A Submarine in Havana Bay

Por Carlos Fraguela

The entrance to Havana Bay. Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — It happened while on my way to work this morning. Looking out the window of my bus as it drove down Havana’s waterfront avenue, I caught sight of a submarine cruising into Havana Bay. Sadly, I didn’t have my camera with me, missing a fantastic photo opportunity.

These vessels that can travel under water, and across its surface, have always struck me as rather unusual and curious contraptions. They are certainly more weird-looking than other types of vessels, and catch one’s eye more quickly for this reason.

Curious people always gather by the seawall whenever any type of large vessel enters or leaves the Havana port area. As for me, I’ve never actually been on a ship, let alone a submarine, even though I love the sea.

The submarine I caught a glance of that day was completely black. About fifteen crew members, dressed in dark green uniforms, with something like a red shawl wrapped around their necks, were standing on the deck.

One of the vessels belonging to Cuba’s Polargos fleet sailed up to it to act a guide. The submergible ships I often see, idling at one end of the port, painted gray and larger than this vessel, are very different from the submarine I saw in every way.

I hadn’t seen a submarine move across the water since 1983, when I did my thesis at the military unit located in the headquarters of the very old Mariel Naval Academy.

Entrance to Havana Bay.

The academy is housed by a lovely castle located at the top of a hill to the left of the entrance to Havana. From this magnificent lookout point, aided by optical equipment used for topographical survey work, I would spy on the submergible vessels docked at the base next to this port. I have beautiful memories of my time at this bewitching place.

Getting back to Havana: in the afternoon, while heading home from work, I ran into a friend who is also a restorer. He told me he is currently doing underwater photography, and I surprised him by saying I’m doing the same thing…in my fish tank at home.

We spoke for a while about the species we’ve been photographing. He told me he had gone diving that day and that, when he had gone to ask for permission to do this, he’d been told he should avoid the dive, as a submarine was entering the port and he could get into a dangerous collision.

He hadn’t believed the story when they warned him of this and had answered that he would be diving mostly outside the bay area. When I told him I had seen the submarine, he replied, rather surprised: “Oh, so it was true!”

One thought on “A Submarine in Havana Bay

  • I wonder who’s submarine that was? According to the Wiki page on the Cuban navy, they have “4 ( + 2 for civilian use) Delfin class midget submarines, 2 torpedo launchers with 6 torpedoes. Derived from North Korean Yugo class submarine.” But none are considered currently operational.

    The Venezuelan navy is reported to have 2 submarines. And of course, the Russian Navy still has many submarines.

    The description of the uniform offers some clues. Russian submariners wear a dark blue uniform with wide white collars. The Venezuelan Navy uniform is dark green with a large red scarf. So there you have it: the submarine seen visiting Havana harbour, is most likely from Venezuela.


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