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Underwater Icons From past to present

Only a few lucky explorers have traversed the depths of our oceans. Where most brave adventurers merely scratched the surface, these early subsea pioneers became icons as they revealed new discoveries to the world above the water, and set records that have lasted for centuries.

Between 1620-1624

Dutchman builds First navigable submarine

Between 1620 and 1624, Dutchman Cornelis Jacobszoon Drebbel was the designer and builder of the first-ever navigable submarine, while working for the English Royal Navy. His final (third) model had six oars and could carry 16 passengers. The submarine could submerge for three hours and travel about 6 NM, cruising at a depth of 5 meters. Oxygen was generated by heating saltpetre in a metal pan.

cornelis drebbel icon for underwater exploration
Between 1777-1856

Deep sea lifeforms discovered

Sir John Ross, a British researcher, was the first to demonstrate that the deep sea was inhabited by lifeforms. In 1818 while carrying out sounding surveys, he pulled up a relative of the starfish, and found evidence of other deep-sea animals living at a depth almost 1,600 meters.

John Ross
1828 - 1905

Inspiring stories

Jules Verne wrote a gripping tale that inspired many undersea enthusiasts – Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. The story tells of a fictional submarine named the Nautilus captained by Nemo. The submarine was named after the real-life submarine Nautilus built around the year 1800 by American inventor Robert Fulton. Many ideas Jules Verne wrote about were ahead of his time.


New world record for deepest dive

Naturalist William Beebe and engineer Otis Barton set the record for the deepest dives ever performed by a human, to a depth of 923 meters in 1934. The record was later to be broken by Otis on his own. They used the Bathysphere – a unique, spherical, deep-sea “submersible”. This steel sphere with a window of fused quartz – the strongest transparent material available back then – was lowered into the sea by a cable. While this submersible was incapable of moving under its own power, it possessed the basic fundamentals of systems that are still apparent in today’s submarines. The Bathysphere was used to study deep sea marine life in its natural habitat.

William Beebe icon for underwater exploration

New depth record: 10,900 meters

In 1960, Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh established a depth record in the bathyscaphe Trieste, a submarine designed by Jacques and his father. The bathyscaphe reached the deepest known point on the earth’s surface, the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench (around 10,900 meters), and resisted pressure equivalent to 1,000 times atmospheric pressure. They observed fish and proved that the existence of life at the deepest part of the ocean was viable.

jacques piccard icon for underwater exploration
1910 - 1997

Jacques Cousteau

Jacques-Yves Cousteau was a legendary French naval officer, explorer, conservationist, filmmaker, innovator, scientist, photographer, author and researcher who studied the sea and all forms of life underwater. Cousteau’s extraordinary legacy includes more than 120 television documentaries, more than 50 books, and an environmental protection foundation with 300,000+ members. Cousteau liked to call himself an “oceanographic technician”. His work has enabled countless people to explore and better understand the oceans.

jaques cousteau icon for underwater exploration

James Bond

James Bond – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977) is the tenth spy film in the James Bond series, and the third to star Roger Moore as the fictional secret agent James Bond, who escapes from Jaws due to his superior driving skills and his Lotus Esprit sports car/submarine. To demonstrate the car becoming a submarine, seven different models were used during filming, one for each step of the transformation. One of the car models was a fully mobile submarine complete with an engine. Even though he is a fictional character, he sparked the desire for glamorous, high-tech toys that may bring us further afield.

James Bond

The Deepsea Challenger

Esteemed film-maker James Cameron joined the club of iconic explorers in 2013 when he set course for the deepest spot on the planet. He developed his own vessel for his journey, the Deepsea Challenger. He documented his adventure and shared it with the world in 2014 with his new film – Deepsea Challenge 3D. After this expedition he donated his submarine to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, USA.

james cameron icon for underwater exploration

The start of a revolution

When Bert Houtman founded U-Boat Worx in 2005, he created a movement that enabled many people to be introduced to ocean exploration, following in the footsteps of the iconic diving greats who preceded him.

Submarines used to be perilous, costly, and inaccessible to the private sector. Focussed on his pursuit to find a suitable submarine but unable to, he decided to build his own.

In our first decade of existence, we have grown to become the largest private submarine manufacturer globally. With an expanding, robust business, we are committed to our quest to make subsea exploration more accessible to a wider audience than ever before.

The future awaits, with state of the art submersibles and effortless underwater exploration.

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