Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Model forklifted into Museum

Model ship S.S. Poseidon in transport on June 26, 1984 from the studios of 20th Century Fox to the Los Angeles Maritime Museum.

S.S. Poseidon
First printed as the cover story in the Compass Rose, Vol. 3 No. 4 Autumn 1984

Many of our ship models enter the Museum in the arms of their owners, or in a case which usually can be carried by two persons. However, our recent acquisition, the 21 ½ foot model of the S.S. POSEIDON, required the services of a king-forklift…

This POSEIDON starred in THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE, produced by 20th Century Fox Film Corporation in 1972, which was an outstanding film of that year.

Mr. Herman David, Studio Manager and Director of Studio service, who contacted us initially about donating this model to the Museum, has since furnished some interesting data.

Actually, what we have is a quarter-inch scale model built from original plans of the QUEEN MARY, or one forty-eighth of full size. The hull is made of fiberglass and finished with detailed hull plating, while wood and sheet metal were employed in the superstructure.

It represents the efforts of some 15 craftsmen over a period of three months and cost approximately $30,000. To duplicate the model today a price tag of $150,000 is estimated. Deck fittings are correct in detail and the whole assembly far more durable than a museum piece in order to withstand hard usage in filming.

Propulsion was by two golf cart motors driving the four propellers. A perforated pipe along the keel provided bubbles. A series of light bulbs inside the hull realistically lit up two rows of port holes and deckhouse windows for night scenes.

Much of the shooting was done in a 32 foot tank but for sea scenes a tank 300 by 360 feet was used. With blue sky backing and a tank edge over which water barely flowed a very realistic horizon was created.

Toward the end of the picture a series of explosions and a capsizing inflicted considerable damage which was, of course, repaired. Weight of the model was slightly over one ton with batteries and motors, now no longer in the hull.

Many scenes were filmed aboard the QUEEN MARY. Full-sized sets of staterooms, a radio room and dining room salon were, however, built in the studio. The dining room was built upside down with furniture bolted to the ceiling. The radio room was built full size on a slanting rail track into a tank to simulate the sinking motion and illustrates the lengths to which motion picture people will go in the pursuit of realism.

POSEIDON will be far and away the largest item in our maritime movie display when completed. The Harbor area and adjacent waters have been favorite props for countless sea pictures dating back to the days when the industry had barely begun to roll.

---- Bill Olesen

"S.S. POSEIDON", an article by long-time Museum volunteer Bill Olesen was presented on the front cover of the Autumn 1984 issue of The Compass Rose, a newsletter of the Friends of the Los Angeles Maritime Museum, published between 1981 and 1996. Note that the original article was printed 27 years ago, reflecting the historic nature of dates, costs and personal and corporate names.

Explanation of terms used:
Compass Rose:

A term used in navigation, it refers to prior blog post, “Jack London in Southern California” for explanation.

The first entry for Poseidon from the Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, second edition, 2005, p. 439 is quoted as “The Greek god of the sea, known to the Romans as Neptune. In Greek mythology he was lord and ruler of the sea...”. This week's post features Bill Olesen's article after a model of the S.S. POSEIDON was donated to the Museum after use in the film The POSEIDON ADVENTURE by 20th Century Fox Studios. More on the movie can be seen at Wikipedia’s entry, “Poseidon, fictional ship”.

Books in the Los Angeles Maritime Museum Research Library are available for borrowing by Museum members. See books in collection in our online catalog.

More new book titles in the Library can be viewed in the Library at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum or online at
new books and pamphlet this month!

A Line of Credit, p. 3
… The 21 ½ foot model of the S.S. POSEIDON arrived in the Museum on June 26, 1984. Delivery of a model this size involved some operations bordering on the dramatic, which were duly recorded in the San Pedro NEWS PILOT with a front page story and picture. RANDY MUDRICK and TOM COULTER teamed up to do the photo and text, respectively, which pleased us greatly.

LARANETA TRUCKING CO. brought the model down from 20th CENTURY FOX STUDIOS in West Los Angeles, but then the problem of unloading became the next hurdle. First to the rescue was TOM AMALFITANO with his fork lift from San Pedro Fish Market. Unfortunately, the reach was too great. A frantic canvas of potentials brought no results until Cdr. TOM GOODALL zeroed in on CHUCK SLOCOMBE, who relayed our S.O.S. to METROPOLITAN STEVEDORE CO. who brought over a monster forklift which dissolved our dilemma instantly. Obviously, there is no substitute for good friends and neighbors who have helped us all the way since January 1980.

---- Norma S. Munger