captain nemo’s revenge
Engineers are working with acrylic to introduce tourists and vacationers to the wonders of the deep.
By Jack Raplee, Assistant Editor
When audiences watched Walt Disney Studios’ adaptation of the Jules Verne film classic, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, they were introduced to a vast underwater eco-system made possible by 1954-era cinematic wizardry. Many patrons likely exited the theater discussing the dramatic and “realistic” scene in which Captain Nemo (played by James Mason) and the crew of his submarine, the Nautilus, were engaged in an epic battle with a giant squid.
Despite the oceanographic insights and the Cinema-Scope photography, it was, after all, only a movie. While escapist entertainment will always have a place in the hearts of many, today many people are seeking to explore underwater life and vegetation as it occurs in nature, rather than in a movie studio.
The Imax prototype acrylic submarine, which was introduced in 1998, is a smaller version of the Deep View 66, a 66-passenger acrylic currently under development.
In many tropical vacation destinations, snorkeling and sunbathing are among the biggest attractions. Revelers are often drawn to the sea to be near it, in it, or even
under it. Snorkeling and diving both have limitations. The former allows only mild and shallow water exploration, while the latter can involve expensive equipment and requires some training.
There is an alternative. Now, tourist submarines offer entire families an immersive experience in the aquatic ecosystem without even getting wet.
This is not a new concept, but engineering innovations have been under way to accommodate the curious patrons by offering a maximum view of sea life.
Tourist submarines have operated for many years. The first, the Auguste Piccard, was built for the 1964 Swiss National Exhibition. It carried 40 passengers and granted approximately 32,000 people views of the bottom of Lake Leman over the course of 16 months.
“Many of these older submarines resembled small-scale military subs with large, bubble-like portholes for the passengers to look through,” said Ted Bush, president of Sea Star Submarines in Honolulu, a tour operator running submarine trips. “Passengers had a good, yet very limited view of the world outside the submarine.”