What It's Really Like To Serve On A Submarine

Lurking under our waters are hidden beasts. Not the Loch Ness Monster, or another kind of supposedly extinct underwater dinosaur. We're talking about submarines, where for months on end, men and women live in close quarters in a floating tube under the sea. If you've ever taken one of those tours through a submarine, you might wonder how in the world can people live there. There are no windows, no sunlight, and most of all, they're many feet beneath the surface.

According to Insider, most people deploy on submarines for 70 to 90 days and have to be well-trained to handle any possible issues in the vessel.

Days in the submarine are highly regimented. The first thing anyone inside a submarine does after the hatch is closed and they've descended is to check for any leaks. Once that's done, and the sub isn't going to fill up with water, they begin an 18-hour schedule. Within these 18 hours, the crew takes turns sleeping, eating, working, and having fun in three six-hour blocks.

Sailors said it could be hard to keep track of time, so they look at the food they eat to figure out if it's morning or night. If it's pancakes, it must be breakfast, but then it'll be midnight on land if it's leftovers. And they do get to eat. Submarines are equipped with large kitchens and are often stocked with enough food for the whole duration of their deployment. If they do run out, there are always non-perishables and military rations.

The beds are too close to each other

Unlike a ship or an aircraft carrier, where space is tight, but people are not always on top of each other, a submarine has no place to be completely alone.

Task and Purpose said it'll be challenging if you happen to be tall. Anyone taller than six feet will find themselves bending over to get through doors and hallways. The beds, often called coffins, feel a lot like their nickname. According to How Stuff Works, crewmates take shifts sleeping on the beds. You don't have to get along with all your shipmates, but you're going to know very quickly who your friends are.

Sometimes, the submarine doesn't have enough space to house the whole crew. Insider said beds are set up in the torpedo room, so some sleep with their feet resting on an armed weapon. Per Task and Purpose, the only things separating beds is a curtain and a tiny aisle.

And the bathroom? It's tiny, and there's pretty much one toilet for 40 people. Sometimes, it gets disgusting, especially if you're not used to its pressure mechanism. You have to make sure it's not over-pressurized so the contents blow back in your face. The showers are equally small, but rest assured they exist, so no one smells in such cramped dwellings. There's also a gym, if you call two exercise machines a gym.

They eat candy from a dude's belly

If there's anything that will make up for being in an enclosed space with hundreds of others, it's the hijinks you get up to. Ship commanders encourage camaraderie, so they stock the submarine with board games, cards, and movies. Most free time is spent in the mess hall with everyone else. There's also a bunch of rituals that sound insane but possibly let off some steam.

Each submarine is different. In one described to Task and Purpose, there's a ritual called "crossing the line" for sailors who have never crossed the equator. They polish some trash weights, so called because they are used to sink compacted trash, and carry them around their necks for a week. After the submarine crosses the equator, all the newbies (aka pollywogs) all get ready to start singing songs, crawl on their bellies, and for some reason, eat an M&M off a guy's stomach.

At the end of their tour, or when supplies run out, the submarine starts to make its way to the port. Finally, the crew gets to enjoy fresh air, and more importantly, open space. For many who served, it's the end of the line, and they'll be replaced with another crew ready to do the same thing all over again.