Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea
The SSRN Seaview
Updated on December 15, 2019

 Our voyage begins...
       Many of my students are waaaay too young to remember watching Irwin Allen's science fiction TV series entitled "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea".  This was the first of four sci fi television series and it ran for almost four years starting in 1964.  The plot as well as most of the action takes place underwater and revolved around the state of the art submarine the SSRN Seaview which was light years ahead of its time.  The crew of the Seaview was led by Admiral Harriman Nelson (Richard Basehart), and Commander Lee Crane (David Hedison). Commander Crane assumed command of the Seaview after the murder of the original commanding officer and together with Admiral Nelson, they lead the crew through one perilous mission after another.

     The submarine is based at the Nelson Institute of Marine Research (NIMB) in Santa Barbara, California, and is often moored some 500 feet beneath the facility in a secret underground submarine pen carved out of solid rock. The Seaview was officially designed for undersea marine research and visits many exotic locations in the Seven Seas, but its real mission is to defend the planet from all global and extraterrestrial threats which included deep sea monsters, aliens and nefarious cold war spys.

     Several years ago, I purchased a studio scale replica of the SSRN Seaview from accomplished sub builder Bob Martin.  The sub had been in moth balls for quite some time and Bob was very up front about its less than stellar condition.  The 57 inch submarine kit was originally made by DeBoer Hulls and was crafted from fiberglass and resin.  When it was first introduced it was considered to be accurate to the original 18 foot version used in the movie and TV series.  Unfortunately, my sub was in rough shape and in need of repair and modification.  However, not wanting to pass up a great learning opportunity and drop some vintage Sci Fi in the laps of my students, I decided to dust off this impressive sub and begin its restoration and return Seaview to its original glory.  My students will research submersible design, nuclear propulsion, as well as some buoyancy and fluid dynamics in the process.  Mr. Crane, take her down...

  Inspection of the damaged kit
          The DeBoer kit was originally produced for static display but there are a number of finished subs that are fully submersible and operate by radio control.  Since our budget is limited and the cost of purchasing water tight compartments, electric motors and radio gear can be quite daunting, our team of engineers decided to restore our sub for display only.  We start our project by taking pictures of the entire sub from bow to stern.  Here is what we discovered:

         Signs of wear and tear are found throughout the boat starting with the bow and moving all the way to the stern.  The waterline at the bow has chipped gel coat, the control room windows are RED(!) and badly scratched, the conning tower or sail is in pieces along with both sail dive planes.  The greatest amount of damage occured during shipping and is found along the top stern "fins" which are cracked, separated from the hull with a small section missing on one fin.  It looks like the sub was going to be outfitted for radio control as evidenced by the few push rods and control linkages we discovered inside.  We really have our work cut out for us.

  Taking a stand
          In order to make working on our Seaview a little easier,  we need to fabricate a stand in order to support the sub during restoration.  The hull and the keel have a multi faceted contour so we will have to use a contour gauge to get a more accurate idea of how to construct the stand.  After tracing a template from some card stock, we used some scrap red oak to cut out two supports which will be secured to the base.  We used a jig saw to cut out the supports and a belt sander to smooth things out.

          We drilled out the two supports and then cut a 24 inch piece of red oak for the base.  A router did a nice job of beveling the edges and after a quick coat of miniwax stain we were in business.  For a stand made entirely from scrap wood and an hour or two of labor we think it came out pretty well!

  Replacement parts on the way!
          After careful inspection of the rear fins it was obvious that repairing them would take a lot of time and effort with an uncertain outcome.  We contacted Dennis at DeBoer Hulls and explained to him our problem.  He agreed to cast replacement parts for us which would include the rear fins, replacement light lens, mast details for the sail and a replacement window for the forward control room.  This is great news and will help our project move forward quickly!​​

 But wait, there's more...​​
        David Merriman is a talented and designer/modeler and an authority on submarines including the Seaview.  We were blown away when David not only offered to provide a complete control room parts set and additional upgrades to the mast but at virtually no charge.  Not only was this incredible act of generosity totally unexpected but out of character for this brilliant yet sometimes irracible individual.  Thank you David!  These parts will go a long way towards adding interest and authentic detail to our restoration.
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