Bygone era: British submarines, one is seen here in the foreground, would routinely call into Dockyard in the aftermath of WW1. *Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Bermuda
Bygone era: British submarines, one is seen here in the foreground, would routinely call into Dockyard in the aftermath of WW1. *Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Bermuda

Few military submarines come through Bermuda these days.

And only a select few know any details of their top secret underwater movements.

So for two US Navy subs to divert into the island to drop off injured crew in the space of just a week was both intriguing and unprecedented in recent times.

Only the most eagle-eyed of South Shore residents would have noticed the arrival of these multi-million dollar vessels as the transfer had to be done in deep water five miles south east of Cooper’s Island.

The first sub arrived in Bermudian waters on April 26 after a serviceman had fallen sick.

The Pilot Boat St David and the line-handler boat, Princeton, headed out to meet the submarine at around 2pm.

Three crew members were quickly transferred onto the Princeton and brought back to Ordnance Island where they were whisked away by a waiting ambulance.

Just a week later the two Marine and Ports vessels were in action again, coming to the aid of another stricken submariner.

They set out from St George’s at around 10am last Friday and met up with the submarine at the same location.

Two servicemen were successfully transferred onto the Princeton, while the St David stood by, and the two boats returned to St George’s for the sailors to be taken to hospital.

The so called ‘Humi-Evac’ operations were coordinated by the US Consul, Bermuda Maritime Operations Centre and the Government’s Marine and Ports Department.

And although the Consul confirmed the two rescues, further details remain a closely guarded secret.

US Consul General Robert Settje told the Bermuda Sun: “Minimizing the loss of life and injury by rendering aid to persons in distress at sea is a time-honoured obligation of those involved in the maritime environment.

“The US Consulate General commends Bermudian authorities for responding to distress calls from American citizens whenever they occur in or near Bermudian waters.

“In particular, the Consulate thanks the Bermuda Department of Marine and Ports Services and the Maritime Operations Centre/Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC) for coordinating with the US Navy in the two recent submarine medevacs.”

Although the sight of submarines in Bermuda is a rarity today, it was once quite commonplace.

These boats first started coming into the island in the 1920s after the First World War.

They would often dock at the Knuckles up in Dockyard, but there is also photographic evidence that suggests they sailed all the way into Hamilton too.

The North Channel was specifically built to help submarines access the Naval Operating Base (NOB) at Morgan’s Point during the Second World War.

The Allies also used St George’s Harbour as a stop-off point for their submarines during the conflict.

And famously in June 1944 the captured German U-boat, U505, was brought into Bermuda where it remained undetected in the Great Sound until May 1945.

More recently during the Cold War US submarines would routinely stop into Bermuda while conducting patrols of the Atlantic Ocean and they were a regular sight.

It was only in 1995, when the US Bases were closed, that submarines became a much rarer commodity in Bermuda.

But the two recent submarine diversions show that they still sail in Bermudian waters and there remains plenty we do not know about going on beneath the waves.