Close to Beijing, a bunch of fishermen were out at sea one day casting their nets into the water. They spotted something long and thin poking out of the water. It wasn't a shark fin (a shark fin would have been great news because shark fins are a delicacy, and shark finning was still legal at the time). It appeared to be a periscope from a submarine.

The fishermen reported their discovery, which is always a safe move in China, just in case the government is secretly testing you and will arrest you for silence. The government assumed they'd caught some Korean sub on a spying mission. When the navy approached the vessel, they realized it was actually Chinese—which surprised them, as they thought they knew where all their subs were, and none were scheduled to be patrolling around here.

The sub failed to respond to communications. It also didn't flee and seemed to be drifting aimlessly. The Chinese navy towed it to shore and popped it open to ask those inside what was up.

All 70 sailors in the submarine were dead. Even though no enemy had attacked the sub (fatal attacks tend to send submarines to the ocean floor, not leave them floating but directionless). Nor had the men divided into factions and slaughtered each other—they were slumped at controls and in the midst of tasks, with no immediately obvious cause of death.

They'd all suffocated, investigators determined. Rather than a nuclear generator, which is a good choice for an underwater vessel, submarine 361 was powered by diesel. The diesel engine runs when the sub surfaces and charges batteries, which take over when the sub submerges. But this engine had kept chugging even after the sub submerged, and it gobbled up all the precious oxygen. The result was one of China's worst ever military disasters, not counting stuff that happened during actual wars. 

This all wasn't that long ago, by the way. It happened in 2003, and that type of sub is still in commission. This disaster could happen again. It could even happen to yoooooouuuu (if you are currently reading this aboard a Ming-class Chinese submarine). 

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For more spooky tales from sea, check out:

Doomed Sailors Were Trapped Underwater For Two Weeks After Pearl Harbor

The Herald of Free Enterprise Capsized Because of an Open Door

The Philadelphia Experiment Was Basically Event Horizon

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Top image: Bangladesh Navy

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