Phoenix

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Phoenix
World's largest glass bottom boat
Santa Catalina Island
[original in SCIF archives]
Glass bottom boat Phoenix
Santa Catalina Island, Ca.
Photo by P. V. Reyes
[original in SCIF archives]
Glass bottom boat Phoenix
Santa Catalina Island, Ca.
Phoenix, Santa Catalina Island
Phoenix, Santa Catalina Island
Phoenix, Santa Catalina Island
Phoenix, Santa Catalina Island


Phoenix (#230667) (1931-2006), 105-foot side-wheel glass-bottom boat built in Wilmington by the Wilmington Transportation Company for service to Santa Catalina Island. Phoenix was one of the vessels commissioned by William Wrigley for construction after World War I. (Others were Princess and Blanche W.) The Phoenix was launched to replace the Emperor, which was lost in a Santa Ana windstorm in 1930. Phoenix, largest in the glass-bottom boat fleet, was built with blueprints and many of the parts from Emperor, with a viewing well so passengers could observe underwater sights. Construction cost $80,000. Phoenix skippers over the years included:

She carried passengers to view the Undersea Gardens of Lovers’ Cove, and served as a platform for sunset buffet cruises to Long Point. During the war years from 1942 through 1945, Phoenix was ‘mothballed’ in Los Angeles Harbor. After 64 years of service at the island, Phoenix was decommissioned in 1995 and sold to the Balboa Fun Zone in Newport Harbor. In 2006, they, in turn, sold her to businessman, Rick Parker, who had plans of taking Phoenix 450 miles north to the coastal town of Martinez, north of San Francisco, and converting her to a dockside Cajun restaurant. She sank on the voyage to northern California in 800 feet of water off the coast of Malibu on June 11, 2006.


In the News~

June 12, 1906 [OCR]: “A 109-foot glass-bottom boat built for chewing gum moguls, the Wrigley family, sank Sunday on its way from Newport Beach to Northern California, where it was to be turned into a dockside restaurant. The vessel, the Phoenix, left the Balboa Fun Zone on Saturday, heading on a 450-mile trek to Martinez, a seaside town north of Oakland. Owner Rick Parker and three friends were navigating the boat when it sank two miles off the coast of Malibu. Parker had purchased the boat just two weeks earlier from the Fun Zone Boat Co. The four men escaped unharmed. The men had called for help at 9:50 A.M. after noticing a two-by-six-inch crack on the glass hull of the vessel, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Ed Osorio said. Attempts to pump water out of the sinking boat had failed, he said. The men then jumped into an inflatable raft and were picked up by lifeguards minutes later. By 10:30 A.M. the boat was completely submerged, Osorio said… The Phoenix had been docked at Santa Catalina Island until about 10 years ago, when it underwent a complete restoration and moved to the Fun Zone. Prior to its sale, the boat was chartered for weddings, parties, meetings and narrated cruises of Newport Harbor… The Phoenix was the largest glass-bottom boat in the world…”


March 25, 1931 [TI/Avalon]: “Captain Claude Walton informs us that arrangements are being made for launching the new glass-bottomed boat, the Phoenix, successor to the Emperor, wrecked during a winter northeaster. It will probably occur next Wednesday, April 1st. Furthermore, the vessel will probably be placed in commission May 1st. We understand that the new boat has several improvements over such boats heretofore built.”


April 8, 1931 [TI/Avalon]] “The Phoenix, new glass-bottom boat built to replace the Emperor, wrecked here during a heavy north-easter last winter, was successfully launched from the ways of the Wilmington Boat Works on Wednesday forenoon of last week. The following are excerpts from an article concerning the launching as reported by the Harbor Press of that city:

Shouts of warning, pounding of hammers on wood, splintering of glass and spontaneous hurrahs, followed by applause, and the Phoenix, $100,000 glass-bottom boat... slid down the ways on her first trip to the sea this morning. Little golden-haired Claudia Walton, daughter of Capt. Walton of the Phoenix, stood at the bow waiting for the signal, while workmen removed block after block under the vessel. Then at a signal she raised her arm and cracked the bottle to christen the Phoenix as she slowly began to slide down into the waters of the East Basin. Waiting for the Phoenix in the water was the Wrigley tug, David P. Fleming, to see that she did not go too far out into the bay. She was hated and towed to the landing, where workmen will finish her interior.... Her glass plates in the bottom, through which tourists will view the bottom of the sea off Catalina, are one inch thick... She is expected to be in service by this time next month, joining the fleet of three glass-bottom boats now operating in the island waters... Present this morning at the launching were D. P. Fleming, secretary of the Wilmington Transportation Company; Captain Morris of the steamer Catalina; M. S Patrick, manager of the pleasure boats for the Wrigley subsidiary, Captain Claude Walton of the Phoenix, family and invited guests.”


June 12, 2006 [OCR]: “A 109-foot glass-bottom boat built for chewing gum moguls, the Wrigley family, sank Sunday on its way from Newport Beach to Northern California, where it was to be turned into a dockside restaurant. The vessel, the Phoenix, left the Balboa Fun Zone on Saturday, heading on a 450-mile trek to Martinez, a seaside town north of Oakland. Owner Rick Parker and three friends were navigating the boat when it sank two miles off the coast of Malibu. Parker had purchased the boat just two weeks earlier from the Fun Zone Boat Co. The four men escaped unharmed. The men had called for help at 9:50 A.M. after noticing a two-by-six-inch crack on the glass hull of the vessel, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Ed Osorio said. Attempts to pump water out of the sinking boat had failed, he said. The men then jumped into an inflatable raft and were picked up by lifeguards minutes later. By 10:30 A.M. the boat was completely submerged, Osorio said… The Phoenix had been docked at Santa Catalina Island until about 10 years ago, when it underwent a complete restoration and moved to the Fun Zone. Prior to its sale, the boat was chartered for weddings, parties, meetings and narrated cruises of Newport Harbor… The Phoenix was the largest glass-bottom boat in the world…”