The Realm of the Deep took guests onboard an enormous submarine that explored the greatest depths of the ocean.
Although the Realm's theme and aesthetics borrowed heavily from Jules Verne's novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (and from the Walt Disney film of that name), Dalton Teague always claimed his primary inspiration had been Herman Melville's novel Moby Dick.
And while the Realm as a whole did have a 20,000 Leagues ambiance, Teague's Moby Dick influences are equally pervasive -- from the Captain who narrates the Realm's main attraction, to the Natntucket family portraits in the Crew Cafeteria, to the fact that the submarine itself is named the Pequod, after the ship on which Moby Dick takes place.
Realm Layout and Design
Unlike the other six Realms, which were set in static locations, the environment of the Realm of the Deep was designed to simulate an ongoing voyage on an enormous submarine, the Pequod. Guests arrived at the Realm by entering a small "submersible," which took a "dive" far beneath the surface of the sea, simulated by decreasing light levels and noisy bubble effects outside its windows. When the submersible "docked" about 60 seconds later, an "airlock" was sealed by the Pequod's crew members, and guests were free to disembark into the Realm's main entry chamber.
The Pequod's interior design was a blend of Steam Age and Atomic Age aesthetics: its walls were composed of thick iron plates secured by riveted support beams. Water-refracted light beams danced along corridors.
To make this simulation as immersive as possible, the Realm's hallways would undergo unpredictable vibrations, complete with metal-creaking sound effects. The Pequod would also periodically "dive" or "rise," causing floors throughout the realm to tilt slightly, and interior light levels to subtly change.
Hallways opened off from both sides of the Realm's main entryway. Along the left hallway, guests could wander freely through several Control Rooms packed with intricate panels and readouts. This hallway also contained the Captain's Table restaurant, where guests could dine on poached salmon, broiled tuna, calamari, and other seafood "freshly caught by the Pequod's own crew."
(Note: This eatery was originally named the "Mess Hall" at OmniPark's 1977 opening, but park management quietly rebranded it in March 1978, upon realizing that few guests were dining at a restaurant with the word "mess" in its name ).
The right hallway branched off into the Map Room shop, where guests could inspect (and purchase) nautical maps, sextants, astrolabes, lodestones, and other artifacts from many eras of seafaring; along with Realm-themed souvenirs.
This hallway also contained the Generator Rooms, where guests could explore chambers of whirling machinery, along with tanks containing a variety of mysterious glowing, bubbling fluids.
One little-trafficked hallway of the Pequod housed the Antarctic Expedition ice cream parlor, designed to resemble the interior of a cold-weather submarine beneath a polar ice cap. This oddball snack parlor remained largely unchanged from the park's 1977 opening, offering regular guests (many of whom prided themselves on their knowledge of the eatery) a secluded slice of authentic OmniPark nostalgia.
Toward the "fore" ends of both hallways, guests could enter the Underwater Viewing Chambers. In a unique design concept, these spherical chambers extended out into enormous saltwater aquariums. Livestock in these saltwater tanks included hammerhead and tiger sharks, giant manta rays, yellowfin tuna, and innumerable smaller marine species. The lighting was designed to prevent guests from seeing the tanks' walls, and water flow was carefully engineered to create the illusion of a limitless open ocean.
Upon entering the Viewing Chambers, guests stood on transparent plexiglass panels of approximately 400 square feet (the size of a two-car garage), which were mounted at the center cross-section of each sphere. This 360-degree transparency created a startling effect of complete immersion in the underwater environment, as marine creatures swam not only in front of guests (as in a conventional tourist aquarium) but also above, beneath, and behind them.
On the Foredeck of the submarine, guests could take in a more traditional wide-window view of the aquarium, behind the Pequod's main navigation panels: a vast complex of mysterious screens, buttons, gauges, levers, and dials, where several crew members could often be seen busily at work. The Foredeck also contained the line entrance to the Realm's main attraction, crowned by a brightly colored sign that beckoned guests to ride "Mariana Trench Dive: An Undersea Encounter."
Attraction: Mariana Trench Dive
Unlike most rides at OmniPark, this attraction was based not around two-person ride vehicles, but around a single "submersible" chamber capable of accommodating 32 guests per ride. The submersible traveled on a track through a saltwater aquarium, and executed "dives" -- simulated through a combination of vibrations, light changes, and bubble effects.
Once guests had boarded the submersible, they met the Fisherman: a salty old sailor who explained that he'd plunged into the depths of every ocean on Earth, "hunting every beast from sperm whales to giant squid." But there was one great hunting ground he still dreamed of exploring: the Mariana Trench -- the deepest chasm in the Pacific Ocean. He'd build this special submersible expressly for that purpose.
Following that introduction, the submersible executed its first dive, arriving in the Epipelagic layer of the Photic zone -- in other words, the open ocean. There, guests saw tiger and hammerhead sharks, giant manta rays, tuna, and many other fish, while sound effects hinted at the presence of whales in the distance.
Having satisfied himself that the submersible was sturdy enough to undertake a deeper dive, the Fisherman plunged the craft down into the Mesopelagic zone, where only faint shafts of sunlight penetrated. There, guests encountered an animatronic sperm whale battling a giant squid, as well as oarfish of formidable size. The Fisherman was excited by these discoveries, and decided to dive deeper.
Following a third dive, the submersible entered the Bathypelagic zone, where light was almost nonexistent. The Fisherman turned on the submersible's headlamps, giving riders glimpses of deep sea creatures such as anglerfish and pelican eels, as well as bio-luminescent squid, which the Fisherman speculated might be communicating in a colorful equivalent of language.
Suddenly, however, the submersible had to pull up short, as it encountered a gigantic siphonophore: a colonial jellyfish-like organism "five hundred feet long," according to the Fisherman.
The submersible's lights illuminated the siphonophore's body, which was so enormous that its head and tail could not clearly be seen. The Fisherman attempts to fire a harpoon into the titanic creature, but only succeeds in unleashing an attack of giant tentacles, forcing him to execute a deeper dive in order to escape.
Diving away from the siphonophore, the submersible arrived at last in the Abyssal zone, near a hydrothermal vent. Here, the submersible's lights illuminated a community of vent worms and crabs -- as well as a brand-new discovery: a colony of isopods that have built a towering hive structure, similar to a deep-sea beehive. As the submersible explored this structure, the Fisherman sighted the Hive Queen: a giant invertebrate at the center of the undersea honeycomb structure.
Wild with excitement, the Fisherman fired the submersible's harpoon at the Hive Queen. This triggered an attack by thousands of Warrior Isopods with powerful mantis-like pincers, with which they began to tear the submersible's bolts and panels apart -- unleashing sprays of cold water into the cabin.
The Fisherman panicked, and called for the submersible to ascend, which it did in a storm of bubbles, pursued by an army of furious Warrior Isopods.
At last the vehicle made it back to the Pequod safe and sound -- with the Fisherman swearing, in the background, that the Isopod Queen was now his mortal enemy, and he'd spend the rest of his life seeking her death.