When the UC3 Nautilus was first launched in 2008, it was touted as the world’s largest privately built submarine. It’s had some trouble along the way but was back in action this year. On Friday, however, it sunk off the coast of Denmark and authorities are concerned about a missing woman who had allegedly been on board the vessel reporting a story for Wired.
The Associated Press reported early this morning that Peter Madsen, the owner of the vessel and co-founder of Copenhagen Suborbitals, was returned to shore by a private boat after a technical malfunction sank the sub. “I am fine, but sad because Nautilus went down,” Madsen told Denmark’s TV2, “a minor problem with a ballast tank … turned into a major issue.”
Further details are sketchy.
According to the report, “The navy initially said the sub was ‘found sailing’ south of Copenhagen.” But later corrected themselves and confirmed that it had sunk. Soon thereafter, Copenhagen police confirmed that an unidentified woman had been reported missing and her boyfriend told authorities that she had been on the submarine doing a story for Wired. The boyfriend is said to be the one who first alerted police that the submarine was missing when it didn’t return on time.
According to Swedish outlet Berlingske, a spokesperson for the Danish police said that Madsen claims he dropped the woman off in Copenhagen the previous night.
“We know she was aboard the submarine last night, but we do not know if she was aboard the boat when she disappeared.” the spokesperson said. “All I can say is that the woman’s relatives reported her missing this night and that we still have not heard from her.” Local police have tweeted that they are investigating and have no further comment at this time.
“It took about 30 seconds for Nautilus to sink, and I couldn’t close any hatches or anything,” Madsen told reporters.
Co-founder of the DIY rocket ship group Copenhagen Suborbitals, Madsen is a an eccentric renaissance man who helped build the UC3 Nautilus with a group of volunteers over the course of three years. It was launched in May of 2008 and performed relatively smoothly for several years before being grounded in 2011. Repairs and maintainance were needed and following a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, it relaunched in April this year.
Copenhagen Suborbitals is a group of amateur rocket enthusiasts that supports itself through crowdfunding and has around 55 volunteers.
The collective hopes to one day fly a volunteer on one of its rockets but flight tests have, so far, failed. The Nautilus was another project for the group and was a bigger success. In 2014, Madsen left the group to focus on other projects, one of which being the UC3 Nautilus.
The UC3 Nautilus submarine association was formed in order to separate ownership of the sub from Copenhagen Suborbitals. But within a year, Madsen was feuding with the board of that organization over who the proper owner of Nautilus really was.
A statement on the association’s website claims that board members received a text message from Madsen that read in part, “You may think that a curse is lying on Nautilus. That curse is me.”
After several rounds of negotiation, the board decided to cede ownership of the vessel to Madsen.
The submarine’s tumultuous journey is now at an end. But many questions remain unanswered. First and foremost, authorities are scrambling to find the missing journalist that was last seen with Madsen.
Police divers are reportedly searching the area for the UC3 Nautilus wreckage. The Danish navy is also encouraging members of the public who have the right equipment to help with the search.