Erik Westerberg was 5 years old when he first saw a large oil tank standing next to a neighbor’s barn in his rural hometown in northern Sweden. “I started dreaming of a submarine,” he remembers. “I wanted so badly to see what was down there.”
The underwater world still calls to him, but the construction itself is now the biggest driving force. “When I first started building, I looked around for information, but there wasn’t a lot out there, since submarines are mostly classified as military. So I gave up. I decided to build it completely from my own imagination and common sense.”
For the past two years Westerberg, 26, has spent more than 2,400 hours, apart from his day job as a freelance mechanic, building his submarine. He had to invent a special device to bend the 30-millimeter, matte-finish sheet metal for his 6-meter-long hull. He used 200 kilos of filler metals in welding, and thought out all the tiniest details — from the Volvo seat and racer steering wheel down to the smallest, well-oiled mechanical bearing.
Now finished, the submarine weighs 8.7 metric tons and can dive to a depth of 100 meters. Down in the dark waters of the Gulf of Bothnia, the submarine is powered by an electric motor from a lathe, giving a modest top speed of 2.5 knots.
Westerberg’s submarine is only the second civil submarine in Sweden. The first was built in the 1960s by Håkan Lans, who can also claim the invention of a Neanderthal computer mouse on his list of merits.
But there are other submarines in Swedish history.
In October 1981 the Soviet submarine U137, armed with nuclear torpedoes, ran aground in the Swedish archipelago, and for many years holidaymaking Swedes, wearing Speedos and sunscreen, kept a wary eye on the horizon.
“It would be funny to put the hammer and sickle on the sub,” Westerberg says laughing. “Then there could be a little action when I’m out and about.”
Westerberg’s Submarine: makezine.com/go/eriksub