Imagine that you’re swimming out into your local lake. You’re a capable swimmer, you know this body of water like the back of your hand, and you feel confident while athletically stroking through water enveloped by the early morning mist. You decide to dive underwater for a bit—you know, for fun—and that’s when you see it: the shadowy silhouette of something huge, rusted, and covered in seaweed. You panic, rise to the surface, and swim to the shore. Trembling. Terrified.
What even was that?! That, my dear Pandas, was but a taste of submechanophobia, the fear of fully or partially submerged man-made objects, from sunken ships and propellers to sculptures and buildings. The r/submechanophobia subreddit, a vast community of 375k people, is a place to explore that deep, lurking fear in photo format.
Let’s plunge in, shall we? Remember to upvote the pics that scared the bejesus outta ya as you’re swimming through this list. We’d also love to hear your thoughts about the photos, so if you’re brave enough, you can dive to the very bottom and drop us a line in the comment section.
One of the moderators of the 'Submechanophobia' subreddit, redditor Pubocyno, gave us a glimpse into the exciting underwater currents of the community, shared their take on tackling our fears, and revealed the very interesting origin of the phobia itself. Pubocyno told Bored Panda that they're actually a very active wreck diver in their free time! What's more, they create detailed shipwreck maps.
"I like to spend much time underwater. There is this sense of awe when you discover underwater wrecks for the first time, a little bit of excitement and a little bit of terror—not to forget the sense of history, especially in those wrecks you know have had casualties," Pubocyno said that even though they don't have submechanophobia themselves, they nonetheless have a "great respect" for all things underwater. You'll find the moderator's other insights deeper into the article, dear Readers.
Bored Panda also reached out to Alastair Bailey, a DSD Divemaster who has done a whopping 500 dives while working at the Byron Bay Dive Centre in Australia. Check out what he had to say below as well.
The ‘Submechanophobia’ subreddit will be celebrating its 8th birthday on July 10, so if you’re a fan of the uncomfortable photos they post, drop by, say ‘hi,’ and congratulate them. Just… don’t forget your diving gear, powerful waterproof flashlight, and harpoon. Just in case the underwater objects are haunted or decide that now’s the perfect time to come alive.
Moderator Pubocyno is very dedicated to the subreddit. They do their best to find a bit more about the shipwrecks that get posted on r/submechanophobia and if they feel satisfied that they've got the right information, they'll add it to one of their shipwreck maps. Pubocyno has made six maps so far and shared with Bored Panda the North European version which you can see in all of its glory right here. Trust us, it's worth taking a peek.
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Pubocyno was kind enough to share their take on dealing with phobias like submechanophobia. The moderators actually have very high standards and strict rules for the content that gets posted so that it doesn't trigger a reaction in anyone who is afraid of submerged man-made objects. "we are not about shock content," they said.
"When dealing with any sorts of phobia, the important must be understanding why you are afraid, not necessarily what you are afraid of, although they two can be connected. As always, proper mental health workers are to be recommended instead of the advice of strangers on the internet if someone experiences serious problems," the moderator detailed. "To support those who are haunted by these sort of images, we crack down on staged or otherwise unreal content and demand posts have some sort of cohesive title."
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The moderator also gave Bored Panda a glance at the subreddit's history. The current moderators weren't present when r/submechanophobia was founded and they don't really have any communication with the community's creators. According to Pubocyno, the original founders thought that the idea to create a subreddit about submechanophobia was a good one and, once the community "gathered too much steam," they left to pursue other projects.
"Interestingly enough, we are unable to find mentions of the term 'submechanophobia' that predates the subreddit (2013), so although we have no proof, we like to think we were the instigator of the term. The internet has redefined the term a bit differently than we use it in-house, however," the moderator noted that the subreddit may very well have created the term itself that then spread to other corners of the net.
A part of submechanophobia is that people are scared that they’ll be sunk into the man-made objects or that dead bodies or even dangerous creatures could suddenly appear out of them. What’s more, some people are scared that the objects themselves might be haunted by ghosts or spirits. It’s easy to laugh at this when it’s sunny and we’re on dry land though, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, DSD Divemaster Alastair told Bored Panda that he personally had no fears when he first started diving. For him, it's all about putting his trust in his gear. "For me, it was just having faith in the equipment. Same as anything, you trust a microwave won't blow up in your face, or your car will start. Yeah, accidents happen but as long as you do everything correctly then you minimize those risks," he said.
I was interested to find out about the scariest moments that the diver faced underwater. According to Alastair, he's had a couple of scary incidents, but nothing too bad overall. "I had a couple of people lying about their air when I first started guiding people. For me, it was scary because I didn't think people would be that stupid. Running out of air puts everyone in that group in a dangerous and stupid position," he put it bluntly that honesty is always the best policy when it comes to diving. And even a single person can endanger the entire group.
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"I have had a person start vomiting underwater while guiding a group and other stupid behavior or panicked divers, but you train and get taught how to deal with those things which makes it more manageable. I have never had a gear failure, ripped hose, broken regulator, or anything, so all in all pretty lucky," the DSD Divemaster revealed that he's personally only had to deal with human error, not gear failure. And it's that particular human element that can lead to some very frightening moments.
However, it's not all human errors and silly mistakes underwater—diving is absolutely fascinating and you get to see some spectacles underwater. DSD Divemaster Alastair shared with Bored Panda some of the coolest moments he's seen during his dives. "I had a humpback whale swim over us which was pretty awesome," he said, adding that watching octopi is also "awesome" and one of his favorite things to do. "And diving with manta rays is always stunning. Unfortunately, I have never found any treasure, but I have found some shark's teeth."
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Let’s face it, most of us have at least one phobia in our lives. Some might be secret, others will be well known to our closest friends and family members. For instance, I’ve got acrophobia or the fear of heights. I know it’s irrational. I know that it’s usually silly for me to panic. But when I end up in a very high place, I’m terrified. Especially if my friends are doing dumb things like leaning over the edges just to annoy me. Paradoxically, I absolutely love flying.
So considering that we’ve got our own phobias to deal with, submechanophobia doesn’t seem all that silly. After all, it’s one thing to look at some photos of submerged objects from the safety of our own homes, schools, or offices; it’s a completely different ball game to be underwater, in the silence, and see a shadow rising out of the depths. It’s eerie. It’s scary. And I’m betting that some Pandas (me included) will be having nightmares about this in the days to come.
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The fear of submerged man-made objects is closely linked to thalassophobia, the fear of deep bodies of water, from the ocean and the sea to lakes and even pools. If you’ve got thalassophobia, you could be scared of being in deep bodies of water, afraid of how vast and empty the ocean is, frightened of waves or creatures living in the water, or even scared to get too far away from the shore.
Part of this fear could be explained by our evolution (i.e. human beings don’t breathe underwater and can’t survive while on water without a lot of help), however, researchers are still unsure of the precise causes of thalassophobia.
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Some of the ways to treat thalassophobia and submechanophobia include applying cognitive behavioral therapy, systemically desensitizing the patient to their fears, using exposure therapy, and even using medication if the symptoms are very strong and persistent.
A combination of all approaches seems to work best. What’s more, treating the phobia in question is best done in childhood, before it takes root... and drags you down to the underwater abyss.