In WW1, the British submarine E-11 entered the Golden Horn, but apparently not the Bosphorus, and in this old thread on Usenet there are references to WW1 and fiction.

According to a recent article in World Neurosurgery, the American submarine Robert E. Lee passed through the Bosphorus submerged in 1969:

patrols based out of Holy Loch, Scotland, that involved clandestine courses that required passage through the Straits of Gibraltar, Mediterranean Sea, Dardanelles, and Bosphorus. Each of these accomplishments was achieved submerged [...] The Bosphorus passage was particularly treacherous and irregular, with complex positioning and course changes that were affected by currents and the presence of Soviet submarine traffic and planned impediments.


(We ignore that the map shows a route straight through Perekop isthmus. The Bosphorus is what interests us here.)

The reference to "Soviet submarine traffic" seems to suggest this was not regulated traffic. The Montreux convention says that "submarines must travel by day and on the surface". On the other hand, surely NATO/Turkey would have been able to detect submarines in the Bosphorus in 1969?

Am not sure it would have been practical to do it with the technology available in WW 1/2.

So the question is: are there any records of any submarines not friendly to Turkey passing through the Bosphorus submerged?

  • 2
    Given that the depth of the Bosphorus is just 13m at a given point ( around Aşiyan/Besiktas), that seems rather unlikely/risky. – User999999 Jan 24 '18 at 8:59
  • The wiki page seems to say it is shallow only on one side. A sub doesn't have to follow the boat lanes. Also, it is presumably only that shallow for a short distance. – Tomas By Jan 24 '18 at 9:12
  • I don't believe the story in that American Neuroscience article. The Robert E. Lee was a ballistic missile submarine, and a significant part of the US nuclear deterrent at the time. Its job was to be not found, not to risking getting caught going through those straits. – John Dallman Jan 24 '18 at 16:36
  • Yes, that occurred to me also, but apparently she was based in Holy Loch in 1967-1971. The straits (Gibraltar & Dardanelles/Bosphorus) are NATO territory. Or maybe it was just a different sub. – Tomas By Jan 24 '18 at 16:52
  • I'm a bit too pushed for time to put together a dceent answer, but this page on Daring the Dardanelles seems to suggest that British / Australian submarines managed it during WW1 – sempaiscuba Mar 13 '18 at 4:12

Information provided by user999999.

According to Halpern, The Mediterranean Fleet, 1919–1929, p. 96, the British submarine HMS E46 made a passage in 1919 at periscope depth (or slightly above), and concluded submerged transit undetected would not be possible/practical.

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Addition, context: in 1919 Istanbul was occupied by the WWI victors, so this does not really count as a "hostile" passage.

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