Confessions of a Backyard Submarine Builder

By Mary Anne Potts – November 2002 – National Geographic Adventure

At 15, Karl Stanley began building a sub from a length of steel pipe. Here’s the crazy part: It worked. Today, at 28, he’s building his second sub and dreaming of underwater Jacuzzis, as he explains in this interview.

Karl Stanley’s first submarine, C-BUG (Controlled by Buoyancy Underwater Glider), is easily one of the most innovative personal submarines ever made. The lightweight craft operates primarily without the help of any motor, and even more impressive, it began as a ten-foot-long [three-meter-long] steel pipe, which Stanley began welding in his parents backyard 13 years ago. At the time, Stanley was a high school sophomore with no formal welding experience, let alone an engineering degree.

A year after C-BUG’s completion in 1997, Stanley found a home for his yellow submarine just outside U.S. waters. At the Inn of Last Resort in Roatán, Honduras, Stanley and C-BUG take paying passengers to greater and greater depths—up to 725 feet [221 meters]—and into rarely seen realms of the Caribbean.

Now, after four years, Stanley, 28, is looking to go deeper. Between his time in Roatán and visiting friends around the world, Stanley has a semipermanent residence in Idabel, Oklahoma. There he is building his second sub, fondly named after its birthplace. He estimates that Idabel will be complete by May 2003.

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