Photo of Submarine Voyage

“E” Ticket
“This is the captain speaking. Welcome aboard. We are underway and proceeding on a course that will take us on a voyage through liquid space. En route, we will pass below the polar ice cap, and then probe depths seldom seen by man. Make yourself comfortable, but please remain seated at all times. And no smoking please—the smoking lamp is out.”

You’ve just climbed down the entrance ladder and taken a seat in front of your own personal porthole. A stream of cool air blows from beneath the porthole to keep you from feeling queasy. As you pull way from the dock, you look into the crystal clear water of the Submarine Lagoon where giant clams, moray eels, groupers, and other inanimate sea life thrives.

Photo of Submarine Voyage
The ride begins in the open-air Sub Lagoon.

According to the crew, there’s a surface storm ahead. It’s a good thing the submarine can dive below the storm, unlike the wrecks that you see in the Graveyard of Lost Ships. Sorry, the submarine doesn’t stop for you to retrieve the sunken treasure.

Suddenly you find yourself below the polar ice cap at the North Pole. The captain dives further.

Now the ocean is dark because no sunlight reaches this depth. Strange, bioluminescent fish provide their own eerie light. As with the other fish on this voyage, they swim without moving their bodies, as though they were made of a rigid material. What unusual fish!

That’s enough of that darkness. What’s next? Mermaids!

You’ve now reached the Lost Continent of Atlantis. Although destroyed long ago by volcanic activity, there’s still plenty of evidence of the former culture and beauty of Atlantis. The captain safely guides your submarine past underwater eruptions that continue to rock the ruins. Those eruptions look strangely like air bubbles illuminated by red lights.

Look at the tail of that sea creature. What could it be? As the sub reaches the head end of creature, it turns out to be a cross-eyed sea serpent. Upon seeing this, the captain decides it’s time to return to surface.

Photo of Submarine Voyage
Loading and unloading is a bit slow.

Climb back up the ladder. If you suffer from claustrophobia, you’ll breath a sigh of relief as you exit from the confined space of your submarine.

Okay, so the effects weren’t really that convincing, but you have to admit that there’s no other ride like this one. And if you’re like most people, this is as close as you’ll ever get to a trip on a real submarine.

On August 3, 1958, the USS Nautilus—the world’s first nuclear powered submarine—made history under the command of William R. Anderson, USN. With 116 men on board, the Nautilus traveled below the polar ice cap of the Arctic Ocean, silently and secretly, to become the first ship to cross the geographic North Pole.

In Disneyland, less than a year later, another Nautilus, this time powered by diesel, made a different kind of history. Beginning June 1959, the Nautilus and seven sister submarines—the Triton, Sea Wolf, Skate, Skipjack, George Washington, Patrick Henry, and Ethan Allen—allowed 38 Disneyland guests at a time to take their own voyage to the North Pole, and to see sights that Commander Anderson and his men never saw.

For almost four decades, the Submarine Voyage at Disneyland continued to attract long lines of guests.

Photo of Submarine Voyage
Bright yellow paint made the submarines look scientific rather than military.

The ride didn’t change much over the years. The biggest change came in the mid-1980s, when the eight Cold War gray submarines were repainted a cheerful oceanographer yellow. And six of them were given new names—Neptune, Sea Star, Explorer, Seeker, Argonaut, and Triton—while two kept familiar names, Nautilus and Sea Wolf.

Finally, in September 1998, the Submarine Voyage carried its last passenger.

The lagoon awaited a new attraction. In the announcement that the attraction would be closing, Disneyland Publicity suggested that there would be a new attraction in 2003. The rumor was that Walt Disney Imagineering was working on a much-improved undersea experience, Atlantis Expedition. No such attraction opened. It probably didn’t help that Disney’s 2001 animated feature, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, failed at the box office.

It doesn’t take five years to install a new attraction. So why did the Submarine Voyage close in 1998? Disneyland executives at that time considered the attraction too costly to operate in relation to its capacity.

Photo of Submarine Voyage
In Florida, the submarines looked different, but the ride was similar.

At Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World in Florida, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea opened in 1971. Nautilus-themed submarine provided an undersaea experience similar to Disneyland’s Submarine Voyage.

The Florida version closed in 1994. After sitting unused for ten years, the lagoon was demolished and filled in. Part of the site was used for Pooh’s Playful Spot, a play area for children, from 2005 to 2010. The site of the lagoon and show building where is now part of the Fantasyland Forest, which opened in late 2012.

Photo of construction fence
In 2006, a colorful construction wall around the Sub Lagoon announced the return.

Did the Submarine Lagoon at Disneyland have a similar fate? No! The good news is that Disneyland’s submarines eventually returned. In 2007, Disneyland’s Submarine Voyage reopened as the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage. Unlike the old Submarine Voyage, there are no longer rigid, fake fish on strings. Now guests gaze through the portholes of the refurbished Submarines at entertaining scenes inspired by the successful 2003 Disney-Pixar release, Finding Nemo, with the characters brought to life underwater. The guests are actually looking at projections within innovative effect boxes.

Photo of Finding Nemo submarine “Explorer”
In June 2007, the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage opened at Disneyland.

Alweg Monorail

© 2007-2012 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated November 22, 2012.

Photo of Submarine Lagoon: 1969 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Submarine (grey): 1974 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Submarine unloading: 1997 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Submarine (yellow) going through waterfall): 1996 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Walt Disney World: 1983 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of the Finding Nemo construction wall: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of the Finding Nemo submarine “Explorer”: 2007 by Werner Weiss.