"Dive, Dive, Dive" with Shanee Stopnitzky and the Community Submersibles Project
Ringo was right. Maybe we'll all pilot a Yellow Submarine.
On this special "Best of ASPN" rebroadcast, Peter & Tyler explore the childhood dream of many to pilot a submersible and explore the wonders of the sea. Turns out, it's not just a dream anymore. Meet Shanee Stopnitzky, a real life citizen submarine designer, builder, and pilot and the founder of the Community Submersibles Project, a Berkeley non-profit dedicated to the personal exploration of the sea. Sure, it's about technology and what it takes to own and pilot not one but three subs. Yes, they've developed a sub pilot training school and the expertise to maintain the complex systems it takes to dive. But, there's so much more here too understand and it begins with the "wonder" and the "awe" of the sea and the curiosity that drives us to live full lives as cognitive beings. As the visionary founder of the Community Submersibles Project, Shanee's goal is to foster a "Society of Wonderers." And, she's doing it! One of the best shows ever on ASPN. Take a dive with Shanee and the Community Submersibles Project. You'll love it.
Community Submersibles Project Contacts
Facebook: Community Submersibles Project
120s Video: https://vimeo.com/336546857
Press kit: bit.ly/csppresskit
Peter Ravella 0:00
Hello, everybody and welcome to the American shoreline podcast. My name is Peter revelat. I'm the co host of this show.
Tyler Buckingham 0:06
And I'm Tyler Buckingham, the other co host.
Peter Ravella 0:08
Well, you know, Tyler, I've always said the, the shoreline brings interesting people to the edge of the land. That's always kind of a peculiar thing. I think you find the most interesting and innovative people next to the water. I just feel like I've met the most amazing people. And sometimes, you know, people have hobbies. And I've noticed some interesting hobbies over the years people, no doubt, peculiar hobbies, you know, maybe obscure car repair or some sort of weird fabric collecting and all sorts of quilting. Well, they you know, I mean, there's just and it's, it's it, what I've always noticed is when a when a hobby gets to a certain point, it gets a magazine, you know, there's there's quilter magazine and pet wellness for pet people who love pet psychology, you know, but sometimes there's such an obscure hobby, that there is no magazine and I think we have on the show today, the person who is probably running the only gonna guess, program on the planet for this hobby. And her name is Shanee Stopnitzky, who is the director and founder of what is called the community submersibles project.
Tyler Buckingham 1:29
That's right ladies and gentlemen, this particular organization builds maintains trains people in the ways of operating submersibles. And these are cool submersibles, what can I say
Peter Ravella 1:47
Real submarines, real life going down into the ocean, right 500 feet you know finding things
Tyler Buckingham 1:54
I am just so excited I think for everyone in our audience who saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea or just lift Oh my god. I am just thrilled to get into this Peter. Let's just quickly have a word from our sponsors so we can get into this interview.
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Tyler Buckingham 3:04
All right, Jenny, Let's just start at the very beginning. Tell me about your origin story with submersibles.
Shanee Stopnitzky 3:12
So ever since I was a really little girl I wanted to live in an underwater house. And so it's been part of my sort of like lifetime arc and goal to move underwater at least for some amount of time. To wings to my approach to submersible, one of them was that and I kept building bigger and weirder things on the water and sort of like finally felt that I had got amass the resources in my life to actually build an underwater house at the same time that was happening.
Peter Ravella 3:46
Wait, wait, wait, wait a minute. We can't we can't move forward. We can't we can't skip over that to the next event. You built an underwater house?
Shanee Stopnitzky 3:59
No. So I haven't done it yet.
Peter Ravella 4:00
Oh, I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
Shanee Stopnitzky 4:03
I haven't done it yet. I was just realizing I had reached a certain standard of expertise. And you know, like, people with money, who fund things in my life and it was actually a possibility I still haven't done it. So at the same time is that I was also heading to a dive trip in Roatan Honduras. And there is a set of operator there. And through connections with my friends who were in the sub industry, I was able to arrange to trade him work for a sub dive. And so I went on a dive to 2000 feet and it was just one of the most profound experiences I've ever had. It felt like space travel on this planet and it felt like something that everyone needed to experience. So these things were kind of like converging in time and then I A friend jokingly tagged me in a Facebook ad about a sub for sale. And I'm known for building weird stuff on the water. Just like that's not, that's not a joke. We're doing that right now. So that's how we bought thing two, and then shipped her over and then realized, you know, once we had her in front of us how, how rich with possibility it was for a communal effort. And so we started building the community around thing too. And then it got out of control from there.
