Here’s What Daily Life Is Really Like, Living On A Submarine

Those who have ever dreamed about a deep-sea voyage are in for a treat. Not only are submarines one of the most versatile underwater vehicles, but people actually live in them. From bathroom rules, sleeping arrangements, and daily physical activity, here are the most surprising aspects of living aboard a submarine.

It’s Either Boring Or Very Dangerous

a submarine partially submerged in the ocean
David Nagle/U.S. Navy/Getty Images
David Nagle/U.S. Navy/Getty Images

It takes a certain kind of person to spend their life on a submarine. While most of the time it will be incredibly boring and monotonous, things can turn at the drop of a hat.

The sailors who live on submarines need to be ready for danger at any moment, which is why they go through intense training before climbing aboard.

They Operate At Six-Hour Intervals

soldier working on a submarine
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Those who choose to live and work on a submarine need to get used to the strict rules aboard. One guideline all sailors must follow is the six-hour segment routine.

They live their lives in three six-hour increments. First, they get six hours for sleeping. Next, they must spend six hours on watch. Finally, they get six hours of free time.

They Have To Keep Oxygen Levels Low

submarine partially submerged in the ocean
Phil Mislinski/Getty Images
Phil Mislinski/Getty Images

Submarines are required to keep their oxygen levels low due to safety concerns. However, that can lead to some dangerous side effects for passengers.

Lower oxygen levels can make it difficult for people to recover from injuries, make the sailors more tired, and cause them to become angrier than usual.

Checking For Leaks

a yellow submarine above the water
Government Liquidation, LLC/Getty Images
Government Liquidation, LLC/Getty Images

The sailors living aboard submarines need to be diligent, especially when it comes to leaks. Every time they come out of being completely submerged, they need to quickly check for leaks.

Even a tiny leak can make all of the difference. Once they find any leaks, they need to patch them up in record time.

Working Out On A Submarine

crew members working out at a gym on a submarine
Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images
Sergei Bobylev/Getty Images

While living on a submarine may make it seem difficult to get in a good day’s workout, it’s not impossible. Most submarines have gyms for the soldiers to get their exercise.

These gyms are usually pretty cramped but come with a decent amount of workout equipment such as weights and treadmills.

Grooming Habits Are More Lenient

Some of the crew have their beards trimmed in anticipation of shore leave
Golding/Fairfax Media via Getty Images
Golding/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

Most sailors are told to keep specific grooming habits such as short haircuts and no facial hair. The rules are a bit more lenient on submarines.

Since the sailors on submarines aren’t interacting with the outside world too much, they can let their grooming habits slide. For example, the photo shows sailors getting groomed before arriving on land after a long voyage.

What They Eat On Submarines

black and white photo of soldiers eating on a submarine
Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Some may be wondering how soldiers eat on a submarine. They usually have a crew aboard who is in charge of the cooking.

Sailors are supposed to have three meals a day and food supply usually isn’t resupplied for weeks or even months at a time. Their food isn’t actually that bad with some common meals being pizza or fish.

They Can’t Keep Track Of Time

submarine partially submerged in the water
Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images
Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

When a submarine is submerged under the water for long periods of time, it can be difficult to tell what time of day it really is. Sailors aren’t able to see sunlight or moonlight.

This causes the passengers to lose track of time, which can mess with their circadian rhythms.

Training To Live On A Submarine

An instructor signalling to a seaman at the bottom of a fifteen foot water tank
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Getty Images
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Getty Images

Those who want to spend their lives on a submarine need to go through a lot of intense training beforehand.

According to a former Navy crew member, “…for the first few months, you spend 10 hours a day studying non-stop before marching back and forth. They essentially cram four to six years of college-level information into a six-month period.”

Earning A Dolphin Pin

close up of a metal dolphin pin
Mike Goad/Flickr
Mike Goad/Flickr

The sailors who train to live on submarine hope to secure the coveted Dolphin Pin. This distinguished honor signifies that the crew member knows the basic functions of the submarine and are able to use the submarine as a weapon.

In order to earn the Dolphin Pin, soldiers must complete a test run by their commanding officers.

Looking For Directions

a naval officer navigating a submarine
Ludovic Marin/Getty Images
Ludovic Marin/Getty Images

Going out into an endless sea can seem daunting. The crew members can’t rely on regular maps, so they must navigate through something much more complicated.

Submarines travel by complex electronic machines that provide detailed information on how to navigate the ocean. Everyone on the submarine has to rely on these machines to get them to their destination.

Sleeping Habits Are Intense

a soldier getting ready to sleep on a submarine
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images
Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Some crew members had strange experiences when it came to sleeping on a submarine. Since the oxygen levels are lower, it messes with their circadian rhythms.

Also, the sailors learn to go into such a deep sleep that they can’t hear someone having a loud conversation next to them. However, if they hear their name whispered, it wakes them up instantly.

Sleeping Next To Something Dangerous

A sleeping sailor's hand hangs from a bunk bed in the missile room
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Sleeping on a submarine is already cramped enough, but it gets even less spacious when the sailors are forced to share their bedroom with dangerous weapons.

Their bedroom is also referred to as the missile room because it is loaded with weapons such as ballistic missiles, torpedoes, and nuclear warheads.

They Share Beds

sleeping quarters aboard a submarine
Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images
Glyn Kirk/AFP via Getty Images

Sleeping on a submarine is one of the most challenging things the crew members do. Not only are their sleeping quarters limited, but there usually aren’t enough beds for everyone.

The racks typically have two or three beds on top of each other, but sailors will often have to wake up a sleeping comrade to trade places after a shift.

