one friend who liked them as much as I did – and also whose parents owned the projector we used).

  6. I’m falling in love all over again with submarine movies (Netflix’s instant selection is sorely lacking) and this is just perfect.

    In other news, “4,000 million pesos?” Is it against the law to say billion?

    1. It’s translated, and in Spanish there are no billions – you do ‘thousand-millions’ until you hit a trillion. It’s not against the law, they just don’t have “billion” in their lexicon.

      1. To make it clear, in America (the continent), latin-americans speak Castilian, which is a language pretty similar to Spanish, but not Spanish itself. We refer to most rules of the Spanish language, but we have developed our own language for centuries. Spanish and Castilian separated a lot after Napoleon invaded Spain.

        And we have incorporated the “billion” (“billón” in Castilian), and “trillion” (“trillón”) because it makes sense, follows a mathematical logic to enumerate scales, and is consistent with the latin words for cardinal numbers.

    2. that’s because it’s probably translated from Spanish, and in spanish a billion is actually a million times a million.

  7. The Drug War would have ended years ago but the powerful Mini-Sub industry, whose profits would be decimated, has spent millions lobbying for its continue.

  8. If it weren’t for the guy sitting in the crow’s nest they wouldn’t a got spotted. They were so close…
    Seriously tho, does the cost of construction include human life, narco cop’s overtime and bribes to them?

  9. Let’s not forget that a thousand million (10^9) isn’t technically a proper billion- it’s really a milliard according to the true long-scale. A million million (10^12) is a billion (the ‘bi’ prefix being the giveaway) and a trillion is -you guessed it- a million billion (10^18). Just sayin’.

  10. I doubt it goes much deeper then the height of its snorkel. At least not for long. I don’t think it has that much pressure to worry about.

  11. looks like a dryer hose off the back of the conning tower for air supply and the other black tube for engine exhaust. from the sound of this article it doesn’t sound like a pleasant ride at all…

  12. Colombian authorities said the submersible craft was to be used to transport 8 tons of cocaine illegally into Mexico.

    Emphasis mine. Thanks goodness the article clarifies the fact this submarine was used for illegal transport; I’d hate to think that any nation’s labor laws allowed such submarines for legal transport, whether carrying cocaine or any other cargo.

  13. A lack of bow planes means a ride with lots of nauseating lateral rolling and no rapid diving capability. The lack of torpedo tubes is no surprise, a torpedo can cost over $2M!!!
    Grobbbbbbbbb

  14. Regarding long vs short scale, I’m British and doing a science degree, and have never heard anyone use “billion” to mean anything other than a thousand million.

  15. In terms of ingenuity and creativity, the providers have so won the drug war. The prohibitionists seem pale in comparison.

  16. A lot of Europe (especially countries that don’t speak English).

    Should read:

    A lot of Europe (especially countries that don’t speak English) never switched.

  17. That snorkel looks more than twice the height of a man, and the hull looks about as deep, so I’m thinking the keel is maybe 24 feet underwater when the snorkel is almost submerged. At 24 feet the water pressure on the hull is going to be 3/4 atmosphere, not a trivial amount.

    If I were making it, I’d design it as an ambient-pressure sub. That is, the pressure inside the sub equals the pressure outside. Occupants are exposed to pressure, and (in deeper water) danger of getting the bends, but the hull doesn’t have to protet them from pressure, so they aren’t in danger of being crushed by a failed pressure hull.

    Yeah, I think about this too much.

    1. If I were making it, I’d design it as an ambient-pressure sub. That is, the pressure inside the sub equals the pressure outside. Occupants are exposed to pressure, and (in deeper water) danger of getting the bends, but the hull doesn’t have to protet them from pressure, so they aren’t in danger of being crushed by a failed pressure hull.

      But then you have to pressurise the air being fed to the engine. Maybe the engine compartment should run at surface pressure (putting a strain on the structure) while the living quarters run at ambient water pressure. But as somebody else pointed out there are no dive planes (elevators to me) so its not going to be stable in pitch and the surface of the water may be the best reference so it has to float slightly.

      Maybe it could be equipped with a catapult for final delivery of the product.

      1. “But then you have to pressurise the air being fed to the engine. Maybe the engine compartment should run at surface pressure (putting a strain on the structure) while the living quarters run at ambient water pressure.”

        Why? There’s no reason why the motor can’t be in a pressured cabin, and the air intakes fed regular air. Just make an air-tight air-intake manifold. You can pick these up at any 4×4 store for running a pickup partially submerged (past the top of the motor even) with the air intake sticking up out of the water.

  18. If I were in the “low profile” import biz, I would use a fleet of Slocum Gliders http://www.webbresearch.com/slocumglider.aspx – they are autonomous underwater vehicles intended for long duration oceanographic research. They would be damn hard to detect, small, and silent in operation. (really silent, no propeller or other mechanical noise when moving, etc) They don’t have a crew, so no need to come near the surface for air.

  19. 1 short ton = 907,184.74 grams

    8 Tons of Cocaine

    $20/gram

    TOTAL: $145,149,558.40

    Yeah a $2 million sub just doesn’t sound so expensive when you stand to make $145 Million…

    Hey frankieboy – the drug war is goin’ really well.
    Billionaires being made all the time…

    1. $20/g is the street price in the US, not the going rate for 8 tons in Mexico, that’s my guess any way….

      I’d reckon it was more like $5/g, which would still be around 36 million….

    2. Anon; But i doubt they will be selling off 8 tones by the gram…..

      I used to work in the structural shop (shop 11) at Mare Island Naval Shipyard. I’ve got 3 points to make.
      1) It looks, from the camouflage paint, like the keel is running at about 4 of 5 meters. With a 3 meter diameter hull (a tight, strong arc) that’s not much stress. Anything that will stand up to the open ocean will take that depth.
      2) People have said that these are not real subs because they don’t go deep. Diesel boats (everything in those WW II movies) spent nearly all their time cruising at snorkel depth or at night- on the surface. Diving was a last resort, and a problem,
      3) There is nothing short of building spacecraft that requires more attention to detail than building subs (Nukie subs – Rickovers Navy: multiply that by 2). Even the fiberglass units shown in the article impress the hell out of me. I want nothing to do with cocaine but i’m rooting for the “narcotraficos” here.

  20. At 24 feet the water pressure on the hull is going to be 3/4 atmosphere, not a trivial amount.

    <nitpick> More like 1¾ atm, but still, more than a manned spaceship has to withstand from inside. </nitpick>

  21. It blows my mind that a single run for one of these subs would more than pay for the submarine being built. I wonder how many runs it made? I some how doubt that there was a manufacturer’s plate on board that would tell us how old it was.

    1. If 2M USD is a small investment to the narcos, wouldn’t a prudent investment be a whole fleet? I bet there are many more than this single sub sneaking through international waters.

  22. No they are not what the drug trade needs; you guys need a way to get from pointA to PointB w/o getting caught. There exists a high-enough tech way to smuggle, it’s called GPS driving.
    I mean, really, whatch you do, is you get some bathimetric charts of your supposed route, and you send it to sets of coordinates, way points somewhere up the coast. Put the torp, laden with C or M or both in a school of tuna, (Albacore) and fish the school until you get to where you may land safely.
    then you sell the tuna off the boat at the home dock either loaded or not. the fish that is. The Tuna and stuff are only given to invited customers.

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