Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Roatan Scuba Diving: Yellow Submarine (Stanley Submarines with pictures)


This is a review from Bob West (McCurtain Daily Gazette, Thursday,October 24, 2002) about National Geographic Adventures featuring Karl Stanley, builder of the Yellow Submarine named Idabel —one of the best attractions for diving in Roatan—. The original article is from National Geographic Adventures. 

We've brought this article to your attention due to Stanley's inspirational story and to know how he builds his personal submarine located in West End, (Stanley Submarines, Submarine Dr.) with a new fresh look and insights.



Karl Stanley’s “do it yourself” submarine —worked on daily at Gary’s Machine Shop here— will carry the name Idabel when it plunges into the deep waters of the Caribbean of Honduras next year.

The three-sphere sub —due to be assembled, completed and tested by next spring— should be in use at the Half-Moon Bay on West End Roatan Island by May—says Stanley.



Below, Idabel Submarine how it looks like now—2015.


roatan scuba diving stanley yellow submarine

Stanley, who designed the sub and moved to McCurtain County last spring to build it, is featured in the November 2002 issue of National Geographic Adventure.

The article focuses on the adventurous life and restless spirit of the 28-year-old entrepreneur. 

                 As of 2015 he's actually 41 years old.


It traces his adventures from sub-urban Ridgewood, N.J., where he started building his first homemade sub in his parents’ yard, to college in Florida; to using the sub to do sub-contract dives for a Canadian company searching for wrecks outside the harbor in Havana, Cuba; to tourist dives off Roatan Island, Honduras; and finally to Idabel. 

Stanley, who is proud enough of the article that he’s showed advanced copies to friends and work associates, and ordered a subscription to the magazine for the Idabel Public Library, told freelancer Paul Bennett (who he recently visited in Italy) his best estimate is that his sub will be operating in Roatan by May.

Now operating in Half-Moon Bay.—2015.


roatan scuba diving

The article also noted he has mailed his plans for an underwater hotel to the tourism minister for Roatan (an island in Honduras).

Bennett, whose article is entitled The Pipe Dreamer, described a Stanley’s vision that “honeymooners would be shuttled out in a dinghy just before sunset, sealed in and dropped”.

He also talks about the honeymoon suite where “couples can look out at 1,000 feet and watch a shark take bait off a hook.”

The Idabel is composed of three thick steel spheres to be connected into a solid unit (described as “kind of like a snowman… three different sized spheres stacked in an L”).


(As described in an earlier article in the McCurtain Gazette, its biggest sphere is the spot where riders will sit and view deep sea life: the two smaller spheres are where Stanley will pilot the sub and man the controls).


The making of his first submarine, named the C-Bug —at just 2,400 pounds “the lightest sub ever made” says Stanley — is also described.

He started that project at age 11, tracking down an amateur bubmariner and picking his brain, then talking his parents into buying him some welding equipment. He got a lot of help from his research, including diagrams in R. Frank usby’s Manned Submersibles.

The sub project was shelved while he studied history at Eckerd College, St. Petersburg, Fla. But Stanley became a sort of campus celebrity when he finished the sub there just in time for graduation.

scuba diving roatan

It’s a two-seater with room enough for himself and one other person. 

One of the main ideas Stanley borrowed from the world of DIY submarining was from a book that described Navy efforts to develop an engineless gliding submarine.

“I knew it had to be cylindrical, and it had to be strong,” he told Bennett of this idea’s development. 

When he launched the C-Bug at a creek near the Eckerd campus, about 100 people, including a St. Petersburg newspaper and TV people were on hand. Also, “20 safety divers stood at the ready,”—the article notes. The sub hit bottom at 90 feet in the Gulf of Tampa Bay, then the venue became deeper —670 feet off the continental shelf in the Atlantic Ocean—.

The Ft. Lauderdale Sentinel did a feature article on the entrepreneur-designer-dreamer just before he met someone from Honduras and settled in at the Half-Moon Bay on the West End, Roatan.

Here, at $185 per dive for tourists, the C-Bug hit depths of 700 plus feet where the island drops off into one of the world’s deepest ocean trenches (the Cayman Trench).


