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Sail Away

The Last Voyages of the Disneyland Submarines

September 8, 1998, one of the largest submarine fleets in the world was retired. On that day, Disneyland closed down the Submarine Voyage. Once again Paul Pressler and his crew shut down a popular attraction, and so far their replacements in the new Tomorrowland have been hit and miss (mostly miss).

Along with thousands of other ADDers and other sundry Disneyland fans, I went to the park on the 7th to take one last ride on the Submarines and bid them farewell. This page documents my impressions of the ride, and presents some images of the ride and more importantly the subs themselves.

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The Submarine Voyage opened June 6, 1959. It was one of the first rides to require an E ticket. There were 8 subs. They were originally called Nautilus, Triton, Sea Wolf, Skate, Skipjack, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Ethan Allen. Later they were renamed, with the last 5 names replaced by Neptune, Sea Star, Explorer, Seeker, and Argonaut.

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To be honest, the Subs were never one of my favorite rides. The line was always long, and I never got the same thrill from looking out a little porthole at plaster sea creatures that I did from the roller-coasters, or driving the Autopia cars, or even the shorter, but more active-seeming dark rides. Though the Submarine Voyage was slightly more realistic than the Flight to the Moon (or Mission to Mars for that matter), it didn't seem worth sacrificing a ride on the Matterhorn or any of the more exciting rides that put the phrase E-Ticket ride into common usage in English.

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The real benefactors of the Submarines were children. As they are more able to suspend their disbelief about such things, children could more readily believe they were really going on an undersea voyage. A few years ago I went there with my niece, who was about 6 at the time, and she seemed captivated by the ride and delighted by the sea serpent.

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Of course, I'll always remember looking out across the submarine lagoon and seeing the Monorail, the Submarines, the Skyway, and the PeopleMover all busily chugging their way across Tomorrowland at the same time. Now three of the four are gone, with only the Monorail as a reminder of the old days of Tomorrowland transportation. If they'd spend the money to redo the Rocket Rods so that they could go coaster-speed for the whole ride, then they'd have at least one reasonable substitute. Hopefully they have something productive in mind for the submarine lagoon.

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Some of us who have been going to Disneyland for a longer time can even recall the days when they had mermaids sitting on the rocks out in the lagoon. Recently, I've wondered why they didn't rejuvenate that concept by having an Ariel out on the rocks. Better yet, I thought there was great potential in the idea of replacing the under the waterfall part of the ride with a whole Little Mermaid sequence. They could have some underwater audio-animatronic fish do a rendition of Under the Sea, or something like that.

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If for no other reason, I'll miss the Submarine Voyage purely for the nostalgia of it. It was one of the staples of the Tommorowland I grew up with. I imagine when I'm old and grey, my recollection of the Submarine Voyage will make it seem much more spectacular. I'll forget the cramped cabins, the smell of diesel, the overheating in the summer, and just recall the childhood glee of an undersea adventure.

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Times articles about the closing:


All scans on these pages are copyright 1995 John Perry. Any rebroadcast or republication is prohibited without my expressed written consent. Write to me with your comments or usage requests

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