Small stature and lack of claustrophobia aren’t typically characteristics required for entrepreneurial success. But for the venture that Mark Trezza and David Trezza have launched, they’re crucial.
The cousins are the owners of Seahorse, a two-man submarine that they have just begun offering for “bucket list” rides, two-day sub pilot training courses, and deepwater expeditions through their Kingston, NY, startup Marine Exploration Group. The little yellow submarine’s three-foot-diameter hull is a squeeze for the average man and it’s virtually impossible for anyone broader than, well, a yardstick to get into.
A Labor of Love
The Trezzas bought the dilapidated 30-year-old sub from a marina in the Hudson Valley in 2011 and have spent every other weekend for two-and-a-half years refurbishing it. Mark Trezza, 54, is a former commercial pilot and a certified SCUBA diver with experience building replica Wright Brothers aircraft, and David Trezza, 42, is a mechanical engineer and equipment tester for Consumer Reports. The Seahorse, built in 1981 by World War II submarine captain George Kittredge, known as the “father of personal submersibles,” was once used to inspect bridges in Maine.
By 2013 standards, the sub’s air and electrical systems were crude, and the exterior was faded and run down when they acquired it. While David Trezza upgraded the mechanical systems and installed a sophisticated set of redundant safety systems, Mark restored the outside of the submersible, coating it with brilliant viper yellow paint that makes the sub impossible to miss when it’s being trailed by a pickup truck on a New York State country road.
Next weekend, Seahorse will make its maiden voyage in a private quarry in Millbrook, NY. Police safety divers will accompany the duo,with David piloting the submersible and Mark manning a video camera. “It’s not like taking a boat out for a spin on a Sunday afternoon,” says the elder Trezza. “We have plenty of escape features, so we won’t die in this thing, but it requires people to be there for support and safety.”
If all goes well and she proves watertight, Seahorse will make her first official expedition in a large upstate New York lake in September. The target: The remains of a boy who drowned there 20 years ago. “If he’s where we think he is, he’s at 189 feet,” says Mark Trezza. Seahorse is capable of going to depths of at least 350 feet.
Future Adventures: Florida and hunting vanished airplanes
Also on the list of future explorations: Sunken treasure hunts in the Florida Keys and a search in a Maine lake for L’Oiseau Blanc, the French aircraft that disappeared in 1927 competing against Charles Lindberg for the Orteig Prize.
Asked what he paid for the submarine, Trezza is evasive: “It was inexpensive enough for the two of us to put up equal shares to buy it with our personal money. We didn’t take a loan to buy it or to work on it. We are okay with how much we’ve got invested in it, which is a small drop in the bucket compared to what it’s worth—think ‘house’.”
To undertake the ambitious endeavors they have planned,however, the Trezzas are looking for private funding and contributions from scientific companies of equipment such as sidescan sonar and remotely operated vehicle technology for recovering objects underwater. Stealing a quote from The Right Stuff, Trezza says,“Without funding, the Seahorse can’t go down. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.”
Far more than covering his costs, however, Mark Trezza says he’s excited about inspiring others to seek adventure. His own lifelong adventurous streak was inspired by childhood evenings spent watching Sea Hunt and Jacques Cousteau on television. Today, he says, “I don’t have TV or subscribe to cable or satellite. You can’t lay on the couch all the time if you want to experience life.”
Ironically, he’s already been approached by a reality TV show producer about following Seahorse. And he says he’d love to see the submarine spark interest in scientific careers among schoolchildren. In April,Seahorse will visit the USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, DC.
For now, the Trezzas have a hard time going anywhere with Seahorse in tow without attracting a crowd. But Mark enjoys every minute of it.“People are looking for some kind of adventure or excitement in their lives.That’s really what life’s about.”
Get inside Seahorsethe little submarine in a video here.