What’s yellow, 22 feet long, weighs 16,000 pounds and can dive to 1,000 feet … and is retired?
A yellow submarine, of course.
The celebrated oceanic deepwater craft is now sitting in front of Ocean Frontiers dive shop in the district of East End.
The former PC-1203 Perry Class deep submersible was headed for the scrap metal yard when Steve Broadbelt came to the rescue. He bought the vessel and gave it a new home. It has become quite an eye-catcher and in time will become a landmark.
“Even though the dive shop is located on the main road, many of our customers would just drive on by without noticing us. That has now changed,” says Broadbelt. Ocean Frontiers’s driving directions have a new directive: “Keep driving down the main road until you see the huge yellow submarine.”
The deep sub was operated for many years by Research Submersibles Ltd. and then by Atlantis Submarines, running tours down the Cayman wall and to the famous wreck of the Kirk Pride at 800 feet. The sub would operate with a single pilot sitting in the tower and two customers squeezed in shoulder-to-shoulder peering out of the large front dome.
In 2004, Hurricane Ivan sank the submarine support vessel Igor, and the decision was made to shut down the deep dive submarine tours and focus on the larger 48-passenger Atlantis submarine excursions instead.
The submarine has an interesting history. It was deployed on some very special missions including the filming of sixgill sharks for National Geographic. The sixgill shark is a primitive-looking giant that is rarely encountered by divers. Finding and filming this elusive shark was the ultimate challenge, even for the PC-1203. The sub also played a role in the 1989 blockbuster movie The Abyss, a fictional film directed by legendary director James Cameron (Titanic, True Lies). The plot takes place in the Cayman Trough, where the U.S. ballistic missile submarine, USS Montana, sinks after an accidental encounter with an unidentified submerged object. The cast and crew received dive training for one week in the Cayman Islands.
Now in her final resting place, the sub is showing off a new coat of bright yellow paint. Tours are available on request, and you can go inside the sub to get a feel of what it was like to dive into the abyss. Locals, residents and visitors are welcome to stop by and get their photo taken next to this unique part of diving history.