Thursday, November 01, 2018

Submarine Voyage, October 1963

Submarines are certainly nothing new, and yet there is still something about seeing photos of Disneyland's original "grays" that evoke the future - let's travel beneath the seas for weeks at a time without ever surfacing, thanks to Our Friend, The Atom! 

There goes the "Ethan Allen". I knew he was a Revolutionary War hero, but Wikipedia says he was also a "...farmer, businessman, land speculator, philosopher, writer, lay theologian, and... politician". I wonder if he could swim?

Moments later, the "Skate" scooted by. The U.S. Navy had a submarine called "Skate" (SSN-578). It was the third nuclear sub to be commissioned, but was the first to make a submerged trans-Atlantic crossing, the second to reach the North Pole, and the first to surface there. It had a long service, finally decommissioned in 1986. 

And there she goes; this is a nice angle compared to the first two relatively straightforward compositions. In less than a minute, the Skate would be descending into the icy depths, untouched by sunlight. 


Nanook said...


It was probably less-important that Ethan Allen could 'swim'; but rather, that he could 'float'-! I like the third image.

Thanks, Major.

Chuck said...

That's a nice photo of the Skate. It's much harder to find pictures of her sister ships, Cleat and Water Ski. Based on her guidance system, she would more accurately have been named Roller Skate.

In the third image, note the retro-rocket nozzles affixed to the bottom of the Monorail beamway. These were absolutely critical to provide precise station-keeping before technology was developed which allowed the beam to be directly attached to the support pylons.

It just occurred to me that Disneyland has two monorail systems, both of which are featured in this shot.

TokyoMagic! said...

In that second photo, we can see a large sea turtle just below the surface of the water (near the bottom of the pic and a little bit to the left of center).

Budblade said...

I have not seen any of the Disney subs in person, but i’ve Always wondered, how did they get away without putting periscopes on them? Did no one else notice? Maybe i’m Just all wet

Melissa said...

Lovely pictures today; the water looks all moody and atmospheric.

My favorite poem by Ethan Allen Poe is the one where a bowl of noodles keeps reminding him of his lost love. I think it's called "The Ramen."

Stu29573 said...

I remember as a kid, I was completely fooled by the "bubbles by the window" effect. I might have been a sucker, but I had a really thrilling ride!

K. Martinez said...

Sheesh! No wonder the furniture doesn't get delivered on time if it has to pass below the polar ice cap and probe depths seldom seen by man.

The third photo is my favorite as it shows the sweeping curve of monorail track over the Submarine Lagoon. I miss the wide open lagoon before they extended the interior of the 'ride-thru' into the lagoon reducing the size of it. That dramatic view is gone. Thanks, Major.

Chuck, I remember as a kid looking at pictures of Disneyland's Submarine Voyage and always noticing the underwater track while trying to speculate how the sub actually propelled itself and worked on a mechanical level.

Alonzo P Hawk said...

A "skate" is a small creature not unlike a Stingray. Little known fact "Skate" was the better choice of name as "Mini-sea flap flap" was too big to stencil on the side of the submarine.

JC Shannon said...

I love the Submarines in the original gray livery. Every kid I knew loved 'em as well. Back in the day this was as cool as it got. In addition, the Lagoon with it's beautiful blue water and colorful coral was great just to look at. As an eight year old looking out the window, I could imagine slipping beneath the waves and passing under the ice. Probably the only sub most of us kids would ever get to ride in. Great memories today Major, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Major. Thufer would have loved today's post.

The original idea of a submarine took an amazing amount of chutzpah to invent. I get the creeps just thinking about staying submerged for weeks at a time with no outside view.

Among amusement park rides, the Disney subs have a similar level chutzpah to build and maintain. The water purification plant alone must be huge. It's a great concept.

@Chuck, I thought Mark Twain and Columbia are both monorails too?

@Ken, I still do that, I'm hoping Mike Cozart or Steve DeGaetano will chime in with the Back of House info on the motive power of the subs.

@Stuart, same here. The cinematic roots of the ride design is as clear as can be, even after being mangled by Nemo.

@Alonzo, the Navy had to settle for "Skate" since Schwinn had trademarked "Stingray". the sub tender was named "Key".

