Russian Akula submarines are the largest submarines ever built. In the West they are known as Typhoon-class submarines and they are scary nuclear-powered weapons, carrying ballistic missiles. Typhoons were built between 1976 and 1986, but only six were ever completed. Today one remains active and two are sitting in reserve. These were notorious killing machines, but did you know that they have a swimming pool? Well, of course they did – where else would you go after your sauna session?!
Although Typhoon submarines are still the largest machines of this type, they are pretty much just history today. One remaining active Typhoon, called Dmitriy Donskoy, was launched back in 1979. Although today it is armed with modern Bulava missiles, which have a range of 8000 km, Dmitriy Donskoy is aging rapidly. We are not so sure, but its pool is probably not looking that great nowadays. But, of course, you are wondering why soviets decided to have a pool in such a small space.
Well, the truth is that Typhoon submarines are so large that there is enough space for some leisure and relaxation facilities. Typhoon-class submarines are 175 meters in length and have a beam of 23 meters. There is some space to spare, even though the crew may consist of up to 160 people. It is not a luxurious cruise ship though and it is not that nice to spend long boring months under water inside of this beast. The all-male crew starts getting stressed out or even wonder around the line of a total mental breakdown. And that’s where the pool comes in.
Typhoon-class submarines have a small gym with weights and dumbbells. Then there is a small sauna, heated up, you guessed it, by that powerful nuclear reactor. According to Russian tradition, you have to jump into ice-cold water immediately after sauna. This provides and thermal shock to your body, which is thought to be very healthy. However, Typhoons’ pools are rather small – they do reach 2 meters in depth, but you cannot swim laps in them.
Interestingly, these leisure facilities are decorated as if they were somewhere on land. Wooden floor, traditional soviet white tiles and even carpets in the sitting area – you get to feel like visiting Mother Russia. Some alcohol provisions may be passed around as well just to keep the crew happy. These facilities are thought to reduce stress, promote well-being and mental health. However, you cannot use them whenever you want to.
Crew members needed to get a permission to use sauna, swimming pool or the gym. Although your mental health is important, your duties on the submarine are far more significant. However, even if the waters are calm and no enemies are nearby, officers may not grant you such permission, because the pool may be taken. Former crew members from the Typhoon-class submarines remembered that these leisure rooms were filled with food when the submarine was at a port. They are still jokingly saying that sacks of potatoes spent more time in the pool than they did.