Unique Pedal Powered Smuggling Submarine

Switzerland Pedal Powered Smuggling Submarine
Curious Italian law enforcement personnel inspecting the submarine. Photo from an excellent article at https://blog.nationalmuseum.ch/

Unique Pedal Powered Smuggling Submarine

Swiss Flag When I write about smuggling submarines, it is normally about the Narco Subs found in Latin America. But there are other places were there were, or have been, circumstances to cause smugglers to use similar devices. Today 'narco submarines' are also found in Europe, and underwater scooters have been used across the US-Canadian border. Going back in history, there were the Prohibition era smugglers in the America. But Switzerland also has its fair share of smuggling history.

Generally goods were smuggled from Ticino in Switzerland, south into Northern Italy. This was because, from the 1870s, the Italians imposed import restrictions on many products. Switzerland meanwhile followed a free trade attitude, causing significant price differences between the two sides of the border. Tabaco products and other luxuries seem to be the focus of the smuggling. Local authorities on the Swiss side turned a mostly-blind eye to the smuggling which quickly became endemic.

Switzerland Pedal Powered Smuggling Submarine

Much of the border was wooded, but the Lake Lugano offered particular opportunities (and challenges) for smugglers. The smugglers were Italian based (I think) so they would have travelled noprth to Switzerland and returned with the goods.

This unique contraption was discovered on the Italian side of the border in November 1948 (some sources, 1944). As such it pre-dates the current Latin American centric smuggling submarines by about 50 years.

The device was about 3 meters (10 ft) long and could carry a payload of 450 kg (990 lb). The single crew sat in a small cockpit amidships, peddling like on a bicycle. This turned a small propeller in the stern.

Although naturally described as a 'submarine', I think that it is likely to only partly submerge. This is of course in line with most so-called 'narco submarines' which are more properly considered Low Profile vessels (LPVs).
Switzerland Pedal Powered Smuggling Submarine
Given its Pedal propulsion it is unclear to me how viable this really was. It seems not very, partly because the smugglers were unable to manhandle it into the water. It was likely discovered before it even got tested.
Switzerland Pedal Powered Smuggling Submarine
Newspaper sketch from the time

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Other Swiss Smuggling 'Submarines'

Another smuggling 'submarine' was more like a submersible raft. It was seized on Lake Lugano by Swiss Customs in in the 1940s . The hand-made contraption could submerge just below the water and was controlled by swimmers. The payload may have included salami and rice.
Switzerland Smuggling Submarine Raft

The raft is now on dispay at the Museo Delle Dogane Svizzero on Lake Lugano:
Switzerland Smuggling Submarine Raft

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Another vehicle was more like a semi-submersible diver tug. It appears that the payload was loaded into the float-like main body, possibly with the battery. The electric motor was mounted under the float.
Switzerland Smuggling Diver Submarine

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