Tyler Buckingham 5:32
Okay, so let's, let's just take a quick moment and talk about when you said this, what is the what is the current state of like the submersible industry? I mean, I know that there are military subs. But what else is out there? You know, you went on a sub on this dive trip? What was that sub? Like? I mean, how many of these things exist in the world?
Shanee Stopnitzky 5:55
There actually, it's, it's was pretty surprising to me. There is a community of DIY sub builders, that's pretty active. And I'm not sure exactly how many there are in regular use. But, you know, I feel like somewhere in the order of 30 to 50, homemade subs, and I had a belva sub that I went on to 2000 feet was actually homemade. She's one of the most experienced, you know, subs that there is homemade, because Carl, the the guy who built her, has been doing commercial operations with her for for a really long time. And so he's done 1000s of dogs with her almost as many as you know, the next. The next most frequent diver that was commercially manufactured. So probably, you know, the most serious and in air quotes, of all the homemade subs, but they're, the community is really rich, and people have incredible knowledge and experience and expertise. And they're really active, and they're constantly helping each other and being really generous. And so thank yous came from that community, thank you, their little sub was homemade by somebody in that community. And then we bought her from them and then got plugged into the community that way. And besides that, they've Of course, all the military subs and the research subs, which are usually government owned. And then there's this whole kind of emerging industry of luxury subs that go on Super yachts. And there are quite a few of those now in the world to
Peter Ravella 7:28
Wow, okay, so I don't want to go back to the moment when you said your friend, you know, sent you an announcement or a listing that there was a submarine for sale, right? But I just want to go back to that moment. I imagine you're sitting in a bar with your friends, and you get this thing and you're saying you know what I'm gonna do, I'm gonna buy a submarine. And I'm gonna start operating Fang tooth, which is the name of this submarine and I have learned in your materials is, is named after a deep sea creature with very large it's an it's a predatory fish. ferocious and Fang tooth is trailerable it is a trailerable submarine. I thought that was interesting. But really take us to the take us to the what was it a lunch thing? Was it at a bar, you're sitting down with your friends? You're telling me you're gonna do this? What did they say? What's
Tyler Buckingham 8:28
going through your head?
Peter Ravella 8:29
Yeah, what did they say?
Shanee Stopnitzky 8:32
It was pretty funny actually, because I was in the middle of making the decision to quit my PhD.
Peter Ravella 8:39
Right, we should throw that into the mix this to add some gravity that you were working on your PhD in marine biology at UC Santa Cruz. So
Shanee Stopnitzky 8:47
yeah, so I was I was just grappling with decision. This decision I was really unhappy. It wasn't the program was not what I thought it was not enriching me. And this situation arose and I was at, I was like, supposed to be working on other things for my PhD and I was just completely captivated by this idea of getting the sub. And I got really panicky because, you know, in my mind, someone was gonna buy it before I know there's like 30 people in line to buy it before me but actually when I inquired of course, I was the only person
Peter Ravella 9:23
it's not a house in San Francisco any property that goes on the market in San Francisco is paid cash more than the asking price. Submarines not a lot of competition.
Tyler Buckingham 9:33
No it's a it's a type of boat. It's it's just like a boat. You're they're hard to sell apparently.
Shanee Stopnitzky 9:39
Yeah, I was I was so paranoid that something was gonna fall through with the deal. I'm sure the boys that I bought it from we're feeling the same way that I was gonna bail. I was like, this crazy girl from California and they're in Ohio and we're just like, complete opposite sides of the cultural spectrum in this country. And we were, you know, we were just tripping out on each other. But it ended up Yeah, I remember just walking around once we started the negotiation and just feeling like, there should be a sign on my forehead, like I'm buying a submarine.
Peter Ravella 10:16
You can't play it cool. Like you couldn't-
Shanee Stopnitzky 10:19
felt like I was covered in sparkles, you know.
Tyler Buckingham 10:21
I gotta say, Shanee. There are that, let's just put it this way. There are fewer people in the world who have. And I have a lot of respect for the great academics and the great PhDs in the world, some of our great guests on this program. We love academia, and we love scientists. God bless the PhD, but I do believe that you are in thinner air as the proud owner of a submarine.
Peter Ravella 10:50
Is this you know, you go I just wonder, you know, you can when you go to FedEx, they have that special section where you have to ship something weird. And there's all kinds of boxes back there. And that could put, I mean, so what did you FedEx?
