Before you start looking at my collection of Sea Hunt Scuba Gear, let me make clear that this is NOT the gear that Mike Nelson used. According to sources who would know, cast members, family and collectors, all of the actual scuba gear used in the production of Sea Hunt was disposed of after the show ended. Some was undoubtedly scrapped – the wetsuits for example. Some was returned to the manufacturers or dive stores that supplied it – tanks, regulators, Porta-Sub, etc., while some may have been put into storage at the studio but has disappeared over the years through pilfering or corrosion.
The only items that exist that we know of are Mike’s dive boat, the Argonaut, which for years was stored at a harbor in San Diego and was then purchased by Kent Rockwell, a Sea Hunt enthusiast with connections to the Bridges family. Kent wanted to and had started to restore the Argonaut with the intent of making it a floating museum dedicated to Sea Hunt and vintage diving. Unfortunately Kent has since died. The whereabouts of the Argonaut at the time of this writing is unknown.
The other item that exists is Lloyd Bridge’s personal Rolex Mariner watch which he wore in many episodes as well as in personal life. Jeff Bridges now had that watch and he wears it proudly on occasion most notably in an interview with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show following his Oscar win. In fact, when asked about his acting career that started on Sea Hunt with his father, Jeff showed Jay that watch, held it high and looked up while thanking his late father.
So the scuba gear and related scuba gear items in this section are almost exclusively the identical make and model as was used in Sea Hunt. Being a technical sort and a bit of a gear fanatic, collecting this gear has been fun for me. My actions in this regard have also exacerbated the meteoric rise in the value of some of this gear. For instance, the regulators used by Mike Nelson as supplied by VOIT, are really nothing special themselves being copies of Aqua-Lung regulators. But the Aqua-Lung Mistral regulator currently has a value of perhaps $300 while the identical VOIT regulator as used by Mike and commonly called the ‘Green Label’ is worth twice that amount. Likewise, the Vulcan dive knife used by Mike in Sea Hunt, not a bad dive knife but really not outstanding, sells for $250 or more while top quality dive knives can be had for under $100.
It has also been a quest of mine to find the very best examples of this gear. Consequently a lot of time and money has been expended finding, acquiring and restoring the gear to its original, new condition.
I believe it is the best, single collection of Sea Hunt scuba gear in existence, which belief is shared by other notable Vintage Scuba Collectors and Sea Hunt fans.
I have sub-titled this section so that you may go directly to the gear that you are most interested in – masks, snorkels, fins, for example or regulators, or knives and spearguns, etc.
The items are listed by my Collection Number, Catalog Number & Name plus Description.
The Sea Hunt Collector – Lloyd Bridges King Neptune Diving Equipment
In the late 1960’s, a company called King Athletic Goods Corporation based in Philadelphia decided to produce and sell a line of diving equipment. Their reasoning was based on the popularity of the TV show Sea Hunt and, to cement their success, they hired Lloyd Bridges as a sponsor for the line of gear.
The TV series had ended but was still seen almost daily all around the world. Lloyd Bridges had become a household name and his credentials as an expert scuba diver were beyond question. Actually, his diving expertise was all part of the TV show persona as portrayed by Mike Nelson. Lloyd himself admitted that he was no expert on scuba. However, there’s no doubt that having Lloyd Bridges as a sponsor for diving gear would almost certainly ensure its success. Many more products came out in the following years capitalizing on the names Lloyd Bridges, Sea Hunt and Mike Nelson.
Some have questioned my adding this equipment in a Sea Hunt collection as it does not bear the ZIV Studio name nor, in fact, does it ever show the name Mike Nelson or even Sea Hunt. However, I leave that up to the individual to decide. Having decided that this line of gear would never have appeared if not for Sea Hunt and, having the star of that TV show, Lloyd Bridges, authorize the gear, is more than enough reason to include it. The inside front cover of my original catalog says it best. (see image).
The equipment was offered for a couple of years. Each item was in a plastic bag which had Lloyd’s picture on it and then it was boxed. His picture also appeared on every box, again, in diving gear.
At first, the boxes had an actual photo of an underwater reef along with Lloyd’s picture. His picture was very small, like a postage stamp in one corner. These boxes had a cut-out portion so the product inside could be seen. Later the boxes were updated with no reef scene and no cut-out but a much larger photo of Lloyd Bridges in dive gear. It seems there was a 3rd production as well. The boxes for these were even more modernized and consisted only of colorful graphics. A curved graphic along the top looked somewhat like a sunset while along the bottom, the lines appear more like the water. These too had a picture of Lloyd Bridges in dive gear although much reduced in size and he’s wearing only a mask & snorkel (see images of the 3 styles).
Many items were offered in different sizes and varying colors too.
My original catalog is for the later or second production with the graphics and large picture of Lloyd. I have never been able to find a catalog for the first production in the older style of boxes, or the 3rd production if there was a 3rd, In fact, no one I know has ever seen one. If it existed, it is very rare.
With considerable effort (and time and money), I have collected over 80% of the items showing in the King Neptune Lloyd Bridges catalog plus a few that are NOT in the catalog. I have no spear guns and I’m missing 3 of the knives, 1 snorkel and the depth gauge. I have tried to acquire each item and in every version, old and new packaging, as well as in each color offered.
I have a total of 50 King Neptune items.
King Neptune Lloyd Bridges Diving gear is NOT rare! Masks and fins appear pretty regularly on various on-line auction sites. They range in price from $10.00 to $150.00 depending on condition. A nice mask, in good condition, in the original plastic bag & box in good shape might be worth $50 – $75. RR2
However, some items are quite hard to find. The Underwater Searchlight, the Knives & the Weights are particularly elusive, certainly in a box in good shape, and an original Catalog is tough to find as well. RR4
Here you’ll see these unique Sea Hunt items starting with an original King Neptune Catalog.
You will be able to compare the actual items in the collection with those illustrated in the catalog. There are some small differences since different packaging, colors and even entire items changed over the years that they were for sale. Also, I have some items that are NOT in the catalog but are clearly marked as King Neptune Lloyd Bridges Diving Gear.