Actually pricing per individual based on double occupancy and for similar tour done by the C-Bug is aprox. US$500 (1,000 feet/305 m)—2015. Click on each of the images below to check actual rates per dive. Also, you can book directly your at Stanley's Submarine Website



Dollar Exchange Lempiras Roatan vs USD$


scuba diving roatan
1000 ft/1.5 hour dive

scuba diving roatan
1500 ft/2.5 hour dive
scuba diving roatan
2000 ft/3.5 hour dive

scuba diving roatan
Lophelia Reef dive 4 hr
scuba diving roatan
Six-Gill Shark Dive 5-9 hr

The article also describes the "dangers". One customer who is quoted —by the National Geographic Adventures article—tells of a porthole starting to crack at 650 feet and the “longest five minutes of my life” getting back to the surface.

The author also got an engineer who has tested subs in tanks for the Navy to run some strength and durability numbers on Stanley’s submarine based on the size and thickness of steel walls. 

The engineer is quoted as saying "it would collapse below a maximum depth of 440 feet" (it actually went to 700).

Stanley says he is building his new sub bigger and stronger than the first one. 

The steel is thicker (the Idabel will be three times as heavy at 7,500 pounds) and his helpers at Gary’s (Darren Milner Tinker Beck and Shannon Crain) are taking cach weld seriously.


scuba diving roatan

Stanley, who shows up at 7 a.m. every weekday at the machine shop in cast Valliant, says his hopes are that the three spheres will be attached within one month, or before he goes home to visit his parents at Thanksgiving.

We’re on the home stretch.— He says of the estimated one-year project. We’ve got to cut a groove on the pilot tower where the hatch will seal.—

Also, putting in the 30-inch window on the 54 inch-diameter passenger sphere will entail some more cutting and close-seal work. 

Before that, there’s the job of putting the steel parts in a giant oven where heat up to 1,100 degrees will “streess-relieve” any stresses in the steel caused by heating and cooling.

After the final assembly, there’s the shipping of the Idabel to Roatan and the business of taking it deeper than ever. 

One of the reasons for Stanley wanting to go deeper than Scuba divers go (200 feet) and than his first sub went (700 feet) is a wreck of a 300-foot cargo ship at 2,000 feet and the slit shell.

The National Geographic Adventure article’s author points out collecting shells became Stanley’s side business at Roatan,  and notes that a perfectly shaped slit shell can bring up to $2,000 to the finder.


“They are the oldest living species of mollusks on the planet,” Stanley says. “They only live in deep water over 400 feet, and only in rocky areas that are hard to dredge. That’s why they’re so rare.”


scuba diving roatan
Stanley has made friends locally, but he doesn’t shy away from voicing sometimes controversial views —including one recently about the suffering of bulls at rodeo bull-riding events. 

He has also taken up for a friend whose flea-marketing business came under criticism at a city council meeting. And he may not be looked upon in friendly terms by the Ridgewood, N.J., police department. 

The National Geographic Adventure article notes that just before his 18th birthday, he broke into the police station there to destroy parking tickets because of his outrage about a parking restriction aimed at teen-agers.

Although he never spent any time in jail, Stanley did end up with a police record. This could affect his citizenship rights in some states, but hasn’t in Oklahoma, he says (a resident of Idabel since last spring, he has registered to vote).

Gary and Darren Milner along with Beck and Crain have read the article. They like it, and are especially impressed by a cover picture shot at the shop, but they are disappointed it never mentioned the name of the business.



Well... we do. S tanley Submarines




Also, the Half-Moon Bay wasn’t mentioned (the three owners of the resort are reportedly excited about the tourist sub’s returns). 

It doesn’t detail why Stanley chose Idabel for his work (he met Idabel industrialist Buck Hill at Half-Moon Bay and had lunch with him, learning about the machining skilled environment of McCurtain County)..

However, overall, the article is an engaging reflection of Stanley’s boldness, inventiveness, self-confidence and determination, qualities that proved rather valuable to American icons like Thomas Alva Edison and Henry Ford.

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