Tyler Buckingham 11:04
How did you bring a trailer? What
Peter Ravella 11:06
was the negotiation? And then you Did you get that? You got to tell us? How did it go in Ohio? Did you go to Ohio.
Shanee Stopnitzky 11:13
So I didn't I bought her sight unseen, with with faith and my me and my crews ability to restore her to working conditions if she wasn't working. And so I actually had the boys that owned her. I had them their truckers and they brought her out for us. So we bring her out and the trailer so crappy and had to go on another trailer
Peter Ravella 11:39
wasn't even roadworthy, let alone. I wouldn't make that would make me. So I don't know. I mean, pardon me if this is because I'm making an assumption here that I can imagine at some point along the way here, you had to talk to your parents, you may have you may have called them or they may have called it said, socially. How were things that UC Santa Cruz, you know, how's the program?
And you say, hey, "well.." I mean, what was that like?
Shanee Stopnitzky 12:14
Well, I've been priming them for a while I've been unhappy in the program for a long time. And I'm actually obsessed with research, I fully expect to still work as a scientist, this is kind of just a little life detour. And so they were fine with that, as long as you know, both of them are pretty attached to the idea of me continuing to do science, both of my brothers are scientists, they copy me. And so it just kind of like, you know, we have all of these family, family. I don't know, bonding things over science, and no one wanted to lose that like familial identity thing, including me. I mean, I'm completely obsessed with science. So they very used to me by now, you know, they've had 36 years. Anybody know that shenanigans? I get up to you. And so I think no one was surprised or anything. Like, yeah, that's my daughter. Well,
Tyler Buckingham 13:11
Shanee, tell us Let's start with. So you're now the owner of two submarines, or I guess your organization is the owner of two submarines. And let's you know, what's interesting is they do look different. They're there, they appear to be different styles of sub, very different from each other. And as a couple you're talking to, you're talking to Peter and I do not know up from down when it comes to submarine so nothing. Tell us tell us a little bit educate us on in our audience about what these submarines are in terms of their capability while they're there. They are different. Maybe we should start with just Fang to then talk about Fang tooths capability and what she was designed to do.
Shanee Stopnitzky 13:54
Yeah, so um, I'm, I'm not sure what her builder was, was building her for exactly other than he ended up just doing dives in Lake Michigan. And I, from what I understand, just took his family and like local kids into the lake was saying to, but she's very, she's very limited capacity, because of the way that she was designed. So she's loosely more modeled after this kind of like that. A lot of DIY sub builders model their stuff after or use a specific plan for, but she can only dive to about 30 feet because of her front viewport is very large and flat. And so it's, it can basically just buckle under not that much pressure which happens, you know, not that deep. So, if we want to dive in deeper, we've got to upgrade the viewport and it's so large that to get a dome of that size is kind of like probably more money than we're ever going to have but otherwise He is made out of two propane tanks and two water heaters and a bunch of hearts. It's really, really okay with with all of this, you know talking to all the all the other stuff, it's pretty common to use propane tanks because it's pretty high, the fairly high grade steel. And you know, they're thick walled and you basically just have to test how cylindrical they are, will determine how deep they can go but I mean she could go a lot deeper if it wasn't for the viewport the propane tanks are pretty cool.
Tyler Buckingham 15:39
Wow, so yeah, and she's she's long right like come
Shanee Stopnitzky 15:46
no thank you this a little while. used to look like a minion but we painted our white now.
Tyler Buckingham 15:52
Okay, okay. Okay, I'm okay. I apologize. Yeah, so that makes complete sense. And we've got pictures up we're gonna put pictures up as a companion to this Yeah,
Peter Ravella 16:00
they're they're up on coastal news today now that the story of the submarine so on coastal news today, front page, look for the community submerse
Tyler Buckingham 16:10
Of course it will not be on the front page by the time this pod comes out by okay.
Peter Ravella 16:15
That's we will include
Tyler Buckingham 16:17
Yeah, pictures on the website with the pod. So all of our our listeners out there, you got to look at these things. And you got to go to the website shinny what's quickly what is the website so all of our listeners out there can quickly type it in and see some photos of these things.
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Tyler Buckingham 16:36
Go to communitysubs.com right now as we're talking to Shanee. And as you're listening to this, and just scroll through and look at some of these awesome photographs. But so Fang tooth is she's got she's she's kind of squat, and she's got this. This very blunt, front viewport that is very large. Now, you said it would be extremely expensive to get a rounded. A front view window there. What what are we talking about? What is expensive in submarine terms? What are you? What are you talking about?