The items are listed by my Collection Number, Catalog Number & Name plus Description.
8001 to 8004 These items were for children. The packaging says “For Swimming Only”. They have plastic lenses and very small skirts. Interestingly, the mask skirt is still imprinted with the name of the mask and packaged the same as the adult versions. I have not unpacked them for these pictures as they are very dry and would break apart. Some have a metal band & metal strap clips while others are plastic. Note the odd triangular shape of #8003. Notice too the change in Lloyd Bridges’ picture on #8002. No idea???
8005 The Islander mask is still pretty small for an adult face. It has a Tempered Glass lens, split strap, metal band & metal strap adjustment so it’s just like a real dive mask. I have this in the normal black rubber and with the very rare white skirt with red frame. The box for the red one has a red sticker on it. Note that each mask had its own box with a picture of the mask, the catalog number & list of features.
8006 The Catalina is a real dive mask and could still be used. The oval face plate is novel – well, it was then! Here too is one of the Lloyd Bridges plastic bags that all King Neptune items were packed in. This mask came in black rubber with either blue trim or yellow trim. The yellow trim mask is in the older style packaging with the cut out in the side of the box so the purchaser could see the mask.
8007 I always liked the name Waikiki for a dive mask – maybe because I’ve been there but whatever, this is a nice mask & here it is, a blue one in new packaging & a yellow one in old packaging.
8008 The Biscayne is available with a blue or yellow frame & here they are. Notice in the description that these masks feature an “Equalizing Compensator”. That’s just a fancy name for the finger holes in the skirt that allow a diver to squeeze his nose!!
8009 Here’s the Coronado, the first mask with a purge valve, the old style mounted right through the glass faceplate. Most later masks also have purge valves but usually the small ones located in the bottom of the nose pocket.
8010 I’ve no idea where the name ‘Smerelda’ comes from. Nor do I understand why any diver would buy a Smerelda!! But it must have been popular since it was made in 2 sizes & 2 colors, both blue & white.
8011/8012 These 2 masks are actually different. The one in the new packaging is called the Samoa while the other, in old packaging, is the Samoa Professional. If you think I’m kidding, look at the other picture to see that these names are right in the rubber skirt! The only difference is that the Professional model is a bit bigger, for bigger heads I assume. I suppose Professional divers have bigger heads!
8013 If you’re keeping up here, you’ll notice that this mask is identical to the Smerelda, #8010, the one with the funny name. But, this is the Smerelda Junior, printed right in the rubber skirt, for smaller faces.
8014 The Malibu looks like a step backward in mask design. It’s about as simple as you can get – oval, no finger holes, no purge, no color. Ah well, old guys probably liked it.
8015 The Caribbean is an odd one. It’s a plain design, a simple oval & it has a white skirt. Early attempts to brighten black rubber with color were not very successful. Yellow & blue fins and, in this case, a white mask, always deteriorated very quickly. This one is no exception. The skirt is very dry and the strap is completely dry, hard and broken into pieces. However, it is unique because of the color AND because it was put into the 3rd style of packaging with a tiny image of Lloyd Bridges and lots of colorful graphics.
8016 There is no Catalog #8016 – just in case you were wondering.
#8016 doesn’t exist.
8017 This is the Riviera. It comes in 2 colors, blue & red.
8018 And finally, the Panoramic, King Neptune’s version of a wide-view mask which were just becoming popular about that time. It came with a blue frame or a white frame.
8027 The Seadrift looks like a simple snorkel but it has a couple of interesting features.
Of course, like all Lloyd Bridges Dive Gear snorkels, it has a bright red sticker on the top with an image of Lloyd Bridges. It also has short bellows on the mouthpiece designed to make it a bit flexible and thus more comfortable. The other neat feature is that the mouthpiece swivels completely around at that white joint, again so the diver can adjust it to his liking.
8028 The Neptune certainly looks interesting. It has a true flex bottom just like a modern snorkel. That allows the diver to make it comfortable plus, if he’s a scuba diver, it drops out of the way when he’s on scuba. It is, however, a corrugated tube on both the inside AND the outside, unlike a modern flex snorkel. The problem with that is that the ridges on the inside retain water. It’s hard to clear.
Maybe that’s why they also added a purge valve on the bottom curve of the flex tube.
8029 The Explorer snorkel is noteworthy since it’s an early attempt to get the top of the snorkel in the middle of the diver’s head. Simply by bending the tube inward, you’re much less likely to pick up water while swimming on the surface. Otherwise, despite the odd mouthpiece, this is a simple snorkel.
8030 Now the Sea Isle IS a simple snorkel – a small diameter, ‘J’ tube with a rubber mouthpiece. You can’t get simpler than that.
8089 This is simply a carded set including both a mask & a snorkel. The mask is the Starter mask from the child’s collection. The snorkel is new but has nothing worth mentioning despite the text on the packaging which claims “This is the world’s finest snorkel”. Advertising standards in 1965 were a bit lax!
The King Neptune catalog shows 3 different fin types – the Samoa, the Tarpon & the Marlin. I’ve never seen the Samoa. Either they were not popular or I’ve simply missed them.
Each style came in 6 different sizes ranging from XS to XL (the Marlin in Small & Large only). I’ve had several of Tarpon and the Marlin fins in different sizes but have kept only 1 fin of each style. Fins take a lot of room to store plus I simply couldn’t think of a good reason to have all the sizes in my collection.
8083 The Tarpon Fin is a pretty standard full-foot fin just like a modern version. Note that these fins have an image of Mike Nelson’s head molded into the rubber on top of the foot pocket. If you look closely you can also see a diver with a speargun on the ride side above Mike’s head.
8086 The Marlin fins were clearly made for kids. They came in 2 sizes only, Small & Large. The Large would fit a 6-year-old. But even 6 year-olds get to swim around with Mike’s image on their fins.
8025 With all of those masks it makes sense that King Neptune would have a Mask Strap. Here it is although the color and style will only match a few of their masks.
