I went to a funfair for the first time in a long time on date night last weekend and the sights, sounds and smells of being around those rides caused an overwhelming nostalgia to stir inside me, pulling me back to my childhood. Ambling home clutching our funfair prizes and looking back at the flashing neon lights that rule the skyline over the Place Concorde in August, I began to wonder what happens to those gigantic, elaborate structures when they run out of steam.
This morning I finally got around to Googling my thoughts and came across an obscure and extensive online community dedicated to commemorating the rise and fall of the greatest ride that ever was: ‘20,000 Leagues under the Sea‘.
In 1971 Walt Disney World in Florida opened it’s most unique flagship attraction yet, inviting visitors to board Captain Nemo’s metal-plated Nautilus submarines and dive to the depths of the lagoon and its caverns.
Guided by underwater tracks, the 38 passenger submarines descended under polar ice caps, re-discovered the lost city of Atlantis, met mermaids, a sea monster guarding its treasure and witnessed a giant squid attacking another submarine. It was the stuff dreams were made of, even without all the fancy special effects available today.
The lagoon was a tank that held 11.5 million gallons of water, and the ride alone took up took up 25% of the Disneyworld’s real estate. The ride was incredibly difficult to maintain and had to be closed up to three times a year for costly renovations which involved draining the lagoon to scrape out the scum and refresh the paint.
Fast-forward twenty-three years and the 20K ride was falling apart. The submarines were leaky and belching out smoke, the malfunctioning air conditioning was causing passengers to faint, the soundtrack was barely audible through the crackling speakers, the staff were fed-up and tens of thousands of dollars had been spent every year to upkeep the attraction. On September 5th, 1994, the park announced that it was “temporarily closed for renovations”. After two years of “temporary” closure, Disney finally admitted they were shutting it down for good in 1996.
The fleet of 12 submarines just sat in the water for a little while, unmoving…
They were eventually taken to a Disney boneyard to roast in the Florida sun for a little while before being dismantled for parts and sold on eBay by specialist Disney surplus vendors.
Two of Captain Nemo’s submarines however were saved from the boneyard and sent to Disney’s private Caribbean resort island, Castaway Cay, one of the final stops in the Bahamas for the Disney Cruise Line ships.
One was painted red and sunk in the snorkelling lagoon as an underwater attraction and the other was buried in the sand on the beach for kids to play on.
Today, these last two submarines have mysteriously disappeared, perhaps lost in a hurricaine or deliberately removed by Disney.
Meanwhile, the lagoon in Florida became “Ariel’s grotto” for a few years, with the old 20K cavern entrances cheaply draped over.
… until 2004, when the lagoon was sealed off from the public and drained for the last time.
Inside the caverns of the lagoon, the underwater sea life emerged from their rotting watery graves…
And by 2005, the lagoon had been entirely demolished and replaced by ‘Pooh’s playful Spot’
So, in case you were curious about what happened to your favourite childhood rides, just like this once great attraction that created so many memories, sadly their fate probably wasn’t much rosier!
For more amazing photographs of the abandoned 20K lagoon, visit this extensive website dedicated to the ride.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: