nemo's secret harbour text
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CIRCA 1972



The underlying theme of creating a synergistically integrated destination resort based upon Romm’s life-long intrigue with what many have called the ‘man who invented the future’, Jules Verne. Proposed to be sited on 800 acres of gently rolling hills fronting a 400-acre salt water lagoon on San Diego county’s north coast, Nemo’s Secret Harbour was possibly  the earliest examples a entertainment anchored mixed use resort.


Jules Verne’s unique 1875 view of a century into the future provided a plethora of opportunities to utilize modern-day technologies in an environment cloaked in times past. As Verne’s vision was based more from sound research than from mystical insight, his predictions have been remarkably on target. The expanse of our design canvas was limited only by our imagination and/or willingness to ‘think outside the box’. 


Armed with a positive feasibility report, prepared by Stanford Research Institute,  Nemo’s Secret Harbour’s commercial viability was based upon a phased Masterplan that integrated a number of synergistic, but wholly independent, profit making entities financed and developed by a variety of entities. Operating under a central site management umbrella each component was interdependent on the others.


The Batiquitos Lagoon site, owned by a single entity and under option to NSHDC, was located on Interstate 5 at the La Costa off ramp.  It  was divided into five distinct zones with parking, connected by an on-site, themed mass transportation system (monorail). Leasing rail time from contiguous Union Pacific tracks, access from Los Angeles and San Diego was to be provided by a mock steam powered recreation of the Orient Express. Recreations vis a vis de Dion Bouton’s horseless carriages of 1895 were to provide personal transport within the 800-acre site.  


Ticketing was accomplished at monorail stations within parking area.  With the monorail transporting day guests across the lagoon, the centrally located Hotel Chanteclair also functioned as the actual public entrance. Hotel guests arrived by subterranean entrances located below the rail station. Guests arriving via the Orient Express were delivered to the site by gas powered  ‘White Lady’ Omnibusses.


The Hotel Chanteclair featured a Conference Center located below Le Grande Promenade (retail and restaurant zone). The  Mysterious Island was located offshore and directly in front of the central zone.  The island contained the headhunting Papions village, Roburs Fortress, Aerial tramway station, the Pre-historic Plateau and Tranquility Cove, a specialty retail and snack  area.


Nemo’s Undersea Dome Restaurant was located between the shore and the Mysterious Island. It was connected by the Boulevard de Mer, an undersea glass tube to the shore and island. (To our knowledge this was the first application of  this unique concept.)


Nemo’s Nautilus was moored quayside of the main plaza. Its motion simulator  technology and engineering was conceived by the Doultons and  developed by  a team of well regarded ride engineers. The Nautilus provided guests a unique opportunity to  experience the excitement of traveling Twenty Thousand Leagues Beneath The Sea. (We believe that the Nautilus ride concept was the first ‘link trainer’ based motion simulator application as a public attraction.)


Verne’s Ouvre, comprised of his personal life, moment in time, works of fiction,  projections into the future and biographies provided the design palette for fashioning each aspect of Nemo’s Secret Harbour.  Even its title infers that the Nautilus was built in some city of the future as conceived by Captain Nemo.  His most popular books, Five Weeks in a Balloon, Journey to the Center of the Earth, At the North Pole, From the Earth to the Moon, were obvious choices in devising various dark rides and attractions. Some less well known themes such as Cascobel’s Cirque de Paris, Trials and Tribulations of a Chinaman , Doctor Ox’s Experiment, and Castles of the Carpathians proved to be equally exciting in creating a sense of time and place. The Lyric Theatre, where Verne once worked proved to be an excellent venue for Verne himself to appear and, through the wonder of audio-animatronics, give his views on the future.  The mystical waterfront of Verne’s boyhood island home of Nantes provided an excellent locale to introduce the allure of far away places.   In all, over 100 events and situations find themselves as themes within the gated area of Madeleine Parc.


Having had three prior World Fair involvements to call upon, using Around the World in 80 Days as an anchor in creating a series of 12 permanent ‘lands’ as they were a century hence was an obvious way to expand  into other entertainment areas.


Morocco’s cacophonic Djamma el Fna market bazaar coupled with the elegance and tranquility of an inspired version of Marrakech’s Mamounia Hotel provide a glimpse of the potential for such a concept.   


The Village of Le Crotoy was inspired by the quaint Normandy seacoast village where Jules Verne wrote 20,0000 Leagues Beneath the Sea.  Although pre-dating the concept of timeshare by a decade or more, the idea was to provide vacationers with an opportunity to live, for a brief period, in simpler times long since passed. The world of today was left behind in the outer village area with the inner village appearing as it would be, had Jules Verne been your neighbor. 


Although the company had optioned the land, had strong financial and county government support, local citizens of North San Diego felt that Nemo’s Secret Harbour   would denigrate the surrounding area.  The fact that 400 Lease Terns nested  there each spring provided the environmentalist with a strong platform by which to oppose. The end came when the California Coastal Commission came into being and declared a development moratorium for the next five years over the site.                                                                                                             

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