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Meet the B.C. man who builds his own fully-functional submarines

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It's not often someone's hobby sets personal records and helps with scientific research but Jay Durant found a Fairmont Hot Springs man who fits the bill. Here's Sunday's This is BC – Oct 17, 2021

It’s not often someone’s hobby sets personal records and helps with scientific research, but that’s just the case Hank Pronk of Fairmont Hot Springs, B.C.

Pronk builds his own completely functional submarines, and recently finished his latest and greatest submersible, the E3000.

“It’s the world’s deepest-diving homemade submarine at 3,000 feet,” Pronk told Global News. “Building a sub to 1,000 feet is fairly basic but going to 3,000 feet is very, very serious,” Pronk explained.

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Pronk’s submarine has been pressure tested by professionals, but his personal best is 335 feet in local lakes — so for the most part, this unique hobby is fairly safe.

“I think my wife would like it if I collected stamps,” he said.

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Fortunately, there have never been any close calls, even though he does go out a lot — at least once a week for two or three hours — down into his huge personal aquarium.

“Sometimes I just take the sub out by myself. I cruise out into the lake and I dive. I’ll just sit and watch the fish and eat my lunch,” he said.

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Pronk moves homes for a living, and learned all of the engineering skills for his submarines online.

Just like looking up how to fix a leaking faucet, Google can show you how to build a personal sub, he said.

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“Most of it comes from the internet and a group called peacesubs.org,” he added.

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Interactions at the dock are always memorable. It can cause quite a stir when someone rolls up with a submarine.

“Half the people say you couldn’t pay me to get into that thing and the other half of the people would like to go for a ride,” he said.

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When they ask, Pronk has to decline, as it’s a liability issue — although he has donated time in his subs for scientific research, and he sold one to a private buyer for $75,000.

But the E3000 is the last one he’ll ever make. Maybe.

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“Well, I say that and I intend that, but chances are I’ll get bored. There’s just no way of knowing.”

To contact Jay Durant with a story idea for This is BC, email him details and contact information at thisisbc@globalnews.ca

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