8038 The catalog shows 5 knives. Other than the Abalone Iron, which was pretty common among divers, The King Neptune knives were all a bit odd. Perhaps that’s why I’ve only been able to find 2 of them. This is called the Lloyd Bridges Underwater Knife! Great name. I hope no one lost too much sleep thinking that up!! It’s a pretty standard knife and the same knife is called the Sea Hunter by another company. The sheath is a plasticized leather held together with brass rivets.
8039 This is called the Lloyd Bridges Abalone Knife – what else?? It’s properly called an Ab Iron as in Abalone Iron, well known among Californian divers.
8047 Ear Plugs – every diver needs earplugs and here they are. In defense of King Neptune, the paper in the plastic box says “Not For Diving”. Good!
King Neptune has a couple of VERY odd items for divers. Here we go.
8051 A Weight Belt & Buckle should be as simple to describe as a piece of toast (I made that up on the fly!). But this weight belt & buckle is definitely odd. It’s a very stiff nylon belt with what looks at first glance to have a normal buckle. But a closer look reveals that the buckle is actually 2 pieces. One side with the flapper looks normal but the other side on the other end of the belt has a tongue that fits under the flapper. When the buckle flap is closed, it doesn’t grab the belt like a modern belt. It grabs the tongue of the other plastic piece. This was a common design in the early days but is gone now for a couple of reasons not the least of which is that it took a lot of fussing to get the buckle to latch. Plus, any adjustments required a lot of time since both ends had to be moved along the belt.
Also notice that the belt has a series of holes along its entire length. We’ll get to that next.
Oh, what about that extra little piece of plastic with the 2 slots in it? That slips into a slot right below the buckle and when the buckle closes, that little piece is held firmly in place. Now you have a place to hang stuff, a reel, a light, or whatever else you want to carry along.
Unfortunately, all these great ideas are wasted because the plastic is so fragile, I can’t believe this belt will last more than a dive or two.
8052 – 8053 Here are the Weights for King Neptune’s fancy weight belt, and these are no less interesting. They tout these as “Quick Snap Fitting & Release”. That’ll take some explaining.
The weights come in 2 sizes, 2 1/4 pounds and 1 1/8 pounds. Each weight is nicely covered in bright yellow plastic and each comes with an odd plastic cap on the back.
To attach a weight to your belt, you first need to install the latching system. It’s the round fitting that is held together by a stainless steel screw. Separate the 2 parts and push the screw through one of the holes on the weight belt. The other half of the fitting then screws back on. Now you have a black, plastic fitting firmly attached to your belt. When you are not using any weights or not all of the weights, there’s a black cap that folds over to cover the fitting (for some reason???). When you want to add a weight, simply place the weight over the fitting, over that slotted part, and press down hard. The weight will snap into place just like that. To release the weight, press hard on the red center and pull it off the fitting. Looks neat and sounds easy but, it’s not. And there’s no way those plastic fittings will last very long.
8054 This is the King Neptune Underwater Searchlight, not just a dive light, a searchlight! This too will take some explaining. The box says that this light uses 8 D Cells and that it has a High Beam and a Low Beam. Pretty neat stuff for the 1960s. The light does have 2 switches on the back – one on for low beam and both on for high beam. The bulb is simply a 2 filament bulb. Getting to the battery compartment is fun. You must first unscrew the white collar around the reflector. Remove the reflector and then remove the bulb. Next, take out the weight. It’s a green-colored lead weight that sits in the bottom front of the light and ensures the light won’t float up to the surface. Now you push the 2 black buttons together and the entire electronic panel comes out to reveal, way down inside, the battery compartment. Load it up, reverse the procedure, and get ready to search.
8055 The famous King Neptune Sea Bed Marker & Signal is well known. For some reason, these crazy items appear pretty regularly on various auction sites. I suppose divers think they look neat so buy them. Once they discover what they are and what they do (or don’t do), they lose interest.
The marker attaches to your belt with that big clip on the back. Also, the cord attaches to your belt. If you need to send a signal to the surface, you simply pull the marker off of your belt. When that happens the cord pulls the metal pin out of the hole in the black weight. The black weight is spring-loaded so it pops out, the weight falls to the bottom, and the marker rises to the surface, playing out line from the reel as it does. When it reaches the surface, the line stops running out and the marker sits upright on the surface.
You can twist the top to show either a yellow ring on top or a red ring – the red ring I’m guessing means “Help”.
Most of this is clear if you have the device in your hand and study it. However, it took me a while to figure out how the marker knows it’s on the surface and how it stops playing out the line. The small black button on the top is a buoyant float that tries to float up as the marker is rising. By doing so it allows the reel to spin. But once the marker is on the surface, that small black float falls back down into the marker. The bottom of that little float is a white wheel with arms on it and it catches a tooth on the edge of the reel. Hopefully, you can see this in the pictures.
Never used; never will. But it’s still pretty cool.
8060 This is a Compass, the same one also sold by other dive companies.
The personal gear (masks, snorkels & fins) that was used on Sea Hunt was almost invariably from the VOIT diving company. There was clearly some arrangement between VOIT and ZIV Productions in that regard. It’s a common arrangement – the dive gear company supplies, at no cost or at a discount, equipment for a show. They get exposure for their products while the production company saves money. If the show is a big success, the dive gear company can get a big boost in sales as a result.
That’s what happened to VOIT. Their gear was well-known already but the Sea Hunt exposure really increased sales. And why not?? If Mike Nelson used VOIT scuba gear, it must be the best, right??
There were a few exceptions to the use of VOIT gear. These were the result of the production company needing a specific piece of equipment for the episode, a piece of equipment that VOIT did not produce – cameras, lights, diver tows, etc.
As I discuss in the introduction to this section about scuba gear, none of the equipment that was actually used on the show still exists. It was all disposed of when the show ended production. Certainly nothing made of rubber, like masks, snorkels & fins, is still around. Rubber products simply do not last for more than few years much less 60+ years. So all of the items in this gear section are the exact make/model used on the show – not the actual item.
We know what was used on the show by looking at still images of the divers, particularly Mike Nelson, and by watching the episodes. I have a definitive list of the scuba gear used on every comic book cover and in every episode. That list is the result of my wife and I watching every episode at least 6 times (Diana is a very patient lady!) with an eye to what the divers are wearing. I can safely say that the following items are the genuine article – not the actual article, but the same as.
