Tue 20 Oct 2009
Back in olden days, there was this toy called Sea Diver. It was essentially an upside-down plastic bottle (maybe a half liter size) with a screw on cap and an aqua blue plastic base to keep it upright. Included was a Sea Diver sub, a small packet of tiny rocks and a number of small plastic artifacts—a cannon, an anchor, a sextant, a lantern, and a flintlock pistol.
You filled the plastic bottle with water, tossed in all the accessories, and screwed on the cap. The Sea Diver was a yellow and black, pressure sensitive capsule with a pincer on the bottom. It always floated to the top of the bottle. You squeezed the bottle to make it go down (and open the pincer), and released it to close the pincer and allow the Sea Diver to float back to the top.
The object was to maneuver the Sea Diver’s pincers to a suitable artifact and release the pressure at just the right moment to allow the capsule to return to the top with an artifact in it’s clutches. Each of the artifacts had a closed hoop of some sort built into its structure to allow it to be captured. Yeah, we’re talking short-term, simplistic fun here. But the concept was still really cool for me at the time.
Both me and my cousin had Sea Divers, and so we had a common interest. The cannon that came with his set had a slightly different base from mine, but otherwise our Sea Divers were the same.
I came to visit one time, and we stayed up late reading Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Scrooge McDuck comics in a micro format not too different from today’s manga. Portable, easy to hold, and pass around. We also stayed up reading copies of our The Witching Hour comics (standard size), then we checked out our Sea Divers and fooled around with capturing various artifacts, constructing stories behind each mission.
That’s when I discovered that my cousin’s Sea Diver had something extra in the rocks. A small gold chain (well, plastic gumball machine phony gold anyway) in with the rest of the artifacts. Whoa, it never occurred to me you could break the rules and put any kind of treasure you wanted in there. I thought that was the coolest thing!
Needless to say, we spent the rest of the night trying to recover the gold chain. It was heavy and slippery (being a chain and very flexible) so the capsule had a hard time capturing it and resting the whole thing from the rocks. But at last we got a hold of it and there was a howl of triumph. On to pop tarts for a midnight snack!
But I never forgot the lesson. You could put any prizes you wanted into your game to find the treasure. Days later, I bought a gumball machine fake gold ring with a fake emerald and placed it into the Sea Diver. Some of the goodies I placed inside were too heavy or difficult to grasp with the pincers—it was obvious the artifacts that came with the toy were ideal—but they gave me stories I wouldn’t have thought of.
The Sea Diver pincers were fragile and easily broken. My folks got me a second Sea Diver but its pincers soon broke also. These toys, like many such strange gifts from the unconscious, were never meant to survive the rampages of childhood. My cousin moved on to other toys, as I did. But his idea struck a chord with me that remains to this day.
Make your own damn treasure hunt.
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