Submarines For the Rest of Us: Personal Submersibles Coming to Maker Faire Bay Area

Maker News
Submarines For the Rest of Us: Personal Submersibles Coming to Maker Faire Bay Area
Shanee Stopnitzky (left) and Alessandra Nölting (right) with Noctiluca, Community Submersible Project’s 32’ diesel-electric submarine.

The Community Submersibles Project is a 300-member strong collective of submersible enthusiasts in Berkeley, CA. Led by Shanee Stopnitzky, a marine scientist, and Alessandra Nölting, a self-taught maker and hardware enthusiast, and a crew of makers, mechanics, fabricators, and dreamers dedicated to making ocean exploration accessible. We are modernizing two submersibles, and teaching the public how to engage with them safely!

Diving in Noctiluca feels like gently going into space, but if space was full of life. Not just any life, but a wondrous, dazzling, glowing diversity of organisms that are each alien enough to impart the feeling of exploring distant and unknown worlds. The rarity of this experience and the weirdness of life in the deep are near impossible to describe with words.  That visceral experience of profound wonder is what this project wants to give the world. Submarines have traditionally only been available to researchers and wealthy private owners, but we believe everyone should get to experience the awe of peering into the secret corners of our own planet.

Our overarching objectives are to expand and increase the cultural emphasis on curiosity, show people the thrill of exploration and discovery, and encourage people to seek out and value awe as a fundamental human experience. We use the submersibles to show what we can learn about life on earth, and also what audacious feats we are capable of when we are driven by deep curiosity.

We currently have two submersibles:

Shanee Stopnitzky takes Fangtooth out for sea trials to test all systems.

Fangtooth is a homemade, 11-foot electric sub that can dive to 30’ with up to 3 people. We are upgrading the pressure vessel to be capable of dives to 120 feet, and adding essential safety equipment for dives of up to 72 hours.

Noctiluca, formerly S-101 of Marlin Submersibles

Noctiluca (formerly Marlin S-101) is a 32-foot diesel-electric sub with a storied history. It was built by the UK-based Marlin Submarines in 1989 and upgraded by amateurs over the years. In the ‘90s, the sub was owned by anti-whaling activist organization Sea Shepherd. The Community Submersibles Project purchased the sub from its last owner, U.S. Submarines co-founder Ellis Adams. Noctiluca can currently dive to 300’ for up to 72 hours. Both subs will be refit for deeper diving and newer onboard technology.

We have partnered with world-renowned submersible pilot, engineer and inventor Graham Hawkes to launch the world’s first public submersible pilot certification agency. Students will start with an online curriculum covering the theoretical aspects of submersible diving, and complete check-out dives with privately-owned submersibles in their area to earn their certifications. Modeled after aviation training, the courses emphasize developing automatic knowledge and skills using extensive simulations so that pilots are prepared for any eventuality. Submersible diving is currently the safest mode of transportation, and the Submersible Diving Academy’s primary objective is to continue to improve submersible safety statistics by getting as many people in the water diving as safely possible.

Get your tickets and come check us out at Maker Faire and see our Noctiluca sub in person!

Graham Hawkes

3pm on Saturday, Center Stage

See Graham’s Ted Talk, “A Flight Through the Ocean.”

Try a Sub on for Size. Everyone can be an Ocean Maker, Tinkerer, Pilot and Explorer

2pm on Sunday, Center Stage

Exhibit Link:

Community Submersibles Project

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!
Shanee Stopnitzky

Shanee Stopnitzky is a complex systems and marine scientist, evangelist of embodying wonder, and mother of two submersibles. She recently founded the Institute for Emergence, an organization that employs the science of emergent phenomena to grow community, generate culture, and optimize conservation, particularly of coral reef ecosystems.

Shanee is the founder and director of the Community Submersibles Project, and is dedicated to bringing submersibles and the importance of awe back into popular imagination. She has spent a year of her life underwater in aggregate, and plans to use what she learns from the subs as a stepping stone to build a diving underwater house in the future.

When not underwater, Shanee makes large experiential art installations using fire, living butterflies, and boats.

View more articles by Shanee Stopnitzky
Alessandra Nölting

Alessandra Nölting is an open-source hardware and mechanics enthusiast with a passion for encouraging others to design, build, tinker, and create. Alessandra previously worked at, an open-source hardware and electronics platform.

Her interest in Ocean exploration and conservation was sparked when she started tinkering with OpenROV's underwater drones. Alessandra is excited to be making submersibles and marine exploration more accessible to the general public!

In her spare time, Alessandra swims in the San Francisco Bay with the South End Rowing Club.

View more articles by Alessandra Nölting