VOIT B4B The B4 as it’s called, is THE mask as far as Sea Hunt fans are concerned. This is the mask that Mike Nelson wore on EVERY comic cover and in EVERY Sea Hunt episode. It has become ‘Mike’s Mask’. Consequently the VOIT B4 mask enjoys a tremendous popularity and so has become too valuable to even consider buying, assuming you can find one for sale. I suspect that every serious Sea Hunt fan has one and will not part with it. The original mask in 1960 sold for $6.95 which was already a bit more than similar masks, even similar VOIT masks. Today, having found one, you should expect a price tag of at least $200. I have seen them sell for over $500! For my part in contributing to this unreasonable inflation, I apologize. On the other hand, I would not sell my B4 for less than $500 – knowing that I could not replace it.
The B4B mask itself is not all that impressive. B4 is the catalog designation for the mask as is B9, B10 and so on. The B4B is the blue version of the B4. VOIT made their masks in black, blue, yellow and an ugly tan color although not all models came in all colors.
The B4 was delivered in a standard VOIT mask box with green trim and a cut-out front that popped up for display purposes. These boxes are also valuable and finding a box in good condition is itself a coup. The box usually had the mask model stamped on the outside.
The B4 was a pretty standard mask for the time – a the skirt had a single edge, metal clips for the strap that allowed for adjustment and a large, slightly oval glass. The B4 had one oddity – the strap which was a broad, single strap. Most were split straps. Oddly, the B4 could be had with either a plastic or a glass front. The plastic front had the VOIT logo impressed at the top edge. The glass was unmarked, not even tempered.
A genuine B4 (I’ve heard there are reproductions) will have the VOIT logo impressed in the rubber at the top edge of the skirt. And, unlikely to be on any reproductions, you’ll find the model name “B4” impressed in the rubber at the bottom edge of the skirt.
The mask is assembled with a stainless steel ring held by a bolt with 2 knurled heads.
The images below show my own B4 mask. The box is complete and near perfect, the mask is soft & pliable, the clips and strap are like new, the strap is original and like new and it comes with both faceplates – glass and plastic. No, it is NOT for sale.
I’ve discussed the value of a B4. Its scarcity gives it an RR5 rating.
Info to come.
Info to come.
Info to come.
If you’re ever interested is starting a lively debate (sometimes called an argument), ask a group of Sea Hunt aficionados about Mike Nelson’s regulators. While there’s little debate about some that were used on Sea Hunt, there is no consensus on how many different ones were used at some time during the 155 episodes. And certainly there is some disagreement over which ones were used, which make and model.
Some of these regulators were recognized from pictures of Mike Nelson particularly from the front cover of Sea Hunt comics. In some, the regulator is quite visible, the make & model stand out. Many other pictures also contribute to our knowledge of the regulators used in Sea Hunt.
My dear wife Diana has sat with me at the kitchen table, often during a meal, and watched every episode at least 6 times. Each time we concentrated on a particular aspect of the show – the actors, the fins, the masks and, of course, the regulators. We kept detailed notes on what we saw and I think I can speak with authority about the scuba regulators used on Sea Hunt.
Yes, there were single hose or 1-hose regulators used. Yes, several of the regulators were not VOIT models. In some cases it was clear the regulator was more of a prop than a serious piece of diving gear. This is pointed out in the detailed description of each of the following regulators.
1. The Famous Sea Hunt VOIT Lung
This is the regulator that is most accepted as the official Mike Nelson regulator. It was fairly distinctive with its green hoses and green mouthpiece and green hose clamps. This is the regulator that you commonly see on the front cover of Sea Hunt comics.
This is the VOIT VR1 Sportsman Regulator. Neither VR1 nor Sportsman ever appeared on the label. Instead, the name VOIT LUNG appears in large letters across the top. Hence it was and still is called the Lung, or even the Green Label Lung. It had a pretty chrome-plated face.
This was a simple, single stage regulator and an exact copy of the Aqua-Lung DW Overpressure regulator. It is difficult for a non-technical person to identify it but to a vintage collector it was easily spotted by 2 differences from the other Green Label Lung discussed next. This one had the words OVER PRESSURE BREATHING on the label plus, looking into the intake spigot, where the air comes out of the regulator, one can see a tube, called a nozzle sticking out.
These regulators are not as good in either quality or performance than many other double hose regulators so it may surprise you to know that, while another make/model of a 2 hose regulator can be purchased for less than $200, a decent Green Label Lung will cost $500 or much more. The reason is simple – it was the one that Mike Nelson used. I apologize for my part in making this regulator so famous and valuable but, there it is. If this regulator had NOT been the one used on Sea Hunt, it would be easy to find and much less costly. RR4
2. The Famous Sea Hunt VOIT Lung
Hold on. Isn’t that the same as the last one?? Yes & no.
This regulator looks almost identical to the VR1 but is quite different, from a technical viewpoint. It is called the VOIT VR2 Mariner Sportsman although again, these names never appear on the regulator. It too has the name VOIT LUNG in large letters on the label.
It too has green hoes, green mouthpiece and green clamps and a pretty chrome face. But it is a different model. On the label you can see the words 2 STAGE NAVY APPROVED and that’s the difference. This regulator was a 2 stage design which supposedly provided the diver with a steadier air flow, smooth and jerk-free.
With regulators being so similar and the TV episodes in black & white, how do we know that this other Green Label Lung was used on Sea Hunt? It one looks closely at the regulators Mike Nelson is wearing on the Sea Hunt comic front covers, it can been seen that some Green Labels have a longer description, as in, 2 STAGE NAVY APPROVED. It is clearly longer than Over Pressure Breathing that is on the VR1. And the number 2 is easily distinguished from the word ‘Over’ as appears on the VR1 regulator.