Shanee Stopnitzky 17:12
Well, I think if we had to buy it, you know, new from someone who professionally manufactures those, it would cost about 40k.
Peter Ravella 17:22
So shini 40k for a new front port, which would be a dome and obviously stronger. The Romans figured this out. It's the arch. But as I understand it, the submarine itself was rather inexpensive in comparison to a new front port window. Tell us how much you paid for this lovely submarine it in Ohio.
Shanee Stopnitzky 17:44
Yeah, so thank you $4,000. Sounds good. That's how it was possible at all.
Peter Ravella 17:54
I mean, there's something about I don't know, get out. It's I don't know what to do, I guess going underwater. And of course, the threat the feeling that if something went wrong, of course you could drowned. And there's something about that possibility, and DIY and forth out, I guess it's like flying up. But Tyler is a pilot. I mean, you know what I mean, you're risking your life in machinery, when you're a pilot or a Submariner,
Tyler Buckingham 18:20
I would, I would, I would add this caveat up to the sub thing. And that is, if you're in deep water, and you know, you can only go down 30 feet. In an airport, in an aircraft, your the plane will not go to space, it will not just keep going up. But a sub if your ballast situation gets off, it'll go down. You don't you can sink and that would just scare me. shinny. So what I mean, this is going to be just really super rudimentary basic physics, I guess. But would you mind kind of walking us through the basic components to the sub the life support system, your ballast system propulsion? How does How do these things work?
Shanee Stopnitzky 19:02
Yeah, so we always draw the analogy to, you know, private aviation, which is actually way more dangerous, and some are a lot safer than people have in their mind. They're just really alien. And so people have a sort of visceral, you know, fear of going into a tin can and subjecting themselves to all this pressure, right? And all of these you know, like hostile forces. Some they're currently parade of incident, the safest form of travel that there is even safer than walking. So
Peter Ravella 19:40
really, that's a little bit of a tough sale. Now.
Shanee Stopnitzky 19:44
This is totally real. Thinking submersibles, not not nuclear submarines, but thinking submersibles are the safest and there are millions of guys to calculate this. That's not like, it's not just that. Yeah. Okay, so 10 dives went well, no, there's actually Millions. But so the life support system. And the reason it's so safe is because every system has at least one backup. Many of them have multiple backups. And so there's mitigation for anything that can go wrong. Basically, it's really, really hard to run into inescapable trouble. And the only, the only real way to do that is to get entangled. So all of the subs, all sinking subs have a drop weight system. So in an emergency where your balance isn't working, you release a lot of weights, and then you shoot to the service.
Peter Ravella 20:44
So that automatically turn.
Shanee Stopnitzky 20:47
Yeah, that mitigation exists on all on all thinking subs, and most apps have other methods of getting to the surface as well. So you know, they'll have backup ballast tanks that you don't really use. So, you're supposed to be pretty close to neutrally buoyant, you might be negatively buoyant by a few ounces with all of your ballast tanks flooded. And so you know, both of our subs have these enormous ballast tanks that if you fill with air, you're just gonna launch to the surface because you're only even with the system fully flooded, you're only you know, a tiny hair too heavy. And that lead lets you think and you think really slowly. So, and not dilute our bidders that also has dive planes they're called that are basically like airplane wings that you can pivot and a huge motor so we can like just drive to the surface as well. If so let's three other systems fail. Okay, so let's let's
Peter Ravella 21:48
frame this up for the listeners. Fang twos, 11 feet long, electric sub, currently rated to 30 feet, but y'all are working on getting it to 120. Possibly,
Tyler Buckingham 21:59
if any of our listeners out there want to cut a check. Yeah,
Peter Ravella 22:02
this they need some revenue for this. And it rather small can hold three people that now we're going to this knock DeLuca, which is a more serious vessel. And I hope you don't mind is being a little bit giddy about this conversation because I find it extraordinary. But in all seriousness, this is a really serious group. And this is a really serious summary that Locke DeLuca 32 foot long diesel electric submarine. Tell us about the knock DeLuca
Shanee Stopnitzky 22:32
Yeah, so she's our big girl. And we kind of consider things. He's the training wheels that helps, you know, introduce people to the concepts of ballast and buoyancy, and everything's really simple. And the motor skills require the operator really simple. Not so that goes commercially manufactured for the Swedish Navy, and she is very serious. And she looks like a spaceship. And it feels like driving a spaceship when you're piloting. So it's a much, much more advanced. And, yeah, she has a diesel engine that's currently not working. But it's used for long surface runs that we're probably not going to be doing but she could she has a surface range of about 500 miles when the when the diesel operating. Wow. See that is to 300 feet at the moment and maybe deeper with a dome upgrade,
Peter Ravella 23:24
and 300 feet. And it says in that looking at the materials, that it has life support for 72 hours, that's three days. I mean, this is a Yeah, a serious vessel. And yeah, you know, I just want I'm sorry to go back to my astonishment. But, you know, I don't even know what it would be like to buy a submarine or two. Did they come with manuals? Or do you just have to figure it out? I mean, yeah. I mean, I think you can jump in a car, you know, like most people can jump in a car and pop the hood can maybe drive it around and fairly comfortable. But jumping into a submarine and operating it. I don't think there's anything intuitive. I don't how do you figure out how to drive these things?
