Diving into the UB88

After my first dive on the UB88 back in July, I had been thinking about doing a penetration dive on the submarine.

I had always told myself “there is no way I’m going to go into a sub” — especially a small WW 1 German sub at a depth of nearly 200 feet. However, the UB88 had been salvaged and so I knew that entanglement hazards would be minimal (if any). I found some footage from 2003 when Kendall Raine and John Walker initially found the wreck and confirmed that, indeed, there were minimal hazards.

In addition, there was a hole on the deck of the sub that I knew divers had used in the past. I found out that the hole was made in order to remove the engines during the salvage operation. Below is a quick snap I took on my ascent just to give an idea of the access (don’t pay any attention to the quality of the photo):

Entry point into the sub

I had two other divers with me (Ben Lair and Drew Wilson) so I figured they could help if I got stuck. I studied old clips a few divers had posted on YouTube and Vimeo and had a plan. I was going to leave my Nx50 bailout tank and my camera rig on the deck and then take a small GoPro camera with a light and my deep bailout into the wreck. My plan was to be inside for 8-10 minutes. First I would go aft, turn around and move towards the bow, verify the strobe I would leave at the entry point and then proceed up into the bow to see the torpedo tubes there and then return.

Here is a picture of me entering the sub:

Entering the UB88 (Photo Credit: Ben Lair)

Everything went pretty much according to plan. It was reasonably easy to enter the sub and there is only one bulkhead inside that required me to shimmy through. On the return I had to unclip my deep bailout to get through.

The only “problem” I had was trying to exit. I kept getting “stuck.” Drew swam by taking pictures of the conning tower but I couldn’t get his attention. I had told them to circle back after 9 minutes of runtime inside and sure enough, Ben was there. He saw that my 3L steel tanks were getting caught inside the lip of the entrance hole, shoved me down then forward against the side and then yanked me out. After that, I gathered all of my bailouts, camera, etc. and took a few pictures before starting the ascent.

Here are some pictures from inside the wreck. These are 8MP stills taken from GoPro 4k30 footage so they aren’t the best but they will give you an idea.

Original Video Footage

If you want to review the raw, unedited footage, you can find it on Vimeo, just click on the image below.


Still Photos of the Inside

Heading aft to the torpedo tube (the head shown in the picture below is just to the right)
Head in the aft section. Note: This might be a sink since it is close to where the galley would have been.
Torpedo tube at the stern (time to turn around…)

Here is an old photo showing the aft torpedo tub:

Aft torpedo tube

At this point, I had covered the stern part of the wreck and turned around. I passed my initial entry point and continued forward:

Head in the control room just forward of my entry point (Note: This was intact and must have recently been damaged. See picture below)
This is from a video taken in 2010. The head had not been damaged.

Continuing past the control room & periscope towers, I was moving towards the bow and initially missed one of the “markers” I was expecting. In the original video, they had shown a ladder that led up the forward torpedo loading hatch. It has now fallen down (or been bumped and damaged by a diver):

Ladder the lead up to the torpedo loading hatch (in the original video, this ladder was still upright – see below)
Original video from Kendal Raine and John Walker)

Next I progressed through a room that had more holes in it. They look like they could have been part of the initial damage that sank the ship. The UB88.org website doesn’t indicate these so I need to do some more research:

Shell holes caused by the target practice sinking?

I was headed to the bow torpedo room which requires passing through a bulkhead that is a little tight but not too bad:

Heading to the torpedo room in the bow
One of the four torpedo tubes in the bow

Below is a historical picture of those 4 torpedo tubes:

At this point, I had to turn around and head back to the exit. On the way out I took a quick look up into the conning tower before navigating around the periscope wells and exiting.

Looking up into the conning tower through the hatch
Periscope wells near the exit

Overall, a great dive and my first penetration on a submarine.

4 thoughts on “Diving into the UB88

    1. You are very welcome! Please sign up to get notified when I publish new posts. I usually only post about 3-4 times a month so the volume is low. Next week I’m hoping to dive a new Corsair that has never had divers on it!

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