I once again have to apologize to new Sea Hunt fans thinking of starting a Sea Hunt collection. These Green Label Lungs are also greatly prized and will cost much more than another 2 hose regulator simple because of its Sea Hunt connection. RR4
3. VOIT 50 Fathom Blue
This regulator was introduced by VOIT in 1959. It is the first regulator produced by VOIT. Earlier, and later versions were copies made under license from US Divers. This is the prettiest 2 hose regulator of the time with its bright blue painted body, pretty gray hoses and matching curved mouthpiece. The mouthpiece had the VOIT logo inscribed right in front and all of this was accented by a bright chrome ring around the body and by bright chrome Tinnerman clamps on the hose ends. Right on the label VOIT wrote “EASY BREATHING AT ALL DEPTHS”.
VOIT certainly wanted to showcase this new regulator and it was featured in Sea Hunt. The blue body does not appear on the comic books but the chrome hose clips are in the later issues. I suppose VOIT was always trying to keep the Sea Hunt gear as attractive as possible. This regulator was not used a great deal in the actual TV episodes but it’s clearly being used in Episode 133, The Defector.
4. VOIT Explorer Single Hose
I’m sure that some of you thought to yourself that this is an Aqua-Lung Aquamatic! Nope!
But I forgive you for that because it really IS an Aquamatic but with a VOIT name on it. VOIT called it the Explorer. The name Explorer shows clearly on the body and on the end cap. It also says “W.J.VOIT RUBBER CORP” but, it’s an Aquamatic – same regulator; same odd appearance with a side exhaust; and undoubtedly the same hard breathing too!
I know all about this regulator because it was my own first scuba reg. I dove with it for several years (still have it) and loved it. Not until much later, when I tried another regulator, did I discover it was so hard to breathe.
This reg was popular for training and rental and it appears in Sea Hunt just once, interestingly, in a scuba diving class that Mike is conducting. Episode #68, The Female.
5. Sportsways Waterlung Single Hose
Sportsways was a scuba company started by Sam Lecocq, now deceased but a good friend of mine. Sam had a great deal of experience having worked with Rene Bussoz and for Healthways. When he started Sportsways, his first product was this single hose regulator which he called the Waterlung. That name led to a lawsuit by Aqualung but Sam prevailed and the Waterlung name became quite well-known. The regulator had several revolutionary features and different models followed. Each was a Waterlung but each also had another model name – Navy Unit, Sport Diver, Malibu Diver and so on. Only this one had no ‘extra’ model name- just Waterlung.
So this regulator, which was used in numerous Sea Hunt episodes, can be distinguished by the name, only Waterlung, and also by the unusual clear plastic, tubular exhaust Tee. Otherwise it is pretty standard looking.
6. Aqua-Lung Jet Air
For some odd reason, probably related to business, Mike Nelson was using a black, Aqua-Lung Jet Air in the first aired episode. I specify black because that regulator was available with both a black and a brown, wood-like finish. It was an unimpressive regulator similar to the equally unimpressive Stream Air, a single stage reg that was the basis for the much better and more popular Mistral. Its single outstanding feature was the plastic body, really Phenolic, a new and popular material, sort of an early plastic. It was light, attractive (no chrome however) and didn’t rust or corrode in any water. It would however, break if dropped hard.
So the Jet Air is easy to spot on Mike in that 1st Sea Episode, ‘60 Feet below’, wherein Mike rescues a Jet Fighter pilot who crashed into the ocean. For accuracy note that this is NOT the 1st episode filmed. ZIV was far ahead of other studios in film methods and had already begun using the now common technique of filming several episodes at once or at least scenes at once. So ’60 Feet Below’, for example, was the 2nd episode filmed but the 1st aired.
The Jet Air did NOT appear in any other episodes but US Divers Aqua-Lungs, specifically the DX Overpressure regulator, are seen in the Episode ‘Mark of the Octopus’ which was the 1st one filmed. The VOIT Lung first appeared on Mike in ‘Female of the Species’ which was the 3rd show filmed. The other divers were still using Aqua-Lungs. I suppose by then ZIV had their contract with VOIT sorted out. The VOIT Lung is used exclusively after that, certainly by Mike Nelson.
Even I’m having trouble following the last paragraph so here’s how it went:
– ‘Mark of the Octopus’ – 1st filmed – used DX Aqua-Lungs
– ‘60’ Below’ – 2nd filmed – used the Jet Air Aqua-Lung
– ‘Female of the Species’ – 3rd filmed – used Voit Lung on Mike; Aqua-Lung on other divers
– ‘Flooded Mine’ – 4th filmed – used Voit Lungs
7. Healthways ‘SCUBA’
Although Mike Nelson did not use this regulator, I’m adding it because it did appear and the story about it is pretty cute. In an Episode called ‘Midget Submarine’, Mike Nelson has to help a Russian scientist defector escape from a Russian cruise ship. He does so by using a 2-man wet-sub to travel underwater to the ship, climb onto the ship, find the scientist and get into the sub and away. Of course, it’s never as simple as that with Mike, but he manages. A wet-sub is one that is full of water and you must wear scuba diving gear. So Mike has to show the scientist how to use the scuba gear before he can get him into the sub.
All goes well and they successfully reach the US ship. Mike climbs on board and as the Russian defector climbs the ladder, it’s very clear that he is using a Healthways SCUBA 2 hose regulator. It’s a very distinctive shape. It’s equally obvious that the regulator is mounted backwards on the tank!! There is no way he was actually breathing from THAT regulator!!!
The various gauges that Mike Nelson and the other actors wore on Sea Hunt is an interesting topic. It’s not all that easy to see a smallish gauge on a divers arm in the episodes but, with what we can see plus the clearer impressions we can get from pictures and the front covers of comic books, the following 5 gauges are pretty much what we know about Sea Hunt gauges.
They include 3 depth gauges and 2 watches. There really wasn’t much else available to divers in the 1960’s – no computers for sure and darn few SPGs.
During the episodes, Mike was regularly referring to his gauges for information about his dive. Obviously he wanted to stay safe. It didn’t matter that he seldom went deeper than 15’ and always had a couple of safety divers within reach, why take chances – right??
He commonly wore a depth gauge and a watch although, based on the narrative, he also used a compass regularly.
1. VOIT Depth Gauge
This gauge is pretty easy to spot in several of the early episodes. It’s quite distinctive with a large black body and a chrome knob on one side. The single feature that sets it off is the band -s black but with quite distinctive white stripes. Few if any other gauges sported that band.
