23 May 2003
23 May 2003
A yellow submarine could soon be taking tourists on underwater adventures around the Wellington coastline.
For three years, entrepreneurs Marco Zeeman and Graeme Anderson dreamed and schemed of an underwater interactive tourism venture. Then last year they learned of a movie being made in the South Island by a German producer using a prop called Seabug.
In the yet-to-be-released movie, the four-metre by three-metre 900 kilogram fibreglass sub was portrayed as a modern submarine used for exploration, though in reality it never left the surface. The pair gained the rights from the movie's makers to use it, roped in dive shop owner Bill Keddy, and the trio began converting it into a real submarine.
They hope to run a sea trial by the end of the year, and that within 12 months Seabug will be taking eight passengers at a time on underwater adventures at a cost of about $120 an hour.
Shipwrecks and a variety of harbour tours are in the pipeline. The big picture includes franchises around New Zealand and overseas. ""It'll be rated to (a depth of) 150 feet (46 metres) but it will only go to 33 feet,"" Mr Zeeman said.
""There are a few subs in Hawaii and one at Great Barrier Island but this is a unique design. It's modern and leading edge. There could be scientific and military uses down the line.""
Other tourist submarines have used a system to keep the pressure inside the same as on the surface. But Seabug will operate by using air in the same way as a diver's buoyancy compensator – let air out and it will sink, pump the air in and it will surface.
There will be a five-layered safety system which includes being followed by a support boat on the surface. This week it has proved a traffic stopper outside Flash Gordon's dive shop in Island Bay.