Shanee Stopnitzky 24:14
Well, we started with saying tooth who, you know, you can actually just follow the plumbing lines to the cavities and figure it out. We figured it out in about a half an hour. Very simple. And I don't know if you saw this online, but I think it was actually stolen and joy written by somebody. So it is a little bit like hopefully, I mean, there are some pitfalls, obviously like there's, you know, there's certain things that you really don't want to do is saying to her because she's way less equipped. They're not doing is that they've managed to survive and we got her back and it was it was a great
Tyler Buckingham 24:59
day. The perpetrator of that
Peter Ravella 25:04
is there a law? I mean, car theft, there's a law. I know you can't steal cows, but I bet you there's not even a log and stealing a summary.
Unknown Speaker 25:14
I guess it's a boat.
Tyler Buckingham 25:16
Shanee Stopnitzky 25:18
Wow. Okay. We never found a person we put one of my friends wrote like I missed connections ad on Craigslist. I was like you stole our submarine and are hard. To find you good. We're sure you're one of our people. We didn't get any responses.
Peter Ravella 25:39
I gotta ask, Where did you find it?
Shanee Stopnitzky 25:42
Oh, that the Emeryville Police Department found it floating like under the Bay Bridge?
Unknown Speaker 25:48
Tyler Buckingham 25:49
Was it undamaged? No, it
Shanee Stopnitzky 25:52
was very damaged.
Tyler Buckingham 25:53
That's something that's very unfortunate.
Peter Ravella 25:55
Tyler Buckingham 25:56
Yeah, I don't I don't
Peter Ravella 25:57
like that. That could be the first case of submarine theft in the history of the United States of America. I'll bet you 10 bucks. That's never happened before.
Tyler Buckingham 26:06
I probably will have to have the research desk here at coastal news today and look into
Peter Ravella 26:14
where I would like to roll out to unleash Dave, but that the knock DeLuca much more serious. And and and we're talking about this in Lightwave. But really this organization, the community submersible project, is I don't know if this is a really California thing, Tyler, but this sort of inventive community based adventure like this is that's technologically complicated, is pretty amazing. Well,
Tyler Buckingham 26:39
I think it is. And I just, I love it for so many reasons. Peter, you open the show with this idea that you know, along the American shoreline, and the look at the land water interface, you find some really interesting people. And I just, I mean, I just know that there are a great number of our listening audience out there right now who are deep down in their heart, thinking to themselves, Man, I wish I could do something like this and go on a sub ride, or pilot a sub and I mean, it's just, I don't even know what it is. Because when you when you conceptualize it, it's not that crazy to go underwater. And but there's something about the sustainability of it, the fact that you're able to breathe underwater, it's it's more, it's more alluring than scuba, even. And I don't know, it just really captures the imagination in a way that I think is great and shinny one of the things that I find really cool about your organization is that you're not it's not like a super strong stem oriented culture, like your language. And the rhetoric on the website includes art art terms. And I mean, obviously, there's a lot of physics and math involved. And you are a scientist yourself. So you have the chops to figure out the math and science involved in making these things work. But it also seems like there is a unintuitive art component here. Can you speak to that a little bit on just like, you know, the design the functionality the way it feels?