This gauge is a VOIT product and has ‘W.J. Voit Rubber Corp, Los Angeles’ printed on the face. It reads to 100’, more than enough for Sea Hunt. An interesting aspect is that the gauge is very hard to read on the surface. It has a very pronounced crystal dome on top that distorts the face. The reasoning is obvious once you take it underwater where, because of the water distortion, it reads perfectly. RR4
2. US Divers Depth/Compass Combination Gauge
This gauge is seen in many, many Sea Hunt episodes. It’s easy to spot because of the large, chrome body and the distinctive chrome legs that extend beneath the body for the strap. This gauge is a US Divers product and marked with ‘US. DIVERS CORP CALIF.’. On the bottom edge it says “Made in Germany’.
The gauge has an easy-to-read face and in several episodes the gauge face is clearly shown as part of the story narrative. It took me quite a while to decide that it was the correct gauge partly because there is no manufactures name on the face – a bit unusual. But, the tall, chrome body, the chrome wires to hold the strap and the strap itself all combine to convince me that this gauge was a popular one on Sea Hunt.
One very interesting feature of this gauge is the built-in compass. I used to laugh when Mike looked at his depth gauge and knew he was going North. But no more – this depth gauge showed his depth AND his direction. This was not uncommon for gauges in the 1960’s. I had a similar one, wrapped in green rubber, made by Taylor Instruments. Most vintage scuba gear collectors will know the one I mean. RR4
3. Sportsways NAVY DEPTH GAUGE
A bit like the VOIT Green Label LUNG regulator, this depth gauge has become ‘Mike’s Gauge’, the one most associated with Sea Hunt. I’m not exactly why to be honest since this gauge is NOT see as often nor as clearly as the previous ones. Maybe it’s because of one really unique feature that makes it stick in one’s mind.
This depth gauge differs from any other scuba gauge in that the face of the gauge rotates – not the needle. That is, there are really 2 faces. The first one, the one closest to the crystal, is grayish in color, bears the printing and is has a large red arrow at the top pointing into a black hole in the face. The printing on it reads “NAVY DEPTH GAUGE 0-75’ 1405 (that’s the product number) Sportsways Paramount Calif”. This gauge was made in 3 different models – 1-75’, 0-150’ and 0-250’.
The second face is mounted below the first face. It is black and has white numbers on it to make it easy to read. What’s odd about this gauge is that the second face, the lower one, is what rotate as the diver goes deeper. THERE IS NO NEEDLE!! The diver looks at the gauge, sees the red arrow pointing to the white number 50 and knows he’s at 50’. The lower face has rotated as he went deeper. It’s really quite neat but also odd. It was not long on the market. Divers were just too used to a gauge face with a needle to fall in love with this one I suppose. RR3
I should add that all three of these gauges had what appears to be a hole or port on one side. That is the pressure inlet port for the Bourdon Tube inside. Google ‘Bourdon Tube’ to learn how a depth gauge works. I mention it because this style of ‘open’ Bourdon Tube was very prone to corrosion and the diver needed to be fastidious in rinsing and cleaning the gauge and that port in particular if he wanted his gauge to last more than one dive season.
4. The “Canteen’ Watch
This odd watch is seen very often on Sea Hunt. Mike is wearing it on several of the Sea Hunt comic covers and it can be seen as well in lots of the episodes. It’s a pretty neat watch and bears explaining.
It’s called the US Navy Bureau of Ships Canteen Watch, big name for such a small watch. Obviously it has a military background. This watch was made specifically for the Navy to Navy specifications. The main requirement was for it to be waterproof. There was no common dive watch at the time plus the Navy watch had to be rugged. So the Canteen watch was made from stainless steel with a tough canvas band, a tightly glued crystal and a very unique lid that screwed over the crown to keep out water. Assuming the worst, the cap is secured to the watch by a 3-piece chain link. The watch has ‘USN Bu. Ships’ printed on the back of the case. The face was black with large white numbers for good visibility in dirt water. Originals had large luminescent dots at each hour with a double-dot at 12 O’clock.
There were some different versions made. Most had no printing on the front. Besides the interesting screw-down cap over the crown, the watch also had a sweep second hand meaning that the second hand was a full-sized hand on the front. Most second hands at that time were a small, separate dial. The screw-down concept for sealing the crown is still used today in dive watches although without the separate “canteen” cap. Perhaps the most common producer of the Canteen watch was Elgin.
And it worked. There were not a lot made but they served the divers of the US Navy well through the late stages of WW2 and during the Korean War too.
Existing Canteen watches in good condition are quite expensive now. You can expect to pay from $4000 to $7000 for a decent one. Fortunately, cheap copies abound so I can show you my Canteen watch, just like Mike’s. RR4
4. The Rolex Submariner Watch
As was mentioned earlier in the Scuba Gear section prelude, this watch is the only “known to be genuine” piece of scuba gear remaining from Sea Hunt. It is owned by Jeff Bridges, very appropriate as he acted in several Sea Hunt episodes. I can’t say much about the Rolex Submariner. It’s very well known for quality, performance and looks. It is the ultimate dive watch and has been used as a gift to a deserving few dive pioneers to celebrate their achievements – divers such as James Cameron, Hans Haas, JV Cousteau to name just a few.
I’ve been privileged to have known more than a few owners of a Rolex Submariner and confess my envy. It’s a pretty watch to be sure but its name & fame are what really make it desirable.
Is it, for a brief description, a typical dive watch – stainless steel (gold, black, blue, green & yellow versions are available), rotating dial around the face, black face with white numbers & high luminescence, Screw-down crown protected by protruding ears, and generally, a metal bracelet with a fold-out adjustment. It is available as a Submariner Date as well with a small, magnified date window on the right side.
A new Rolex Submariner currently sells for between $8,000 and $40,000 depending on style and material. Used Rolex Submariner watches are not far behind. It would be hard to find ANY used Rolex for less than $5000. Anything in good condition would be $8000 to $10,000. A few years ago a vintage Submariner sold at auction for slightly over 1 million dollars. RR4
My birthday is May12th!