@Jonathan, I agree, as cool as it could be. Although I was stunned and amazed to find a real submarine ride in Hawaii. The sub is very similar to the Disney design only much, much bigger, with huge windows, and it really does submerge to depths of over 100 feet. I had to ride it, it wasn't claustrophobic at all because of the view out.

I remember reading about Disney's concern for claustrophobic guests, their studies said many people stopped worrying when provided with something to watch and moving air, which was part of the reason for the little personal ventilator in each porthole. I still wonder how many people dodge out before boarding. I don't recall seeing anyone do that on the subs, but have seen some folks taking the side exit from the HM so it does happen.


Chuck said...

JG, you know, you're right about the Columbia and Twain. Same concept, really, just with the passengers above the waterline rather than below it.

The little air vent was one of my favorite features as a kid. As an adult, I still liked to lean into the portholes. Not only is the view better, but that cool air is part of the whole experience. To this day, when I feel cool, air-conditioned air blowing gently on my face, I think of the subs.

I'm sure I've told this story here before, but my youngest took the chicken exit on the DL HM the first time he rode it. He was almost six. The irony is that the kid was obsessed with the HM at the time. I'd brought home the Jason Surrell book a few years before and he was fascinated by it. He couldn't wait for me to pull out the HM playset every Hallowe'en, spending hours playing with it. When we'd visited the MK right after his fourth birthday, he actually started crying when we discovered that the HM was down for refurbishment. And then two years later he panicked when we started getting into the doombuggy at DL and I got to see a part of the Mansion I'd never seen before.

His older brother, who had been freaked out by the concept of the Mansion when we'd visited the MK and was visibly relieved to find it closed, pressed on with his mother and discovered that he loved the ride. To his credit, when we met them at the exit, rather than rubbing it in his brother's face, he told him that it wasn't scary and that he should ride it. He talked him into getting back in line, and I think we ended up riding it four or five more times that trip.

JC Shannon said...

@JG Sign me up for the Hawaii sub ride! I bet that was beyond amazing.

K. Martinez said...

Chuck, last time I tried to lean into one of the Sub's portholes it was difficult as I'm just too big and tall to comfortably do it anymore. I had to arch my back just to have my face and eye sight align with the porthole. Then my neck ached the rest of the day. I never had a problem with the Subs before, but that last ride, I couldn't wait to get out of there as it felt too closed in and uncomfortable for me. Th body changes.

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, you sure seem interested in whether people can float or not. Maybe you are

Chuck, what about the Skate’s brother, Moon Boot? Thank you for pointing out those rocket nozzles, what an interesting detail not found on most structures. If you count the Subs as a monorail (which I guess it is!), then we probably have to count the Mark Twain and Columbia, as well as the Peter Pan ride (which is suspended from a single rail).

TokyoMagic!, I see it, I see it! I wish he would be my best friend and take me to his undersea home.

Budblade, periscopes are cool (I made one out of two mirrors and a cardboard tube), but I don’t know, are they always “up”? Or do they just pop up when they are being used?

Melissa, ZOIKS.

Stuart Powley, I loved the bubble effect, especially when they combined it with a red light near the volcanoes.

K. Martinez, I notice that “furniture maker” was not on the list of Ethan Allen’s accomplishments. I wonder how they chose that name? I agree, overall the third photo is the best. Do you have Bob Gurr’s book (“Just For Fun”)? I think he explains how the subs work on the track.

Alonzo, “mini-sea flap flap” is my rapper name. Please show it the courtesy that it is due.

Jonathan, yeah, somehow in theory I like the idea of yellow research subs, and yet they just don’t have the “gravitas” (perhaps that’s the wrong word) that the grays had. And even knowing that we never truly fully submerged, I didn’t care. The ride was great for anyone willing to add a little imagination.

JG, I suppose submarine crews get used to the tight quarters, but yikes. At least on a battleship or destroyer you can go up and breathe some fresh air once in a while. There was a submarine attraction at P.O.P., but I am unclear as to what it was. I need to go look at Chris Merritt’s book again. Like you, I’ve read about the small jet of air that would blow on people’s faces to keep them from freaking out - I’m not sure if it really worked, but it’s a brilliantly simple idea. What did you see on the Hawaiian submarine ride? Coral reefs? I would think by the time you got 100 feet down, there would be almost no sunlight.

