From Wikipedia's plot summary of Raiders of the Lost Ark:
(all images are taken from here)

Indiana Jones and Marion leave Cairo to escort the Ark to England on board a tramp steamer. The next morning, their boat is boarded by Belloq and the Nazis, who once again steal the Ark and kidnap Marion.

Bantu Wind

Indiana stows away on their U-boat and follows them to an isolated island in the Aegean Sea where Belloq plans to test the power of the Ark before presenting it to Hitler.



How exactly did Indy "stow away" on the submarine?

2 Answers 2


The script reveals that Indy attaches himself to the periscope:

Indy climbs the ladder to the top of the turret and braces him- self between the two uprights there--the 7 foot radio mast and the 20 foot periscope.

Still the ocean comes up to meet him. Soon the top of the turret is under water and the radio mast is disappearing.

Indy shifts his grip to the periscope, working his way up it and hanging on for dear life as the ocean whips at his body. The periscope is quickly going under. Indy hangs on to the top three feet, all that remains above.

The forward movement of the sub continues, but, to Indy's slowly dawning delight, the dive stops. No more of the periscope goes under. Indy smiles; it's a pretty good smile, too, given the circumstances. Indy pulls out his bullwhip and begins tying himself to the periscope.

And it seems that at least some of this was filmed:

The periscope ride

This is the most well-known of the Indy cut scenes, by virtue of being the one most crucial to the plot. This scene explains how Indy survived his trip at sea attached to a submerged submarine. As the sub descends, he climbs up and grabs hold of its extended periscope. He then lashes himself to it with his whip for the long trip.




This cut scene did make it into the Marvel Comics adaption:

Comic [Source]


Does the film actually show the submarine submerged for its journey?

Raiders of the Lost Ark is set in 1936, the pre-World-War-II era. Unlike nuclear submarines today, U-boats of that time weren't capable of long journeys while submerged.

U-boats traveled on the surface, propelled by diesel engines. They would dive to periscope depth to follow ships and attack. They would dive deeper only in order to avoid detection or attack by enemy ships. Speed was severely limited while submerged.

Because diesel engines need oxygen for combustion, underwater operation required electric engines powered by batteries. These batteries had to be recharged periodically by running the diesel engines—which, therefore, the U-boat could only do while surfaced. It simply wasn't practical or even possible for a U-boat to be submerged all the time;

Here are a couple of sources on this:

Unlike nuclear submarines, which could dive to depths of over 1,000 feet, travel thousands of miles submerged and remain on patrol for months at a time, the u-boat can operate submerged only for brief periods at a time. (UBoatAces.com)

Because speed and range were severely limited underwater while running on battery power, U-boats were required to spend most of their time surfaced running on diesel engines, diving only when attacked or for rare daytime torpedo strikes. (Wikipedia)

There was no reason for the submarine to submerge at all, even to periscope depth. Indy simply rode on the conning tower until the submarine got near the cave, and then jumped or climbed off.

(By the way, for a real-life example of a submarine from the same time period, visit the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, IL. There you can tour the U-505, a German submarine captured by American forces during World War II. The U-505 and its fellow Type IX U-boats were manufactured in 1935 and 1936.)

  • Some shots show the submarine crew checking around with the periscope. So yes, the movie does mean submersion. There is no outside view, though, apparently cut out in the final version. Sep 2, 2016 at 14:07
  • 2
    @EricPlaton, you're saying a submarine can't use its periscope unless it's submersed?
    – Kyralessa
    Sep 3, 2016 at 17:02
  • 3
    I wouldn't find it unlikely that the Marvel Comics illustrator didn't realize that WWII subs couldn't travel long distances submersed. As for the movie, they probably had a technical advisor who did know, which is why you don't see the submarine submersed in the movie. "We are talking about cinema" is a cop-out. The movie could've had Indiana Jones flap his arms and fly after the sub if the movie makers had wanted to. The actual question was how Indy "stowed away" on the submarine, and the answer is that WWII subs didn't submerge except briefly to attack or hide.
    – Kyralessa
    Sep 9, 2016 at 5:28
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    Yes, we know it probably dived because there's an order given to dive. Before the scene with Indy looking for a spot on th outside of the U-Bbot, one of the German Kriegsmarine orders the boat to dive by shouting "tauchen!," German for "dive!"
    – Drew Stile
    Sep 4, 2020 at 7:24
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    The movie does not show the submarine submerging or submerged. I've watched it at least 100 times (that is not hyperbole, I'm 50 years old and it's been my favorite movie of all time for most of my life), I've wondered about this plot point, and I've checked whether the sub is ever shown submerged. My assumption has been that it never fully submerged and therefore Indy rode on top. Nov 22, 2023 at 17:22

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