Shanee Stopnitzky 28:29
Yeah, so I, I cite this as a cultural project and not a scientific project. This is for me about being subbed back into popular imagination, and also persuading people in, you know, culturally diverse ways to show up to things. I mean, it's that simple. And, for me, there's this sort of like, really technical and kind of scary way that subs are portrayed and perceived. And they needn't be like that. They're actually quite simple. And most people have, you know, the intellectual capacity to grasp the concepts that are involved in piloting. And they offer this very aesthetic experience. It's a very, it's a very human spirit or spirit oriented experience. It's like, you know, in the first person, and it's in your body, and you're like having this, this like very, very human experience. And so for me, the art side of it is absolutely critical to showing people what, what the actual experience of doing this is like. So there's this you know, there's this technical stuff that you have to learn, but then the actual moments that you spend underwater are very emotional and and beautiful and for me, it's it's more psychologically soft and appealing to imagine. And this, like, you know, profound beauty than it is to be like, and the hydraulic system operates with this button. You know, it's like, I think that more people will feel like it's approachable if it has this dislike warmer, and more artistic sort of approach to the whole thing. And so that's what we're trying to really cultivate both the scientific and engineering seriousness, and making them available as these like objects of human wonder, that are, you know, fundamentally about our culture and about our aesthetic sensibilities.
Tyler Buckingham 30:39
I think I'm just gonna throw out a big amen to that. I could not agree with it more. Could you? Could you take us on a dive a little bit and tell us, like, walk us through what it's like to close the hatch. And start to sending in, I'm gonna let you pick yourself up, but kind of take us through with that experience, experience experientially, like talking pictures and take us through what that's like.
Shanee Stopnitzky 31:10
Yeah, so it's, it's a funny trajectory. Because I always at the surface, I'm, you know, super chill, everything's great. I'm so excited. And as soon as I close the hatch, when I'm at the surface, I started to get a little uncomfortable. And I started to act in a way a little bit, not my personality, in that I follow every, I follow these really elaborate checklists, and do things in a very methodical and organized and linear way, which I'm naturally a very abstract thinker and abstract. This whole, like set of predive rituals are really out of character for me, but they're absolutely necessary for safety. And so, in those moments, when you're at the service, and we're going through all the text, I, I start to feel uncomfortable, you know, it's a foreign place for me, and I started to worry about all the operations and what could go wrong, and making sure you know, hoping that I did everything correctly. And as soon as we start our descent, everything changes, I the sound inside the capsule, it goes completely silent, and you have this really rich, warm tones from speaking to your crew member. And we often put on music. And it's just this really warm, safe, really peaceful feeling as soon as you're under the water. And so during the descent, it's just the excitement starts to build again. And so it's like very internally calm. And externally, there's not a lot of stimulus, and then you come across creatures, and it's sort of slow parade of creatures. It's not, it's not usually a bunch of stuff at once. It's like one weird, gelatinous alien blob saying, and it just fills you with this, the sense of, you know, total novelty and wonder and you just can't help but feel like, You're, you're a profound explorer of this of these hidden realms. It's absolutely magical and beautiful. And it continues like that. And I always whenever it's time to offend, I'm always really bummed. Because it's so alien down there. But I always have this feeling like No, I don't want to go back. You know, this is my place, even though I have to be in this crazy contraption to even be here. Bye. But it's, it's just the pure, the main way that I describe it is like a physiological all It feels like, all has just taken over your whole body. And it's really uncomfortable. I don't know, if there's another experience that humans can have that would feel the same. And so that's why I want everyone to do it.
Peter Ravella 34:00
What a great description. And on that, you know, in some of the language that Tyler was talking about, and how you describe what you do, there were a couple things that jumped out at me this notion that what you're trying to grow and create is a society of wonders. The wonder, the wonder of this thing, and you're trying to promote access to the extraordinary. I mean, those are such powerful descriptions of what you're doing. Because you have a point here, you actually are trying to engage the public and for them to understand what's under the water. I mean, tell us what your underlying motivation is for this and in addition to the fascination with with that.
Shanee Stopnitzky 34:49
Yeah, I mean, I would say that, if I have a mission in this life, it is to advance curiosity as a as a Like core human birthright, I think curiosity makes everything better. And it is what makes us uniquely human. And I, everything that I do is in service of, of this, promoting curiosity and getting people excited about what that feels. That's where my motivation comes from. It's very, you know, this, the subs are like, means to that end. And I think that this society of wonders is my dream, I don't really care by what means they come to embody that, that idea, but the rewards that you get, when you follow your curiosity, as a human are inevitably beautiful and enriching, and make both your life and the lives around you better. And so that's the thing that I'm most motivated by.
