Patrick Phillips

Memories of working at Astroland's Neptune Diving Bells in the summer of 1964

Patrick Phillips
Interview Date:
July 7, 2019


Patrick Phillips recalls the summer of 1964, when he was a college student from Florida spending his summer working at Astroland's Neptune Diving Bells for his father's friend, Robert Coffey.  He describes his job maintaining the complicated mechanism of two diving bells the size of very large elevators in a huge tank and its filtrations system. From "the depths of the sea" [a 30-foot dive into the ride's 50,000-gallon steel tank] riders would see two live porpoises, which were touted as sharks, through the portholes.  Once the diving bell was ready to surface, he says it was released from a cable and flew up out of the water five or six feet in the air. Microphones broadcast the yells and screams of riders and drew lines of customers to the attraction.  The Orlando resident has revisited Coney Island twice since what he remembers as "a great adventure." The first time, Astroland was still here and he was able to identify the former location of the Diving Bells, which closed after the 1982 season. When he visited in 2019, he could no longer find any trace of the ride, but found photographs at the Coney Island History Project in the book Coney Island and Astroland by Charles Denson, which mentions that the dolphins were an early attraction at the park but only lasted one season and the Diving Bells were designed and built by Ed Martine and operated by Bob Coffey and Bill Beck.