Peter Robbins' Alicia, Tom Swift's Jetmarine

When Peter Robbins was a boy, he read Tom Swift and marveled at the amazing inventions that Tom used in the story. He wanted to have similar adventures with devices like the Jetmarine:

Tom felt a glow of satisfaction. He explained, however, that the jetmarine's transparent nose pane--which had to be left unprotected for the pilot's visibility--offered one vulnerable spot to sonar detection.
(From Tom Swift and the Electronic Hydrolung [1961])


(Tom Swift's jetmarine)

As an adult, he worked to make his dreams into a reality. He built his own submarine, Alicia with a large clear nose - surprisingly like Tom Swift's jetmarine.


(Peter Robbins' Alicia)

"We started off by doing what's called tea bagging—just putting the submarine alongside the docks and going up and down like a tea bag. You do that to open and close all the valves and take a look at your oxygen level and your CO2 level and understand what the system is doing. Then you take the sub out into the open water.

It was a beautiful, bright, sunny afternoon, and I was just thrilled hearing the sub's motor. We made our way out to our assigned position. You have to have very specific authorization to dive in almost any port, because ports have big ships coming in and out, and the last thing they want is a submarine coming up underneath a ship or any kind of a collision.

The first time I went down, it was really, really a knockout experience. In this harbor, particularly during the summer, there's a lot of algae, so our visibility was only about 10 to 15 feet. But you felt you could lean over and just pick a scallop right up off the bottom. The curvature of Alicia's clear round hull magnifies the view tremendously. It was just a terrific deal."

Peter Robbins has this advice for fellow dreamers: "You don't live life fully if you don't dream." Read more at Underwater Dream Machine.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 12/28/2006)

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