Tyler Buckingham 35:56
Yeah, and I think that boy, you are, man, I think that that is super profound and great. That was really well said, but I have to say that this is what, you know, the land water interface, whether you're paddling out to surf a wave, you have taken, you know, our, we are terrestrial beings. And anytime we go into the water, we go into the, the majority space of the planet, we are encountering a foreign space where we we we are there to we're being exposed to totally unique and different forces on our bodies, on our minds. And, man, I just really, I totally feel what you're saying. I really do. Let's see, where should we go from here? Peter? I
Peter Ravella 36:57
have I have a couple of questions.
Tyler Buckingham 36:59
Yeah, go ahead.
Peter Ravella 37:00
I would like to tell us a little bit about the Noctiluca. How many dives Have you done in that submarine? And how deep Have you gone?
Shanee Stopnitzky 37:12
So I need to look at our logbook, because we've only had her out once in Monterey. And we were there for a couple weeks. And we did a bunch of dives probably, you know, in the 12 to 15 range. And then I did a test dive in Florida before we bought her. So you know somewhere under 16, somewhere more than 12 and under 15 dives so far. And the deepest I've gone with her was 120 in Florida and then most of our dives in Monterey were like in the 60 foot range. And
Tyler Buckingham 37:44
you know, I think I saw the advertisement for this submarine on Craigslist, Noctiluca. I think I did. She was never on Craigslist. Okay. I'll tell you. I did I did see. I mean, I don't I don't want to. But I was perusing Craigslist as I often do. This was several years ago, Peter, and I showed it to you there was a diesel electric sub and I want to say like the Fort Myers area, Lord.
Peter Ravella 38:09
Yeah. Okay. Remember that?
Tyler Buckingham 38:11
I hope the guys listening.
Peter Ravella 38:13
And you know, you should donate it.
Tyler Buckingham 38:15
He should. He should. It's not it's not currently in operation. But yeah, so So you did take it on a test drive in Florida. So it was operational at that time when you when you guys acquired it?
Shanee Stopnitzky 38:29
Mostly. I mean, there are things that go wrong on every single dime, basically, and they're relatively minor. But yeah, we got her with this two major things. I mean, the diesel motors broken which were it's a big ordeal to fix it. We have the people and the parts to fix it. We just haven't gone through the process of like, break the capsule in half basically. It's a huge pain. But yeah, she had various various things in the pneumatic and hydraulic system broken and all kinds of fun little things. But we were fundamentally able to dive it was a little sketchy. Our test is
Tyler Buckingham 39:17
well, I'm happy you made it through. Okay, so let's, let's talk a little bit about the community of people that you're that this project that community submersibles project has attracted how many people have come through the program. I know you guys have like a license sub licensing curriculum that you do, which I'm very interested in the submersible diving Academy.
Peter Ravella 39:39
I'm looking at the website. We can sign up. I think Todd are not going to be submarine pilots. We're going to take the class.
Shanee Stopnitzky 39:48
I hope you do. For the so we realized that there was no clear path to engaging with the sun, the first constraints that we came across when we you know, we started building up this community and people were getting little bits of knowledge here. And then that wasn't really a good plan. So we partnered with grant, legendary submersible engineer pilot everything guy, and, and developed curriculum for a pilot school. And so we recently found out there's another Pilot School on the East Coast with one guy and his subs. But this is the first like licensing certification program that exists for submersible pilots. And, and we're still in very much in development with that I'm still finalizing the curriculum for the online portion. And then after you do that, you have to come and do simulation dive in person, and then you have to do real dives. If you want to go on to be a pilot, we'll be your guinea
Peter Ravella 40:51
pigs will be your students.
Shanee Stopnitzky 40:55
My my teaching rigor is probably vastly higher than anyone else, because I am really, really serious about people not hurting themselves with this thing. Right?
Peter Ravella 41:07
That is good. Yeah, well, I did in the community that you have built. And this is available on your website, who the people are principally involved in this. And you mentioned Graham Hawkes. And boy, he is an amazing partner to have in your community, as are all of the really interesting people who are investing their time and energy in this thing. But tell us a little bit about Graham's background and what he brings to your program.
