Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

When I was boy, age 8-11, I remember being enthralled by a television show called Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. I even remember playing with a classic Bic pen, pretending it was the submarine Seaview.

Now, 60 years later, I decided to watch the whole series again. Despite all its flaws (some of which I list below), some of the episodes are pretty good.

What are the flaws? First and foremost, it is clear that Irwin Allen—the show’s creator—and many of his writers did not have a good understanding of basic science. Once you get past that, and the Seaviewpopping wheelies“, the Seaview “rock-and-roll” incidents (camera is rocked as the cast rushes from side to side on the set, simulating the submarine being tossed around), the frequent on-board pyrotechnic fires, a circuitry room that begs for a more secure door and an armed guard, and the all-too-frequent “monster of the week” and “mind control” episodes, you’ll always find an excellent cast of regulars (led by Richard Basehart and David Hedison), talented guest stars, and some imaginative stories.

So here goes…

Before you watch the television series episodes, I recommend you watch two submarine-themed movies.

The Enemy Below (1957)
This is a great movie, and includes David Hedison (credited as Al Hedison as Lt. Ware of the USS Haynes) who would go on to play Captain Lee Crane in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea television series.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1961)
This is the Irwin Allen film that later launched the television series. Once you get past the scientific inaccuracies (the Van Allen Belts on fire??), there is an excellent cast featuring such luminaries as Walter Pidgeon, Joan Fontaine, the ever beautiful and alluring Barbara Eden (before I Dream of Jeannie), Peter Lorre, Robert Sterling, Michael Ansara (before his role as the Klingon Kang in Star Trek and who was married to Barbara Eden at the time!), Frankie Avalon, and Del Monroe as Seaman Kowski who would go on the play Seaman Kowalski in the television series.

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968)
The television series ran for four seasons. Here are my picks for the best episodes.

Season 1 (1964-1965)

Season 1, Episode 2: “The City Beneath the Sea”

Season 1, Episode 3: “The Fear-Makers”

Season 1, Episode 6: “The Sky Is Falling”

Season 1, Episode 7: “Turn Back the Clock”

Season 1, Episode 9: “Hot Line”
Directed by John Brahm of Twilight Zone fame, and guests include James Doohan and Michael Ansara before Star Trek.

Season 1, Episode 10: “Submarine Sunk Here”

Season 1, Episode 11: “The Magnus Beam”
Guests include Malachi Throne before his appearance on Star Trek.

Season 1, Episode 15: “Long Live the King”

Season 1, Episode 16: “Hail to the Chief”

Season 1, Episode 17: “The Last Battle”

Season 1, Episode 18: “Mutiny”

Season 1, Episode 19: “Doomsday”

Season 1, Episode 20: “The Invaders”

Season 1, Episode 23: “The Human Computer”

Season 1, Episode 28: “The Creature”

Season 2 (1965-1966)

Season 2, Episode 3: “…And Five of Us Are Left”

Season 2, Episode 10: “The Silent Saboteurs”
Guests includes George Takei before Star Trek.

Season 2, Episode 15: “Killers of the Deep”
Guests includes Michael Ansara before Star Trek.

Season 2, Episode 17: “The Phantom Strikes”

Season 2, Episode 22: “The Death Ship”

Season 2, Episode 26: “The Return of the Phantom”

Season 3 (1966-1967)

Season 3, Episode 5: “The Terrible Toys”

Season 3, Episode 13: “The Lost Bomb”

Season 3, Episode 19: “The Mermaid”

Season 3, Episode 23: “Doomsday Island”

Season 4 (1967-1968)

Season 4, Episode 3: “Cave of the Dead”
Guest star Warren Stevens was also a guest on Star Trek later that year.

Season 4, Episode 5: “Sealed Orders”

Season 4, Episode 6: “Man of Many Faces”

Season 4, Episode 7: “Fatal Cargo”

Season 4, Episode 8: “Time Lock”

Season 4, Episode 9: “Rescue”

Season 4, Episode 24: “The Edge of Doom”

Season 4, Episode 26: “No Way Back”

Of the 110 episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea produced, I think that 33 of them (30%) are well worth watching. Season 1 was the only season filmed in black-and-white, and the only season that had 32 episodes instead of 26. It was also the best season, with 15 great episodes. The next best season was the fourth and final season with 8 great episodes, followed by Season 2 with 6 great episodes. Season 3 was the worst season with only 4 great episodes.


The Coldest Place on Earth

The coldest temperature ever reliably recorded on the surface of the Earth occurred on July 21, 1983, when a temperature of -128.6° F was recorded at Vostok Station, Antarctica (φ = 78° 27′ 52″ S, λ = 106° 50′ 14″ E, elevation 11,444 ft.). Located at the center of the East Antarctic ice sheet, Vostok Station is prone to extremely cold temperatures given its high elevation and location far inland (~868 miles) from the moderating influence of the ocean. Other contributing factors to the low temperature are the extremely low humidity (water vapor retains heat near the surface) and the high albedo of the snow and ice which reflects much solar radiation back out into space.

Vostok Station is the most isolated of all the established research stations on the Antarctic continent. Only about 30 scientists and engineers reside at Vostok Station during the summer months, but during winter that number dwindles to about 15.

The monthly average temperature at Vostok is as follows: April -84.6°F, May -86.4°F, June -85.5°F, July -88.1°F, August -90.2°F, September -86.8°F, October -70.8°F, November -44.7°F, December -25.2°F, January -25.6°F, February -47.7°F, March -72.2°F. The warmest temperature ever recorded at Vostok was +6.8° F on January 5, 1974.

For the current temperature at several locations within Antarctica, including Vostok, see [apologies for the display ads, but out of my control]. For a Vostok weather forecast, visit Planning a trip soon?

Vostok is a desert, averaging just 0.9 inches of snowfall each year. Does any non-dormant indigenous life exist at Vostok Station? No. Except for the human presence there, on the surface it is lifeless. But, fortuitously, Vostok Station sits above a giant freshwater lake called, appropriately, Lake Vostok, 13,100 feet under the ice. Scientists believe that life exists there, but they want to be very, very careful not to biocontaminate the lake as they begin exploring it in earnest.

It is interesting for us to ponder the possibility that sub-surface life exists on Mars and some of the satellites in the outer solar system. Though far more difficult than Lake Vostok to explore, someday we will.

Incidentally, at higher elevations along the Eastern Antarctica Plateau (specifically, along the ridge between Dome Argus and Dome Fuji), satellite measurements between 2010 and 2013 indicate that even colder surface temperatures than at Vostok Station have been reached, perhaps even as low as -144°F. However, since these are not surface temperature measurements, the current Vostok Station record of -128.6° F still holds as the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth. And with anthropogenic global warming, that record is not likely to be broken anytime soon.

Factino: Did you know that it takes a lot more energy to cool down humid air than to cool down dry air? Air conditioners cool much more efficiently in Arizona and New Mexico than they do in Florida and Louisiana. Moreover, evaporative coolers in desert areas can reduce energy use by 80% or more over refrigerative air conditioning, but they only work well in dry climates.