20,000 Leagues Diving Gear (part 2)

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

But is this kind of diving really safe?

"A dive-op like this requires planning and a well organized crew. Safety is always our first concern. The Leagues rigs were experimental back in í54 when the Aqua Lung was still in itís early years; and today they cannot be considered safe by modern SCUBA standards because the diver cannot easily free-ascend in an emergency. To compensate, we do what Disney did: equip the diver with a secondary air supply, and have safety divers standing by ready to assist."

Reverend Robert Daley helps recover Ace Parnell after the dive.


What would those emergency procedures involve?

"If something goes wrong with the main air supply, thereís a pony bottle on the diverís chest. At the first indication that heís in trouble, we can snap an air line into the system and from that point on heís a hose-supplied hardhat diver. Once weíve got him stabilized on air, weíll get him out of the water without delay. These methods provided an adequate margin of safety for the Disney Divers, and for us as well. Fortunately though, we didnít need to resort to emergency procedures: the Nemosuit worked perfectly, and we all had a great time."

On all of Patís 20,000 Leagues rigs, the suits and boots are from the original manufacturers that supplied Disney back in 1954: AQUALA and MORSE. Components ranging from the SCUBA regulator to the belt knife are authentic vintage items. The most difficult and time-consuming parts to make are, of course, the ornate helmets and regulator fairings.

"It took about seven months to make the helmet for the Nemosuit," Regan explains. "But prior to that, a lot of time went into R&D and testing before I could begin the actual work of building the helmet and fairing."

Pat pool-tested modern air systems before deciding on authentic vintage regulators.

At first we experimented with supplying the helmet via a variety of modern regulator systems. But eventually we decided to go with vintage, U. S. DIVERS double-hose Aqualung regulators: like what Disney used in 1954. Looking back, Iím glad we did, too. Itís much more authentic this way.

"Hard Hat Pat" pool-testing an experimental air system, 2002.

"Our second project, the Nautilus Diver, took fourteen months and required more tooling: particularly for the crown piece. I refuse to cheat by casting parts in fiberglass or the like," Regan maintains. "The Disney helmets were all metal, and so are mine."

Forming the "grab handles" for the NEMO helmet, 2002.

Reganís 20,000 Leagues helmets truly are one-of-a-kind works of functional art. Each one is built-up individually, one piece at a time.

"I use the same methods employed by Disney Production Designer Harper Goff. As I mentioned, thereís a lot of R&D time spent on our computer studying the originals in the database of Disney graphics Iíve collected over the years; then it becomes a matter of refining our design until I get everything just right in comparison to the original; and finally thereís the actual metal fabrication work itself. It involves considerable effort and a lot of hard work, but I take pride in knowing the finished product is as close to the real thing as I can make it.

Front view of the NAUTILUS DIVER helmet.

"Whenever possible, I use the same components Disney used. On the recently-completed Nautilus Diver, for example, even minor details like the air hoses and simulated air filter device are the real thing."

NAUTILUS DIVER from behind.

Among 20,000 Leagues fans (or "Leaguers" as Regan calls them) the late Tom Scherman is recognized as the premier Nautilus modeler over all. Though many other craftsmen now make scale replicas of that famous fictional submarine design, Schermanís work "tops the pyramid" because he basically engendered and popularized the art form.

Likewise, people say that by virtue of his own accomplishments, Pat Regan has established himself as the undisputed leader when it comes to replica Disney Leagues diving gear. No doubt his efforts will some day be emulated by others, but Reganís helmets have already established the standard they will have to follow

The Nautilus Diver and Nemosuit jakes on display at Vulcania Submarine, 2004.


Whatís in the near future for Pat Regan and Vulcania Submarine?

"I am presently working on a new helmet to replace the one I built for my original Nemosuit," Pat says. "I call it the Nemo II, and itís based on better graphic reference materials than I had available when I built the first helmet: including some produced by Harper Goff himself.

Pat Regan building the new Nemo II helmet.

"In its day, the helmet from my Nemosuit was the most accurate recreation of the original Disney Nemo helmet in existence or history; but the Nemo II will surpass it by far, accurately replicating the screen namesake right down to the smallest detail. Iím advised Bert and Karin will include pictures of that helmet in this article after itís finished in early 2005. I hope everyone will look forward to seeing it."

Members of both the Helmet Diving and 20,000 Leagues communities appreciate the quality of Reganís work: examples of which have been purchased for display in museums and private collections. These functional recreations are not inexpensive; but considering the work involved, their rarity, Reganís premier status in the genre, and the fact that the few real Leagues helmets still in existence are unobtainable and priceless: buyers say they feel the helmets are worth the cost and valuable as collectibles. Each piece is signed, numbered, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity.

"My works are for people with a serious interest in 20,000 Leagues Diving Gear," Regan says. "We can produce an entire Leagues diving rig, or any component thereof; but our volume is extremely limited. This is art, not mass-production."

Pat Reganís NAUTILUS DIVER helmet.

UPDATE, January 29, 2005:  As promised, here are the first pictures on the Internet of Pat Regan's recently-completed NEMO II helmet. 
This helmet recreates Harper Goff's famous screen namesake right down to the smallest details, and surpasses
all previous replicas (Disney's commemorative miniatures included) in terms of accuracy and authenticity.

Pat Regan and the NEMO II helmet.

Click here to continue to Part 3 of this article
And find out about a rare find Ė An original Disney Crowntop Helmet!