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The following appeared June 1, 2008 in the

South Florida Science Museum rededicates restored Perry Cubmarine 'Reef Hunter'


Daily News Staff Writer

    After twenty five years in storage, one of the South Florida Science Museum's longtime attractions has resurfaced.

   On Saturday, the museum rededicated its 5,000-pound Perry Cubmarine, tabbed the Reef Hunter, following a six-week restoration.

   South Palm Automotive in Boca Raton repaired the submarine's undercarriage, aluminum hull and fiberglass shell.

   The Cubmarine was a prototype two-person submarine developed by the late John H. Perry Jr. of Palm Beach for undersea exploration. The Cubmarine was one of the first such vehicles used for scientific studies, according to Lee Dashiell, resident marine biology expert at the museum.

   In the early 1960s, Mr. Perry — a World War II Navy reconnaissance pilot and a former publisher of The Palm Beach Post and Palm Beach Daily News — designed and constructed three Cubmarines at a Riviera Beach facility. The first of the battery-powered submarines was leased to the pioneering Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and is believed to have been the first submersible to explore Woods Hole Passage, off the New England coast. The U.S. Navy used the second to recover munitions on the Pacific Range and a hydrogen bomb (H-bomb) lost off the Spanish coast in January 1966. Perry donated the prototype, painted a bright yellow with blue trim, to the museum in 1973.

   "Though it might not be the first of the type, it was the first of the type of mind set, where we actually started using submarines for exploration rather than for warfare," Dashiell said.

   Today's submersibles can dive thousands of feet below the ocean's surface. The Perry Cubmarine typically operated at a depth of about 190 feet. Some were tested at 900 feet.

   "The sub was built and completed in 1966, which was a few years before the first man ever walked on the moon," Dashiell said. Submarines such as the Cubmarine opened the door for scientific exploration of the largest component of the planet's surface. "So what that sub did was answer a fundamental question for mankind," Dashiell said. "That question being, can we go there? And the answer is yes, we can. We did, we have and we will continue to."

   The restoration of the prototype, the Reef Hunter, was spearheaded by museum board member Rick Newman. Board member Dale Hedrick's donation of the use of a crane and flatbed truck made the restoration possible, Newman said.

   "The Perry submarines were an integral part of deep sea exploration," Newman said. "So it seemed appropriate to get it back up and refinished."

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