Chuck, JG and I had the same idea! I was plenty scared to go on the Haunted Mansion for the first time, mostly because of the stories I’d heard about it from kids at school. “Ghosts go right through you!”, I remember one kid saying. Maybe he meant the hitchhiking ghosts - either way, I didn’t want it to happen to me. They also told us that, in “Pirates”, your boat went under water. They must have been referring to the drops, but I specifically remember them saying under water. My nephew, at the age of 8, took one step inside the Mansion’s foyer, heard the Ghost Host, and turned right around. He wouldn’t ride it, even though my niece promised him that “it isn’t even scary!”.

Jonathan, I’m not so sure about that Hawaiian sub. Give me Catalina’s glass-bottom boats any day.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, Chuck and JG, in the 1955 opening day coverage, I believe Bob Cummings even described Peter Pan's Flight by saying something like, "You fly through here on an overhead "monorail!"

TokyoMagic! said...

And if I'm remembering correctly, he pronounces it like he's never said the word before, "mon-O-rail."

Anonymous said...

@Major and Jonathan, here is the link to the Waikiki sub >>

The Waikiki ride goes past some artificial reef structures and some sunken aircraft (bought for the purpose and sanitized of toxics) which host a lot of marine life.

Tours on other islands see more naturalized environments, but the waters off Waikiki are in regeneration after years of abuse.

There's plenty of light at 100 feet, but everything is blue. I don't think these subs had periscopes. Another funny thing about our trip, we rode this on the same morning after the North Korean missile scare and everyone was joking about torpedoes and ICBMs.

@Tokyo, that's funny. Maybe Major should copyright "Uni-Rail" from a few days back.


Major Pepperidge said...

TokyoMagic!, interesting… I feel like I’ve watched that “Dateline: Disneyland” show several times, but somehow that remark about the Peter Pan monorail went right by me.

TokyoMagic! II, from now on that is how I am going to pronounce it, too.

JG, that submarine thing looks pretty neat. As long as you get to see some neat stuff! We did a ride in Morro Bay on a boat that had some below-water windows, and we didn’t see hardly anything. Maybe a few boring fish. At one point an octopus went by the window, and everyone was so excited… it turned out to be a plastic toy, pulled on a string by one of the crew. Also, i like the term “Unirail”, as well as “Volkschlepper”.


Technically the original “grey” color scheme was grey above the water line , but a deep blue below to the bottom of the hull. There were several other color schemes beginning in the mid 1980’s When it was decided to give the subs a more scientific-exploration look as oppsosed to a military scheme. These first yellow subs were a pale yellow and cream two tone with 1/2 the fleet with orange highlights and the remaining ones a blue highlight. These didn’t look very good and were eventually the-don in National Geographic Yellow with orange and black highlights. I actually really liked this color version the best .... it turned the drab dated 50’s subs and made them look appropriately 80’s futuristic. The current NEMO colors are nice too , but the actually attraction is terrible - but better to have the subs than not and all!

MAJOR: the subs were originally deisel powered but were eventually switched over to Natural Gas by the 1980’s. While the subs do have a guide rail they technically do not “ride it” and wouldn’t count as a Monorail as the subs are really floating - there are float level gauges in the “bridge” and one at each end of the sub. Wheels help ease the subs into curves.

TokyoMagic! said...

Major, I just watched the Fantasyland segment of "Dateline Disneyland" and it's actually Art Linkletter, that says the line about the monorail; "It's a Peter Pan fly-thru. They ride in pirate galleons that hang on a monorail....(interruption from some rude children)....and you're gonna get a ride through here and the pirate galleon is hanging on a monorail....." So he actually mentions a "monorail" twice. He doesn't butcher the word like I thought, but he does call Captain Hook, "Captain Crew" at first, before correcting himself.

Chuck said...

Thanks for the additional info, Mike! Sorry to have steered us down the wrong path with my monorail comment.

Anonymous said...

@Mike, thank you for chiming in, the story of the color change is interesting, since this all happened in my hiatus of visits. I agree, Nemo is a sad mess, but might be revised someday. Better some sub than no sub. My memories of diesel were correct.

The subs need a "Crazy Ivan", IMHO.

@Chuck, now we can discuss whether the Jungle Cruise qualifies as a monorail.

Thought of this last night, too late to post.