Shanee Stopnitzky 41:37
So I mean, he is just, he is the guy, there aren't many people who are more experienced with in this world, he's invented most of the major styles of modern subs. He's done in I don't even know how many times he's worked with every member of the industry. He's just, he is the the sub sub guy and the perfect person for us to partner with. And he actually reached out to us, I didn't know that he was local. He is based part time in Richmond. And he saw the ad about the ad. He saw the news article about our stuff getting stolen and just reached out to us. I was like, What are you guys doing? how he's so open minded, and he knows so much. But he's also kind of this radical Renegade character who is really down to try new things. And I was very surprised that someone as entrenched in the industry as he was, was willing to work with us, and he was so excited about it. So it's been really wonderful working with him. And, you know, it's still a variable response to us in the industry. And we have some people on it on our crew who work in the industry and do this, you know, as a hobby on the side. And then there are lots of people who are just like, you guys are crazy, you're gonna ruin the whole industry, you're gonna kill everyone. You know, we're, we're spanning that whole, that whole response spectrum, and we're just so fortunate that Graham wanted to collaborate with us. And, you know, he's, he's basically our, our tech advisor, we don't do anything without running it by him first, and, and working with him on developing the curriculum has just made my knowledge of all things have skyrocket. So yeah, he will. Of course, core part.
Peter Ravella 43:38
So shini we're going to be out in the Bay Area in March, right, Tyler?
Tyler Buckingham 43:45
That's right. I think April maybe
Peter Ravella 43:46
is April, the International ocean Film Festival, which we attended last year in San Francisco.
Shanee Stopnitzky 43:51
Peter Ravella 43:52
We'll be covering that again. And do you think that the classes would be available in about March and April? Can we start our RV pilot certification? Maybe?
Shanee Stopnitzky 44:04
Yeah, I think they absolutely would be well,
Peter Ravella 44:08
this could be a plan. Yeah, well, I
Tyler Buckingham 44:09
would say pencil lesson because we're gonna be we're gonna we're gonna be out there and and we'll be inspired by the films and just completely ready
Peter Ravella 44:19
sponges ready to so we should do a show from the submarine. Well, we show
Shanee Stopnitzky 44:26
that we're gonna try and get something into the film festival.
Tyler Buckingham 44:29
Peter Ravella 44:30
Shanee Stopnitzky 44:31
it isn't too late. We missed it last year.
Peter Ravella 44:33
I Anna blank as the executive director, we need to call Anna for you. And and but they're wonderful. They're it's such a great festival. But you know, Graham hawks to go back to Graham a little bit, held the solo ocean deepest dive record for 20 years. This is a guy who has designed and built deep submersible submersible vessels for it sounds like for a very, very long time. And and then you have these Julie Silverman environmental education involved in your group. I mean, it seems like an amazing group of people dedicated to an extraordinary project. I just love it.
Shanee Stopnitzky 45:18
Yeah, I have to say that when I started this, I didn't really understand what exactly I was doing. But one of the most beautiful parts for me has been getting to work alongside the people that are attracted to this is just attracting such an extremely high standard of, of person, you know, between their expertise and their generosity with their knowledge and, and like their benevolence, in general and open mindedness. And I've just felt so extremely fortunate to work alongside some of the people that have that have emerged to come help us and our crews is just the most brilliant group of people. I'm, I'm super just proud to get to work with them. Yeah,
Peter Ravella 46:03
it is extraordinary, very much worth supporting. I understand you just recently completed a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $25,000. In terms of the financing, and how people can support the community submersibles project, what are you trying to do to to handle the financial demand of this kind of an enterprise? And is there a way for people to help support you right now?
Shanee Stopnitzky 46:32
Yeah, so it's kind of an ongoing struggle, stubs are very expensive to maintain and operate. And even ours are, you know, orders of magnitude less than the next least expensive stuff in the world, but they're still really expensive. So we have a number of programs for people that want to get engaged themselves. So we have memberships and, and all of the piloting courses and crew courses that you can take, we have random like schwag items. And then we also have a GoFundMe for people who just want to donate a tax deductible donation. And that's just an ongoing crowdfunding effort. So if anyone feels inspired, they can just chip in some cash there. And we expect that our programs are only going to be able to really operate if we put the subs into the film industry in some way. So that's the main way that I was able to pay for them, and
Peter Ravella 47:36
get them in the movies. Well, you're in the right state for that.
Shanee Stopnitzky 47:39
Yeah, exactly. So we're gonna see we're gonna offer her as a prop to start with. And then we're also in talks about a TV show a web series, so we're working on both things.
Peter Ravella 47:52
Well, that sounds really thrilling. Well, ladies and gentlemen, Shanee Stopnitzky, the founder and director of the visionary, the visionary, founder and director of the of the community submersibles project out in California, and I think one of the most interesting people we have ever had on the American Shoreline podcast.