Make your own carrot submarine

This month’s hands-on activity is inspired by our new interactive exhibition, Voyage to the Deep, featuring the fantastical steampunk Nautilus submarine. In this activity you’ll get to the root of how submarines work.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 carrot – fairly straight, not too tapered (If you don’t have a carrot; cut down a potato)
  • Baking powder (not baking soda)
  • Toothpicks
  • Deep bowl or pot of water

Materials needed to make a carrot submarine

Step 1:
Slice the carrot in half lengthwise, to create a long flat base, and trim the ends so it’s an evenish shape.

Sliced carrot

Step 2:
Make a hole in the middle of the base that is fairly deep but doesn’t go right through.

Making a hole in the carrot submarineStep 3:
Cut two toothpicks in half and stick two bits at each end of the top of the carrot (the side without the hole).

Putting toothpicks in the carrot submarine

Step 4:
Pack the hole with baking powder – press it in firmly.

Putting baking powder in the carrot submarine

Step 5:
Set your submarine in the bottom of the water container and see what happens.

Carrot submarine in the water

Step 6:
If your submarine is unstable, try re-positioning the toothpicks until it’s balanced.

Carrot submarine floating

What’s going on:
Carrots naturally sink in water. The toothpicks give your carrot some extra buoyancy, so it doesn’t sink so quickly.

When the baking powder gets wet, it reacts with the water to form bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. The bubbles build up under the submarine and push it to the surface.

When it reaches the top, the bubbles escape and the submarine sinks again. The cycle repeats with the submarine diving and surfacing until all the baking powder has reacted.

Real submarines fill their ballast tanks with air to surface, and vent the air to sink.

– Em Blamey, Creative Producer

Learn more about underwater exploration in Voyage to the Deep, open until 27 April 2015. See the inner workings of our fantastical submarine, get behind the wheel and peer through the periscope.

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