Dive Knives are always a fascinating topic. Some diver-collectors do nothing but collect dive knives. But these are the dive knives are the ones used on Sea Hunt. We determined that from pictures in books and on comic covers as well as from watching the episodes and seeing Mike Nelson wield his trusty knife. In a couple of cases it wasn’t easy trying to figure out what model of knife he was using but these 4 knives are certainly the most popular used in Sea Hunt. From the top you are looking at the USN Mark 2 Ka-Bar, the US Divers ‘Vulcan’, the USN Mark 1 and the US Divers ‘Aquasharp’.
1. The USN Ka-Bar knife was a very common dive knife for divers in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was an excellent knife, made in the USA, and was used by the US Navy from 1943 onward to the present, with some modifications along the way.
Perhaps the main reason for its popularity among civilian divers was its easy availability and low price in war surplus stores after WW2. Every surplus store had boxes of them and one could purchase a new or almost new one for about $10 in 1950. Today, partly the fault of my Sea Hunt fans, a decent Ka-Bar costs at least $100. A very nice one with a good sheath might be twice that! Almost every picture of Mike Nelson, especially the comic covers, show a Ka-Bar on his belt. RR2
2. The USN Mark 1 was also popular among divers and for all the same reasons as the Mark 2. It is not quite so common as the Ka-Bar but offers the same capabilities for the same price, maybe even cheaper. This knife can be seen in only a couple of the Sea Hunt episodes and is being used by divers OTHER than Mike Nelson. RR2
3. This knife, the US Divers ‘Vulcan’, is the knife most associated with Sea Hunt. Distinctive with its large handle guard, this knife has become a favorite for Sea Hunt collectors, so much so that its value has soared to sometimes crazy levels. While it’s possible to find a decent one for under $100, a good one may well cost $250 to $300. By decent, I mean of course, a clean blade and a clean handle & guard. The most important aspect to the value of this knife is the sheath. This knife & sheath was made in Japan. The sheath is plastic and very prone to splitting. In fact, it’s difficult to find a perfect sheath anymore. I suspect that most really good sheaths are in collections. The sheath is so popular and hard to find in good condition that there are reproduction Vulcan sheaths being made! The knife itself is OK – good blade, saw-tooth back edge and nice-sized hilt. The guard is over-rated. It might have been good while being used in the Vietnam War it’s of little value to a scuba diver. RR4
4. Another US Divers product, this is the ‘Aquasharp’. This knife has appeared in their catalogs since the 1950s. It was actually first sold by a different dive gear company but is now known only as a US Divers product. I could ever figure the attraction of this knife. The sheath is almost identical to the Vulcan sheath although the Vulcan thicker blade will not fit into an Aquasharp sheath. And, like the Vulcan sheath, it always splits. The blade is short, light and needed sharpening after every dive. I swear it needed sharpening even if not used! Plus, the handle was much too big to be held comfortably by a diver, particularly if he had cold water gloves on. Some say it’s great because it floats – maybe for fishermen who drop things in the water but a floating knife is silly for a scuba diver. The best news is that, if you can find one, they are not too expensive. There are not many around but they do appear and usually sell for about $50. RR3
This very recognizable item is commonly called the VOIT Porta-Sub and while it was sold under the VOIT brand name for a couple of years, it was actually designed, produced and sold by a machine company called McNeil & Hardesty of Torrance, California in the early 1960s.
The motivation for its production is unknown but certainly attributed to the popularity of scuba diving generated by the TV show Sea Hunt. It’s appropriate then that the Porta-Sub would be used on Sea Hunt and in fact, become one of the identifying features of the show.
The machine itself is unspectacular. Like most DPVs (Diver Propulsion Vehicles), it is simply a watertight shell enclosing a battery and motor. The motor drives an external propeller and is controlled by an external switch on the handles.
The Porta-Sub was no better than other similar machines – of which there were none!!
It’s easy to be the best if you are the only!
To be honest, there were other DPVs at the time including homemade models, but they didn’t have the exciting look of the Porta-Sub nor were they reliable. The Porta-Sub was somewhat reliable which was much better than any others.
In any event, the McNeil & Hardesty Porta-Sub was used in several Sea Hunt episodes to the delight of the young audience. It was factory painted in bright yellow (very suitable for scuba diving) and sported a red propeller and red handgrips. For Sea Hunt, the name Porta-Sub was printed in large letters on each side probably at the urging of McNeil & Hardesty although this did not appear to be the case in every episode.
The McNeil & Hardesty Porta-Sub was featured on the front cover of Skin Diver magazine, June 1962.
In about 1962 or 1963, VOIT acquired the rights to the Porta-Sub. I assume that McNeil & Hardesty continued to produce them for VOIT. The VOIT version was identical other than the color. It was painted in the VOIT blue & white colors and had “VOIT Porta-Sub” in large letters on each side. The design of the machine didn’t change much, a testament to its origin in a machine shop. In the first version the case was made in 2 pieces welded together and then the round end cap was fitted. Later the case was one piece plus the cap. In the picture of the 2 VOIT Porta-Subs belonging to a good friend of mine, you can see these 2 versions, both original, that is, unrestored. The extra weld and body part is clear in the machine at the bottom.
Mine is a very original example. It is yellow; it has the red prop & hand grips; it has the 2 piece body + cap; it has no name on it and, unlike others in existence, it has no serial number. I often wonder if my Porta-Sub was a special build model, put together quickly to meet the demands of a customer on a tight schedule for a special underwater project, like, maybe a TV show called Sea Hunt. How exciting would that be to discover!!
While very desirable, Porta-Subs cannot be called rare. I know of at least 8 fully functioning models currently in use by vintage divers plus a couple that hang in dive shops. However, any Porta-Sub would be an exciting (and expensive) find for a Sea Hunt fan. RR3
Mike Nelson used a number of different dive lights in the Sea Hunt episodes. He often had a small handheld dive light, like a flashlight. The very rare Anderson Dive light was used occasionally. It is most known for the front cover of Sea Hunt comic #11. Another frequently seen underwater light is an old Navy Ship’s Lantern. It served as a dive light, a floodlight when attached to a pole and even as a light for photography in different episodes. Here’s what they looked like.
