“A U.S. entrepreneur takes tropical tourists down deep – in an uninsured submarine he built himself”… I’m posting this because the sub looks pretty cool, but the rest of the story sounds pretty dangerous to me – it seems like it’s just going to end in legal action and/or death.
Many who admire Stanley’s entrepreneurial pluck are turned off by his cavalier attitude toward risk. “The guy’s amazing – he’s really cool,” says Richard Boggs, technical superintendent at yacht brokerage firm Camper & Nicholsons International. “What disturbs me is that he’s taking down people who don’t fully understand the risk. That’s just wrong, morally and ethically. It’s illegal everywhere but the Third World, and for very good reason.”
In the course of nearly 1,000 dives, Stanley has managed to amass an enthusiastic clientele. At the end of one ride, a customer was so wowed that he told Stanley that he owned a machine-tool plant in the rural town of Idabel, Okla., and that Stanley could use it free if he ever wanted to build another submarine. Stanley took him up on his offer and spent a year and a half there building a new sub that could carry three people instead of two. It cost him less than $200,000. In gratitude, he dubbed his new vessel Idabel.
Even when carrying one extra paying passenger, Stanley is hardly making a killing. He charges $1,500 per person for a shark dive, which can take more than five hours – not including the time it takes to prep the sub or haul a horse ahead as bait. Stanley conducts about 100 dives a year and posts annual revenues of slightly more than $100,000. He has only a single part-time employee.
To keep himself afloat, Stanley says, “I’ve had to exploit numerous niches.” One is collecting a rare type of mollusk called a slit shell, or Pleurotomariidae, which lives below 300 feet. Stanley figured out how to rig a net on the end of a pole and snag the creatures, earning him up to $3,000 each. “Without them,” he says, “I wouldn’t have been able to stay in business.” Pleurotomariidae are not on any conservationist’s list of endangered species – yet.