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Submarine Pirates

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A Sister Trope to Sky Pirate and Space Pirate.

Submarine Pirates are pirates who have moved with the times and use a submarine as their vessel for attacking shipping (or in "underwater" works, other submarines, which makes them a bit more like Space Pirates). They may be Ruthless Modern Pirates or A Pirate 400 Years Too Late, depending on their personal style.


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     Anime and Manga  

     Comic Books  

     Comic Strips  
  • Mickey Mouse battled submarine pirates in the newspaper strip.
  • Terry and the Pirates. Captain Judas used a submersible crawler to continue his piratical career when he first returned.

  • In Down Periscope, a U.S. Navy war game calls for simulating an attack by terrorists working in conjunction with Submarine Pirates. The sub commander is specifically ordered by the admiral in charge of the war game to "think like a pirate". One of the particularly funny scenes involves the crew making XO Pascal walk the plank while tied-up and blindfolded right into the waiting nets of a fishing vessel.
  • A Submarine Pirate is a 1915 silent film where an inventor and his accomplice plan to rob a ship carrying gold bullion by using a submarine.
  • Assault on a Queen, a lesser-known Frank Sinatra movie from 1966. Pirates were using a salvaged German submarine to steal gold from the Queen Mary, hitting it with a dummy warhead and threatening to use live ones.
  • In the 1910 short The Aerial Submarine, a man's son and daughter are kidnapped by pirates in a mysterious submarine. The father finds his children's camera, with a picture of the sub, and he takes it to the police. Meanwhile, the pirates sink a treasure ship and manage to get the loot on board before they're chased by a British navy ship, which is astonished to discover that not only can the sub go under water but it can also fly.

  • Jules Verne:
  • Doc Savage fights submarine pirates in The Submarine Mystery and again later in Five Fathoms Dead.
  • The Time Wars novel The Nautilus Sanction incorporates events from Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea so it naturally includes submarine pirates.
  • The Yabba-Dabba-Doo from Sewer, Gas & Electric is an environmentally friendly, green, pink polka-dotted pirate submarine.
  • Hagbard Celine in Illuminatus!.
  • Played with in the Frank Herbert story The Dragon In The Sea (AKA Under Pressure'') has a future in which oil is so scarce that submarines are sent into foreign territory to secretly mine undersea sources of oil. These are government submarines however, rather than pirates. This trope only applies because it's a Cold War and none of this is happening officially.

     Live Action TV  
  • Divatox from Power Rangers Turbo is an intergalactic space pirate whose HQ is a fish-shaped submarine known as the Subcraft.
  • On Mythbusters, the Mythbusters attempted to build a pirate submarine out of a rowboat. It failed because the rowboat was too buoyant. They estimated it would have required approximately 2000 lb (900 kg) of ballast to submerge it.
  • In the pilot movie for seaQuest DSV a heavily modified Delta IV submarine was being operated by pirates, led by former seaQuest captain Marilyn Stark.
  • An episode of Burn Notice featured an Amoral Attorney who counted a drug cartel among his many evil clients. To rescue his daughter, Westen and crew request that the attorney get them a one-man submarine from the cartel. The submarine ends up being Team Westen's payment.
  • A two-part episode of TV Colosso featured a crew of submarine pirates led by Captain F.J., whose name has been commented as being opposed to the Boss of TV Colosso, J.F.
  • The Octopus from the MI High episode "The Octopus". He uses his submarine Naughty Lass to hijack ships to steal the components he needs to make a nuclear warhead to melt the polar icecaps.
  • The crew of HMS Achilles from The Last Ship qualify, as they are no longer operating as part of the Royal Navy or any other competent command authority and are attacking both military and civilian targets without authorization.

     Tabletop Games  
  • Shadowrun supplement Cyberpirates. Some pirate gangs use submarines to attack and loot surface ships.
  • Space Gamer magazine #68 After the End adventure "Island of Entellope". The Renegades, a group of pirates who have their base on the title island, use a submarine called the Esmerelda. It's powered by batteries and propelled by turbines. It has a quick firing, self-loading ballista and can ram surface targets with an explosive-tipped spar.

     Video Games  
  • There's a group of pirates like this in Xenogears. They start off in a sand submarine, though.
  • Sub Culture had everyone in submarines, so naturally pirates used them too.
  • The world of Aquanox has them. In fact, the main plot of Aquanox: Revelation is kicked off when your character's home sub is hijacked by pirates while he is away, and he is forced to deal with them from then on (one of them later turns out to be his uncle).
  • In Ace Ventura The CD Rom Game, one of the villains involved in animal poaching is a submarine named Nautilus.

  • Captain Snow and his crew from Archipelago, another "submarines only" 'verse.
  • In Girl Genius Sanaa Wilhelm or rather Trygvassen was apparently queen of a group of pirates who used a mechanical narwhal before ending up at castle Heterodyne.
  • In Irregular Webcomic! the pirates somehow end up in 1940 and hijack a German U-boat.