VOIT FL3 Dive Light
This light is really just a flashlight in a rubber casing. It was however quite popular among divers in the 1950s and 1960s, possibly because it was quite cheap. Divers haven’t changed much in 60+ years! The FL3 was first sold by US Divers. In their 1954 catalog it was called the Underwater Flashlight. Boy those US Divers marketing people are creative! VOIT called it the FL3 because it was a flashlight (FL) and used 3 batteries. Can you guess how it was different from their other model, the FL2???
Anyway, all kidding aside, the FL3 was used by Mike Nelson. It was a small and decent light for the day. You can see in the pictures some of its unique features. It had an On/Off switch that you simply pressed until it clicked. The insides were simple – put 3 batteries in place, drop the metal container into the rubber case, set the bulb on top and insert the lens. The lens has a small spring in the middle that presses down on the bulb to hold it in place and make the circuit. The outside of the case looks green but inside, where no salt water or sunlight ever enters, the rubber is a bright VOIT blue. I’m guessing a new FL3 was blue.
Finding an FL3 is not hard. They appear from time to time but getting one in perfect condition, working order and with good rubber, that’s not going to be easy. A nice one might be worth $75. RR3
The Anderson Skin Diving Marine Light #1000
This is a real dive light – big, heavy, large bulb, lantern-style battery. Too bad it isn’t very bright! But it was a desirable light maybe because it looked so cool. The H. J. Anderson Company was in Kansas City, Missouri, right in the heart of great scuba diving country!! I’ve no idea what else they made but I hope it was profitable. At $16.95 for an Anderson light compared to $6.95 for an FL3 light, I’m sure they didn’t sell many.
The Anderson is constructed of brass and copper and then nickle-plated. The battery was held in a can that sealed with a rubber strip and 2 gear clamps. The bulb was an automotive sealed beam also held in a plated container. Power came from 2 screw terminals on top of the battery can by wires to the bulb. There was a simple household lamp switch on one wire to turn it on & off. The battery was sealed from water but not the wires, the switch or even the bulb contacts. This is one dive accessory that needed a lot of rinsing after a dive! On top of the battery can there is a rubber strap with a clip. On top of the bulb container there is a metal handle.
All in all, it’s quite attractive if a bit simplistic.
The bulb could be either a clear style with a narrow beam or a fluted style which was more of a floodlight. Mike used the floodlight model.
The Anderson is quite rare. I have only seen one – mine. I know a couple of other collectors have one but haven’t seen them. Plus mine is brand new in a brand new box. Value is inestimable since there aren’t any. You’d have to pay what the seller is asking. RR5
Mares Star Flashlight
If you don’t recognize this light, don’t feel bad. Nor did I until my good friend Karl, who sent it me, reminded me that this is the light held by Mike Nelson on the front cover of the German Sea Hunt comics. Recall that the German Sea Hunt comics used the Dell covers for most of their publications but the for the last issues they used another guy, name unknown. This odd Mike Nelson is holding this Mares Star flashlight light in issues #93, 98, 135 & 141. Obviously he likes this light and that makes it legitimate Sea Hunt memorabilia.
This is a big light – over 19” long with a 5” diameter reflector, this thing make a better weapon than even the Mag Light!! It’s made by Mares in Italy and it takes 6, that’s 6, D Cells. On the bottom end is a large knob that turns in or out to power the light.
I’ve no idea if this light is rare or not nor can I guess at a value. RR3
Delta US Navy Marine Lantern
Delta was a large, well-known company originally from Chicago but then from Marion, Indiana. They made special-purpose light from 1913 to 1964. Their products included light for horse-drawn buggies, for bicycles, for train and eventually for automobiles. During the war years, Delta made military lamps for the navy and this is one of those – the famous L4. This lamp was seen in several Sea Hunt episodes and it seems the writers had no end of ideas for its use. It was a hand carried lamp; it was mounted on the wall of a sunken ship; it was lowered into the water on a pole to provide light for Mike; it was used for underwater photography.
The lamp was very well- made of course. It was heavy steel, had a large handle on top and used a good-sized bulb behind a glass plate. The 2 large, round batteries, known as a #6, were sealed inside with a rubber gasket and 6 screws. As they all did, this lamp has a removable bracket on the back so it can be mounted on a wall or detached an carried by hand. A switch on the front just above the bulb activated it.
These were very common just after the war but have now become collectibles. They’re not hard to find and sell for anywhere from $25 to $100 depending on condition. RR2
The #6 batteries are VERY hard to find. Most restorers use modern 1.5 volt batteries.
Boy, I’ll tell you that when Mike used one of his marker buoys, it was always a thrill. Spearguns, underwater flares and knife fights were great but I was impressed by his marker buoys. It was so neat because all he did was pull it off his weight belt, unwrap the string and squeeze. It instantly popped to life and headed to the surface with a “HELP” message or a request for some tools. I loved it!
The marker he used was unique. That squeeze mechanism was only around for a few years and was later replaced by an external pull lever, rather like that on most early BCs. On Mike’s, the cartridge was inside and the lever was inside. A firm squeeze in the right place (marked ‘Squeeze’) would break the tip of the CO2 cartridge and ‘pop’. The cartridges for Mike’s were odd too. They didn’t screw in like most and they had that strange pin sticking out.
But they were good because they never failed to work and to save Mike. It didn’t occur to me when I was 10 years old that, if one didn’t work, they would simply scrap that film and try again!!
The Marker used was the Swimaster Life Guard. It was intended to act as a float for the diver, a bit like a BCD, and came equipped with a strap that could wrap around the diver’s body and hold him on the surface. I suppose it would work well for very small divers! They were made in black and in yellow. Not sure why they made a safety marker in black. Mike’s was yellow and was always instantly spotted by someone on the surface, and then the excitement grew as Mike struggled underneath.
The images below of my Swimaster LifeGuard show it well including the box and the cartridge. Try as I might, I cannot find a supply of these odd cartridges so for now, I will not be trying my marker buoy. It is soft and pliable and I know would work perfectly, just like Mike’s.