Never Steal On A Submarine

a submarine partially submerged in the water
Sebastian D’Souza/Getty Images
Sebastian D’Souza/Getty Images

It’s important that the passengers aboard a submarine are able to trust one another. This trust can go out the window if people start stealing from each other.

Those who are caught stealing will have to deal with some dire consequences. The perpetrators will get kicked off the submarine and dropped off at the next port, get demoted, and drop in rank.

They Form Incredible Bonds

soldiers working on a submarine
Friends of the Hunley via Getty Images
Friends of the Hunley via Getty Images

Going away for months or years at a time means that soldiers are bound to get close to one another.

The passengers are going to become one big family, so they form a tight bond. This allows them to work together as a team and distracts them from any homesickness.

The Eerie Nickname For Submarine Beds

a submarine partially submerged in the water
Bertram65/Pinterest
Bertram65/Pinterest

Only those who are brave enough will be able to withstand a submarine journey. One thing that may scare some potential voyagers off is the nickname for submarine beds.

These are usually referred to as coffins because of their small size and that the beds are practically stacked on top of each other.

Gathering In The Mess Hall

soldiers aboard a submarine
OC Navy League/Pinterest
OC Navy League/Pinterest

Living on a submarine shouldn’t be all work and no play. The crew members are allotted at least six hours a day for their free time.

Most soldiers will spend this time in the mess hall. They go there to gather with their peers, eat, read, watch television, or play games.

The Usual Timeline For A Submarine Trip

a submarine coming out of the water
Casus Belli Podcast/Twitter
Casus Belli Podcast/Twitter

Those who want to look into joining the team on a submarine should know how long a typical trip lasts. Working on a submarine is a huge commitment.

The shortest trips usually go for no less than 90 days, but they will probably go a lot longer. Most trips are close to six months.

Bathroom Space Is Extremely Limited

a toilet inside a submarine bathroom
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images
Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP via Getty Images

Everything is extremely cramped inside a submarine, especially when it comes to bathrooms. Submarines have to fit large machinery, so they leave little room for other necessities.

While it may seem hard for just one soldier to deal with this, they must share these small quarters with the rest of the crew members.

Be Careful With What You Pack

a crew worker walking through a submarine
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Before arriving for a submarine journey, soldiers are prepped on how much space will be available to them. Crews are usually made up of over 100 people, so there isn’t much breathing room.

This is why crew members are told not to overpack because there most likely won’t be room for all of their belongings.

Say Goodbye To The Outside World

soldier looking through a parascope on a submarine
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Those who are wanting to lose contact with the outside world for a while are in luck while on a submarine.

Submarines travel in the middle of the ocean, so they hardly ever come into contact with anyone else. However, submarines do have the capability of showing their location, but they don’t usually do this for safety concerns.

The Hallways Are Very Narrow

An officer walks in a corridor of French nuclear submarine
Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images
Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images

Living on a submarine means crew members need to get used to not having much of their own space. This is evident in all parts of the vessel, including the hallway.

Submarine hallways are so narrow that only one person can walk through them at a time. Two people can’t even pass each other going two separate directions.

No Room For Showers

submarine coming out of the water
BAE Systems via Getty Images
BAE Systems via Getty Images

Those who choose a life on a submarine need to get used to small spaces. Not only are the bathrooms tiny, but there is even less space for showers.

There is barely enough room for people to stand in the showers, so they need to learn how to navigate the space they are given.

Find Some Space In The Kitchen

chefs preparing food on a submarine kitchen
James Glossop/AFP via Getty Images
James Glossop/AFP via Getty Images

While places such as the bathroom, bedroom, and hallways are very cramped on a submarine, there are other rooms with more space.

The submarine kitchens are actually pretty spacious because they need to keep a large supply of food. The chefs also need a decent amount of room to cook.

Everything To Know About Watch Duties

A sea cadet peers through the periscope of the submarine
Derek Berwin/Fox Photos/Getty Images
Derek Berwin/Fox Photos/Getty Images

Watch duties are one of the most important tasks aboard a submarine. Each crew member must devote at least six hours a day for their watch.

The time and place of watch duty depends on the soldier’s rank and training. The higher the rank, the more responsibility they will have.

What Crew Members Do For Fun

a man aboard a submarine
Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images
Hauke-Christian Dittrich/picture alliance via Getty Images

Being stuck on a submarine may seem a little claustrophobic, but the passengers learn how to keep themselves occupied.

In order to add balance to their life at sea, the sailors on the submarine usually do things found in typical recreation rooms. These activities include cards, board games, and watching movies.

Turning The Lights Off

crew members smiling in a submarine
Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images
Ozan Kose/AFP via Getty Images

When crew members start a submarine trip, they have to check for leaks and complete initial tasks. When this is done, they turn off all the lights in the submarine.

The lights are turned off to give the crew members some extra sleep before they get started on more intense work for their journey.

Submarines Have To Travel A Certain Way

a submarine gliding through the ocean
Pois Yuri Ramsey/Australian Defence Force via Getty Images
Pois Yuri Ramsey/Australian Defence Force via Getty Images

Submarines have to ascend and descend at a certain angle in order to function properly. All submarines need to do this at a 45-degree angle.

The submarine does this on its own, which causes a little discomfort for the crew. This basically looks like people leaning on the floor to keep themselves upright.

US Submarines Can Go Anywhere

crew workers on a united states submarine
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images
Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

There are submarines all over the world, but the United States is one of the few countries that can travel anywhere they want without being detected.

American submarines are able to do this because they have long strike capabilities that are more powerful than the rest of the entire world.