If you belong to a generation who lived during the era when black and white series still aired on broadcast television, chances are you fondly remember the television show named “Sea Hunt.” This was an immensely popular syndicated half hour action and adventure show that enjoyed a top-rated four season first run from 1958 to 1961 and then went to reruns for decades.
The series starred Lloyd Bridges as hyper-competent ex-Navy frogman and freelance scuba diver, Mike Nelson. Each week (or every afternoon once the show went into reruns), Nelson’s steadiness and ultra-reliability made him the go-to guy for the military, law enforcement, charter fishermen, or anyone who needed assistance with a marine crisis or seabound adventure. For 155 episodes, Mike Nelson tangled with bank robbers and crooks, consulted on top-secret military missions, recovered underwater treasure, fought dangerous sea critters, rescued distressed seagoing folks, and solved other underwater crises. The stories were lean and straightforward pulp narratives with no room for subtleties like deep characterization, subplots, or subtext. Bridge’s gruff and matter-of-fact narration of the underwater sequences makes the series oddly diverting, even when viewed with jaded twenty-first century eyes.
What makes the show especially relevant for local history is that much of it was filmed on location in the Bahamas, Florida, and, for a couple seasons, the Long Beach area — especially Naples, the Long Beach peninsula, Alamitos Bay, and the newly built Long Beach Marina. The above-water locales in many of the show’s episodes serve as a visual catalog of the Long Beach area as it existed in the late fifties. I’ve never seen an episode filmed specifically in Seal Beach, but Seal Beach landmarks are often featured prominently in the background in scenes shot on the Long Beach Marina.
One episode did feature a Seal Beach landmark prominently, so much so that it appears in the episode’s title card.
In the second season’s “Underwater Security,” Mike is hired by the military to go undercover to test the security of a seaside rocket fuel plant and ends up foiling the plans of actual saboteurs. Seal Beach residents tuning in to that night’s “Sea Hunt” episode on January 19th, 1959 would have been surprised to see the Seal Beach power plant passing itself off as the rocket fuel factory. The episode itself was probably filmed in late 1958.
(There’s a very mild irony in that an actual rocket assembly facility would be constructed in a few years on the other end of town to build the second stage of the Apollo program’s Saturn rockets.)
You can watch “Underwater Security” below.
And here’s a link to a YouTube playlist for all the “Sea Hunt” episodes. If you see Seal Beach appearing in any episodes, please share the show’s title in the comments section. I don’t have time to go through all the episodes, but if we all crowdsource the project, maybe we can create a comprehensive index of Seal Beach appearances in “Sea Hunt.”
– Michael Dobkins
I won’t resume daily blogging here until 2024, but I’m trying out a new feature that I hope won’t take as much writing, researching, and prep time. For lack of a better title, I’m calling this new feature, “Take a Look at Historical Seal Beach.”
If you have unique photos from Seal Beach’s past that you’re willing share on this blog, please contact me at mike@SealBeachHistory.com. What I’m looking for are high resolution scanned images in either a tiff or jpeg and a few words to provide a little commentary and context on what is being shared.
I hope to share a new post of photos (or just one photo) from a single donor each month. Currently I have images stockpiled for the rest of 2020. That leaves thirty-six months to cover from January 2021 to December 2023. With luck, there will be enough interest and response to fill those thirty-six months.