Friday, June 8, 2001
TV boat’s real name
holds a rich history
In my May 11 column, I wrote that Mike Nelson's boat in
the 1950s TV show "Sea Hunt" was called the Aquanaut. Here's
part of an e-mail about that from a "Sea Hunt" fan:
"The name was not Aquanaut, it was Argonaut (as in
Jason and the Argonauts).
"The Argonaut is a 1960 Trojan Sea Breeze, Express
Cruiser, 34 feet long and 12 feet wide. It's made of mahogany planking
with teak decks and brightwork. She is currently being restored."
I appreciate the information and stand corrected. But
who, I wondered, are Jason and the Argonauts?
The group, I learned, is not a band of musicians, but a
band of adventurers in an ancient Greek story.
The story goes that Jason, in order to become king, had
to sail far away, retrieve a stolen treasure and return it to Greece. To
achieve this the god Argus built Jason a ship named Argo. The men who
joined this sailing adventure were called Argonauts.
The voyage of the Argo, recorded in the masterpiece
Argonautica, is a celebrated Greek epic famous for its psychological
While reading this story, I thought the term argo must
have some kind of marine connotation. It doesn't. Not in Greek literature,
anyway. But in French Polynesia and Hawaii, it's the species name of a
fish called roi.
The roi is a dark brown grouper covered with iridescent
Naturalists in 1801 named the fish Cephalopholis argus
because the god Argus had 100 glowing eyes.
Common English names for this game fish are Argus
grouper and peacock grouper, two names more closely linked than you might
think. When a cranky Greek goddess named Hera got annoyed with the spying
Argus, she turned him into a peacock. That's why peacock tails are full of
But back to my "Sea Hunt" e-mail. My reader
included a Web site about Mike Nelson's boat, Argonaut. I checked it out
and then searched the Internet using the key words Sea Hunt. And there
went the rest of the afternoon.
"Sea Hunt" lives.
For those too young to know, from 1958 through 1961,
Lloyd Bridges played a character named Mike Nelson, an ex-Navy frogman
turned underwater troubleshooter. Mike was a bold scuba diver who rescued
trapped pilots, recovered stolen goods and cut the air hoses of a
remarkable number of underwater criminals.
In the beginning, a stunt double did the diving for
Bridges in a Palo Alto aquarium. But when the show became popular, the
athletic actor learned to do his own diving, and the show moved to the
ocean. In its heyday, "Sea Hunt" episodes were shot in waters
off the Florida Keys, California and Australia.
I remember one of these shows vividly. My brother and I
had chicken pox, and my mother insisted we stay in bed. "But 'Sea
Hunt' is on!" we shrieked.
She relented. Wrapped in blankets and dotted with
calamine lotion, we sat on the floor about three feet from the TV and
watched in awe as our scuba hero wrestled bad guys and yanked regulators
from their mouths. It was the only consecutive 30 minutes in the entire
week when I didn't scratch.
By today's standards "Sea Hunt" is pretty
corny, but it was the first TV show about the ocean, and I loved it.
Judging by the "Sea Hunt" Web sites, a lot of other boomers did,