Thursday, October 28, 2004


Mini-Sub to Give Public Fish's Eye View of shipwrecks

____________________________________________________________________________________ News
By Chris Court, PA News

The public will soon be able to book their seats on a mini-submarine for a voyage to the bottom of the sea.

The 18-tonne craft, now undergoing sea trials, will enable people to view in comfort Europe’s first artificial diving reef – a decommissioned warship scuttled off the Cornish coast.

And they will also be able to book the 11.2-metre long vessel for special occasions, such as an anniversary dinner on the sea bed.

Passengers will have a spectacular view of the underwater world from an acrylic sphere.

The six-seater sub is being operated by Plymouth’s National Maritime Museum, which expects to be able to take bookings for the submarine voyages in a couple of weeks.

There have already been inquiries from around the world for seats on the sub, which took three years to design.The first trips by the public are expected to begin in early summer next year.

The diesel-electric powered submarine, the first of its kind in the UK, has been built in Plymouth.It has been paid for by an anonymous American enthusiast and named after his daughter Alicia.

He has agreed to lend the craft to the museum for a year, with the option of buying it.

Although the craft will be available for hire by the public and corporations, it has been built to be capable of serious research.And there have already been inquiries about the submarine – which is capable of diving to 300 metres – from a couple of expeditions, said a museum spokesman today.

The museum created the artificial reef when it paid £200,000 for the retired RN Leander class frigate HMS Scylla and scuttled her in Whitsand Bay, east Cornwall, in March.

Hundreds of divers from home and abroad have since explored the new reef, but now non-divers will be able to take an hour-long trip around the wreck aboard the sub for £175 a head.

“Since Scylla’s placement under the waves seven months ago, the area has proved even more popular and has drawn the largest crowds ever known,” the museum spokesman added.

Later this year webcams on the Scylla will begin to beam images of the underwater world back to the aquarium.

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