When you think of an underwater boat, the first thing that comes to mind is the submarine, which is described as a submersible boat; the word literally means ‘under the sea’. The term is now used more as a noun in reference to high-powered boats which operate underwater at great depths in oceans, primarily for defense purposes and used in wars fought between countries. Submarines are always referred to as boats and not ships in naval parlance even though they are large sturdy vessels built for power and performance. The design and function of submarines evolved a great deal in the 19th century and began to be widely used during World War I by the navies of several countries. The role they played in attacking enemy warships and offering protection to aircraft carriers is part of many blockbuster Hollywood films. During World War II, Germany’s U-boats (the shortened form of Unterseeboot, which literally means undersea boat) struck causing huge casualties among the navies of several countries.
At the height of World War I, Germany introduced merchant submarines to trade with United States as most of the sea trading routes were blocked and ships could not ply.
The different types of underwater boats or crafts are:
• Midget submarine – this technology allows smaller vehicles to carry out underwater and maintenance operations on large naval ships
• Personal or recreational submarine – these are used mainly for marine research and recreation purposes. Today, many luxury cruise ships and yachts have recreational submarines.
• Deep sea submarines or submersibles – remember James Cameron’s famous dive into the depths of the Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench? That was possible because of deep sea submergence technology that allows vessels to go to the deepest parts of the ocean either manually operated or through robotic controls. These are mainly used to observe and study marine habitats and shipwrecks on ocean beds where it is impossible for humans to venture for long periods due to the water pressure and invisibility factors.
Underwater boats are particularly useful in underwater archaeology, photography and videography.
It used to be thought that the depths of the ocean and the vast expanses of the sky were the final frontiers for mankind. It is no longer so. Just as aeronautical and space research has grown and broken many barriers, the different types of underwater boats and submarine technology have provided wider scope to maritime operations and functioning.