20,000 Leagues Diving Gear

All material in this article was contributed and is © copyrighted by Pat Regan

A behind-the-scenes picture taken during the filming of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.


Vulcania Submarine is Pat Regan’s shop in Hawaii, where he builds functional replicas of the underwater technologies seen in Walt Disney’s 1954 movie version of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

"Like many people, I saw the movie as a kid and it sparked an interest in underwater technologies that stayed with me all my life," Regan says. "I was raised in California and started skin diving in the late 1950’s. I’ve been into SCUBA diving since the mid-1960’s, and building submersibles since the 1980’s.

"In 1991, I launched the World’s first (and still the only) real submarine of Disney Nautilus configuration in any scale: the all steel, two-place, pressure hull-type submersible, Nautilus Minisub.

Pat Regan and the Nautilus Minisub, 1991.

"In 2003 I completed the World’s first functional replica of the diving gear seen in 20,000 Leagues: the Nemosuit.

Regan and Nemosuit, 2003.

"In 2004, I followed the Nemosuit with another replica Disney rig: the Nautilus Diver.

Nautilus Diver, 2004

"I am presently refurbishing my Nautilus Minisub with better systems, and improving the exterior detailing to more accurately replicate the 11-foot model used in the movie. My shop is tooled-up to produce functional 20,000 Leagues diving gear: anything from a single component to an entire rig.

Nautilus Minisub on rotary cradle undergoing improvements, 2003.

"For the past ten years I’ve communicated on the Internet with divers, subbers, and Leaguers worldwide. I know a lot of people who are interested in the underwater technologies seen in 20,000 Leagues, but I don’t know of any other craftsman who has actually built and operated them like I have.

Regan building Nautilus Diver helmet, 2003.

But Regan is not alone in his quest to equip a modern-day crew of divers from the Nautilus.

"Actually, the idea for the Nemosuit was Ty Alley’s," Pat admits. "Ty is a friend of mine who owns the AQUALA SPORTS MANUFACTURING COMPANY: the parent company that produced the drysuits for Disney back in 1954. Ty told me if I ever wanted to build a functional diving rig to go along with my submarine, he would make the drysuit for me. That’s how this whole replica Disney diving gear thing got started."

AQUALA owner Ty Alley making drysuit for the Nemosuit, 2002.

When Alley first disclosed the existence of the (then) unfinished Nemosuit project at a HDS show in Santa Barbara, 2002, equipment manufacturers and divers alike were openly enthusiastic. When the rig was finished in January 2003, Regan made additional disclosures throughout the diving community, and later in magazines like FORBES and UNDERWATER.

"The helmet diving community was very supportive," Regan says. "Jim Boyd of NEDEG called my Nemo ‘The Helmet of the Year’. Ty and I were really happy with the favorable response we received. People from around the World were sending us email, and groups like the Historical Diving Society wanted to learn all they could about the project. Quite a few websites posted articles on the Nemosuit, too. All of this speaks well of our achievement, for sure; but I think it also shows how popular Disney’s 20,000 Leagues has remained over the past 50 years.

Helmet from Regan’s Nemosuit, 2003.

In July of 2003, Pat sent a photo display to represent Vulcania Submarine at the 20,000 Leagues Expo in Anaheim, California,
where pictures of his Nautilus Minisub, Nemosuit, and in-process Nautilus Diver were enjoyed by 20,000 Leagues fans of all ages.

Bill Stropahl with Vulcania Submarine display, Anaheim California, 2003.

"Disney Diver Bill Stropahl (that’s him on the cover of Life magazine) was there, and said he liked our work," Pat recalls. "He autographed our display, and today it hangs in our home as one of my favorite souvenirs."

In August of 2003, Regan let veteran commercial diver James "Ace" Parnell celebrate his 60th birthday by diving the Nemosuit at the Keauhou Marina in Hawaii.

In the distance Regan films Ace "Captain Nemo" Parnell, Keauhou Hawaii, 2003.

"We always attracted spectators when we’d dive the submarine, and this event was no exception," Pat says. "In the Nemosuit, Ace must have looked like he came from another planet or something. I always get a kick out of the expressions of amazement on people’s faces; and I enjoy answering their inevitable barrage of questions, too. It’s a lot of fun."

Captain Nemo explores sunken structures. Is this Atlantis?

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