The Undersea Hunter vessel on her first trip to Cocos Island in 1990
At Mr. Perry's dock in 1990
Howard/Michele Hall, Avi Klapfer & IMAX crew
The crane was perfect for film crews from the start
IMAX crew on the bridge of the Undersea Hunter
This week we bade farewell to one of our three iconic liveaboard ships – the Undersea Hunter. This trustworthy vessel was the very first of our fleet, and she’d been with us for over 26 years. Saying goodbye to her was bittersweet; like saying goodbye to an old friend.
“I don’t use the name “it” for boats. I call them ‘her,’ or ‘she,’” says Avi Klapfer, one of the Undersea Hunter Group’s founders. “The Undersea Hunter had a personality. All boats do.”
We first purchased the Undersea Hunter ship back in 1990, from a Florida institute called Perry Oceanographic (now Perry Baromedical). The vessel was originally outfitted as a submarine carrier. It was spacious, and came equipped with a 15-ton crane.
“I fell in love with that crane,” Avi recalls. “At the time, sailing was my vision. That ship changed my whole concept. I fell in love with such a powerful boat with so much space, with the potential to cross much greater distances in the ocean.”
It was settled. Avi wasn’t going after a sailboat any longer. He was going to purchase the Undersea Hunter and redesign it specifically for film production. Mr. Perry tried to sell Avi the sub along with the ship.
At the time, Avi thought that was a crazy idea. What was he going to do with a submarine? He turned him down on the sub offer. Little did Avi know that 16 years later he’d be building his own sub, the DeepSee, which would launch its very first adventures off the back of the Undersea Hunter ship.
The Undersea Hunter was the ship's original name, and we kept it. She was named by Mr. Perry, and she served as his own private boat. The name quickly turned into our company's brand name. Back then she was no stranger to fame, as she'd taken an active part in a James Bond Movie and provided submersible support to some of Dr. Sylvia Earle's deep sea missions.
As a vessel, the Undersea Hunter was a huge milestone in terms of liveaboards at the time. Most liveaboards back then were smaller, and not designed for arduous crossings and hard work. The Undersea Hunter was heavy, strong and smart. Exactly what is necessary to go to Cocos Island time and time again.
Bittersweet farewell to an old friend
So many wonderful memories.
In Morea, French Polynesia in May 2001 for IMAX film Coral Reef Adventure
Undersea Hunter at Cocos Island, with DeepSee sub
One of many celebrations over the years
MV Undersea Hunter in all her glory
Over the course of 26 years she’s completed roughly 450 trips to Cocos Island, and hosted countless TV programs for big networks like the Discovery Channel, the BBC and Japanese, French, English and German television as well as several IMAX films. The Undersea Hunter ship undoubtedly put Cocos Island on the radar of ocean lovers across the globe. “She brought Cocos to the world,” Avi recalls. “She was absolutely perfect for filming.”
It was Marty Snyderman and Howard and Michelle Hall who come onboard first and quickly came up with the idea of making an IMAX movie. The very first one focused on the whales of Silver Bank, along the Caribbean near the Dominican Republic. The Undersea Hunter sailed across the Panama canal, which opened many doors for us as a growing company.
This film was quickly followed up by two more productions with Howard and Michelle Hall – most notably, Island of the Sharks. This feature took 11 months to shoot, divided into five 1-month rebreather expeditions between 1998-1999. Then in 2000-2001 they made another film with us called Coral Reef Adventure. This required us to cross the Pacific ocean and spend nearly a year in Fiji and French Polynesia.
Over two and a half decades, as the company expanded and our fleet grew, the Undersea Hunter became overshadowed by her two bigger and more luxurious sister ships – the Sea Hunter and the Argo. Although we’d still been using the Undersea Hunter over the past few years, she was mostly delegated scientific research and university work (and some filmmaking expeditions) – rather than recreational diving.
Come 2016 and it was time to find her a new home. Now she’s off to a new life full of adventures in Socorro and the Mexican Revillagigedo with the reputable Nautilus company.
One thing is for sure: the Undersea Hunter never failed to deliver fantastic adventures. Even though her sister ships may be more fancy with more amenities and space, the Undersea Hunter has always been cozy and efficient.
She was the mother ship who converted countless everyday divers into avid Cocoholics – and for that, we’ll always love her. We wish our old friend bon voyage.