On Friday, the UC3 Nautilus, a famous DIY submarine, sank off the coast of Denmark. Its owner, Peter Madsen, was later rescued and claimed he’d had technical difficulties. Copenhagen police now say that they’ve charged Madsen with killing a Swedish woman who was last seen with him on board the submarine.
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.
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. A spokesperson for Wired’s US division tells Gizmodo that the reporter was not working for them and they are trying to confirm if she was working for the UK division. The spokesperson was able to confirm that the editor in chief of Wired UK was not aware of the journalist or the story. 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 Danish 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.
Update 08/11/17 2:10pm: According to a press release from Copenhagen police, Madsen has been arrested and charged with “killing” the Swedish woman. He denies the charges and claims he dropped the still unidentified woman off in Copenhagen on Thursday night around 11:30pm local time. Police are seeking any witnesses who may have seen the woman after 4pm on Thursday.
Police say that the submarine was found by divers but will need to be hauled to shore before they can enter. It was found on the seabed in Koge Bay, seven meters below the surface.
The police description of the missing woman reads:
160 cm tall, 56 kg, 30 years, faint of building, reddish brown hair, green eyes. Wearing an orange blouse with long sleeves, black and white floral skirt, nylon stockings and white tennis shoes.