     Western Animation  
  • The Jonny Quest episode "Pirates from Below". They approach Dr. Quest's private island in a submarine and steal his submersible vehicle, the Underwater Prober. Later on when the Quest team escapes in the Prober the pirates attack in torpedo-firing one man subs.
  • Looney Tunes: The plot of Porky the Gob involves a hunt for a pirate sub, staffed by some outlandish characters, one of which has an outlandish uniform and an even more outlandish mustachio. Porky, left alone to guard his ship, manages to fend off an attack by the sub, capture it, and claim the reward.
  • Pirate Island, the base of pirate Sam Scurvy in the Doctor Dolittle animated series, was actually a disguised submarine that used to follow Dolittle's ship.
  • One episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) had a pirate captain using a submarine with Deflector Shields, thwarted with Mona Lisa's help.
  • A Villain of the Week of Yogis Gang tried to steal the ark so he could discard his damaged submarine.
  • Birdman episode "Serpents of the Deep". Dr. Shark operates from a submarine that has a weapon that can cut through objects. He uses it to steal a bathyscape so he can mine gold from the ocean floor.
  • Captain Hammerhead and the crew of the Dark Orca in The Deep, who act as a dark version of the heroic Nekton family.
  • In a novel twist on this trope, Transformers: Robots in Disguise features Hammerstrike, a pirate who turns into a submarine.

     Real Life  
  • While not strictly piracy related, private submarines used for maritime crime became notoriously famous as of late, their chief function being smuggling. The U.S. Coast Guard has seized a few submarines with drug shipments aboard and several more under construction. The vessels themselves are custom-built to various standards of quality, from ramshackle fiberglass boats barely able to submerge to thirty meter steel hull true submarines with respectable seaworthiness.
    • There was also a plot by several drug lords to buy a former Russian submarine. Fortunately this was intercepted by US Customs agents. Interestingly, while one would think this would be a supervillain-sized benefit, it would in fact be the opposite. The US military's sonar defense network is designed to pick up and track huge, Soviet-era submarines, so using one to smuggle drugs would have failed almost immediately. The smaller, custom-built ones are effective because they float under the sonar, as it were.
  • During the Spanish Civil War, Italian submarines operating without identification — in the words of one historian, as pirates — sank several Soviet and other merchant ships attempting to bring weapons to the Loyalist side.
  • During World War I and World War II, submarine crews on BOTH sides were often viewed this way by their respective adversaries since the whole point of submarines at the time was to disrupt shipping, and sink high value assets. Some navies went so far as to offer rewards both for information of sub activity note , and for actively sinking particularly troublesome submarines.
    • Oddly enough, the US Navy offered rewards to its own submarines during the Pacific Campaigns. Not for sinking enemy ships, but for retrieving downed pilots. Usually these rewards were snacks and goodies not normally stored on a Sub (due to the limited space), but in effect, the US Navy Submarines were ransoming off US Navy Pilots back to their home carriers. The only reason this worked out the way it did however is because part of the job of American Subs was to tail and report on Japanese fleet activity, and continue to do so even after a major strike for battle damage assessment; picking up downed pilots was not only practical for a sub, but extreme mercy for the pilot who could expect to be tortured and mutilated if the Japanese plucked him out of the water.
    • Contrary to popular belief however, German U-Boats did not shoot the survivors of sunken ships—this belief was spread by Allied propaganda. Despite being ordered to do so by Hitler himself, many of the U-Boat Captains chose to ignore the order, and offer some aid to survivors, or just leave the area as fast as possible. The latter was more likely towards the end of war as tools for locating and sinking the U-Boats had gotten to be very effective, and the few times a U-Boat did manage to get a shot off, it didn't want to hang around very long afterwards before half a fleet zeroed in on its position.
      • One attempt at help went especially bad for German u-boats and was in part responsible for the cessation of most help: The Laconia Incident; A German u-boat had sunk RMS Laconia carrying 2732 passengers, women, children and POWs. The u-boat then tried to organize a rescue attempt and even managed to call in three other submarines (two German, one Italian) as well as neutral French vessels. The whole affair ended with the u-boat in question being bombed by American aircraft. The journal "International Law Studies" called the incident an allied war crime.
    • The Japanese Sixth fleet actually issued explicit orders to Leave No Survivors from torpedoed merchant ships in the Indian Ocean, ironically at the behest of the Germans. Approximately half of their submarine captains simply refused to obey these orders, most of the captains who did obey only did so once, and the orders were rescinded after those captains complained that the massacres were ruining morale. Surfacing to attack survivors in the Pacific would have been suicidal.
    • There were some cases of early submariners being viewed this way by their own navies, due to the particularly underhanded tactics employed by submarines given their very nature. British sub crews embraced this, adopting the Jolly Roger flag as an unofficial insignia. It's a tradition for British subs to fly the flag when returning to port after a successful mission, and there's at least one instance of an American submarine doing the same during the War on Terror after a successful cruise missile attack on land-based targets.


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