“It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play…”
In Germany during the 1980’s, Carsten Standfuss began work on his SGT. PEPPERS submarine with this scale model made of paper and foam. Originally, the sub was designed with wings, to operate like an airplane underwater.
Here is a 1:1 scale design study sculpted in snow: a handy and economical material to work with. At this time, Carsten decided to forego the wings and vertical thrusters, to minimize the beam width of the sub and to reduce the chance of kicking up silt when the sub was near the bottom.
This is the keel of the submarine sitting on a trailer. The batteries will be housed in the compartments. The orange and gray object at the lower left is the thruster shroud and tailfins: all composed of lightweight materials for proper balance.
This is the cover for the stern section, made from GRP. All very lightweight.
The technicians at the local machine shop liked Carsten’s project so much they allowed him to do some of the work there. Only the welding of the actual pressure hull was done by a professional certified welder: Carsten did everything else.
Here’s a look at SGT. PEPPERS in the shop, nearly finished.
And this is the finished submarine on a three-wheel trailer that will make launch and recovery easy. Compare the sub to the tire and you can see how small it really is.
With Carsten in the sub, his Dad installs the dome for the first dive test in 1988. Carsten is wearing a pilot’s oxygen mask, and breathes from a closed life support system. The air in the cabin will provide another 40 minutes breathing if necessary in an emergency.
Here’s a front-end view of Carsten in the sub just before the first launch in 1988.
The safety divers work to launch SGT. PEPPERS on the first dive test. The three-wheel trailer makes it easy to roll the sub in and out of the water during launch and recovery.
As SGT. PEPPERS begins the test, we can see it is trailing a buoy. This will help the surface support crew keep track of the boat when it is submerged. During this test, the submarine reached a depth of approximately 12 meters, or 39 feet.
At the end of a successful first test dive, Carsten is photographed carrying the mask and swim-fins he brought in case of emergency, but fortunately did not need to use. His coveralls are a little bit damp due to a small amount of water that entered the submarine through a leaking valve. Such things are not a big problem and are not unusual for a first test. All in all, SGT. PEPPERS worked just as planned.
A happy crew person smiles for the camera as Carsten prepares to operate SGT. PEPPERS in the year 2000. Now, we can see that the submarine has received a topside hatch to make it easier for the pilot to get in and out while afloat. New paint job, too.
Here we see an underwater view of SGT. PEPPERS. The cable extending upwards from the submarine is attached to a buoy to help the support crew locate the sub from the surface while it is submerged.
Another underwater view of SGT. PEPPERS as Carsten proceeds into the depths.
Near the bottom, two safety divers keep a watchful eye on the submarine.
A picture of intense concentration: Carsten Standfuss at the controls of SGT. PEPPERS.
Here’s a look at the stern of the submarine. We can see that there is a main thruster, and also maneuvering thrusters that give the submarine the ability to turn in any direction, and even spin around in a circle while remaining in one place.
Carsten using a towel to wipe condensation from the interior of the viewport as a diver stands by: something all subbers eventually must learn to deal with.
SGT. PEPPERS surfacing at the end of a successful dive operation.
This is Carsten Standfuss’ certificate from the GUINNESS BOOK OF WORLD RECORDS. For about 10 years after 1988, SGT. PEPPERS had the distinction of being the smallest submarine in the World. This sub is still operational, and Carsten has gone on to build a much larger submarine, the EURONAUT, which you can access via our LINKS page.
Here is a very recent picture of Carsten Standfuss on the EURONAUT conning tower with the German Tri-Color flying proudly in the breeze behind him.