Sunday, June 1, 2008

Memories of Sea Hunt


Like many divers born during the Baby Boomer years, I was lured to scuba diving by watching the television series SEA HUNT. Starring Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson, an ex-Navy UDT Frogman turned freelance undersea investigator, the show followed Mike's adventures as he investigated crime, performed rescues, salvaged sunken objects, conducted scientific experiments, disarmed underwater mines, fought bad guys underwater with knives and spear guns and running afoul of sharks and other denizens of the deep. Whenever danger or excitement lurked below the surface, Mike Nelson was ready to go.

Over the show’s opening credits there was that haunting, ominous theme song. This weekly TV series was one of the most popular shows in syndication during the Sixties (episodes were filmed from 1957-1961). I can vividly recall watching an episode that featured a life or death struggle with a giant octopus. Yup, I was hooked and knew that I would scuba dive when I grew up.

It was this show that inspired me at age five to don a surplus World War II gas mask and plunge the top half of my body into a huge iron cauldron that was stocked with goldfish in our backyard. It was amazing…for a brief moment not only could I see the fish clearly, but also I noticed the light flakes of rust on the bottom of the cauldron. As water started to seep into the gas mask…no worries, I thought, because the gas mask had a hose and canister attached to it. Surely, I could breathe underwater with that? Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that a gas mask will not work underwater and I had to quickly abandon my first ever dive when water filled the mask. After that, I can’t tell you how many neighborhood garden hoses I cut up for pieces of hose and tried taping them to a large Coke bottle to construct a tank and breathing hose. Such was my desire to breath underwater.

One unusual aspect of the series was that each SEA HUNT episode closed out with a short monologue by Bridges where while often standing at the wheel of his boat, Argonaut, he said something about protecting the ocean and then invited viewers to come back for the following week’s show. A sample list of closing monologues follows:

"Hello there. I'm Lloyd Bridges. Skin diving is fun and adventure for young and old, but it can be dangerous, so know the sport well and don't take any chances. Be with you next week for another exciting Sea Hunt."

"Hi, there. I'm Lloyd Bridges. Skin diving is certainly a lot of fun, and it's full of adventure. See some more of it again next week, huh, when there'll be another excursion into that fabulous underwater world of Sea Hunt."

"I'm Lloyd Bridges, inviting you to join us for another action-packed story of underwater adventure one week from today" [Descends steps into water wearing a wearing scuba tanks]

"I'll be back next week at this same time with another Sea Hunt story. Plan to be with us again, huh?
"You know, three-fifths of the world is covered by the sea, and how little most of us know about that underwater world. Go below with us again next week, huh, for another thrilling adventure in Sea Hunt."

It has been estimated that over one million fans that took up recreational Scuba diving from becoming interested in the sport while watching SEA HUNT. As some might say…they sure don’t make shows like this anymore…