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Technology makes waves at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon

Technology makes waves at Disney's Typhoon Lagoon

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Given that the kids are now back in school and/or just about to go back to school I thought that I'd start this week's column with a math question.

How long does it take to fill those 12 huge funnel-shaped tanks that power Typhoon Lagoon's 2.75 million gallon wave pool?


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And the answer is ... well, that depends on whether you want 5-foot waves (which are ideal for body surfing) or 8-foot waves (which then allows Walt Disney World to actually hold surfing competitions inside of this water park. Witness Quiksilver's "King of the Groms" competition. Which actually kicked off its 2010 U.S. tour with a qualifying event that was held in Typhoon Lagoon's two-and-a-half-acre wave pool back in June).

You see, Disney uses four huge pumps to fill those drop tanks that power Typhoon Lagoon's wave machine. And - to be honest - the height of the waves in that pool is entirely dependent on how much water is inside of each tank when its one-ton door is pulled open in less than a second. So if you want 5-foot waves, it takes about a minute-and-a-half for all 12 tanks to get filled up to that height. 8-foot waves? That's more like two minutes.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

I know, I know. When most people talk about Typhoon Lagoon, they'll go on & on about how beautifully themed this WDW water park is. The lush vegetation or its soft sandy beaches.

But me? I can't help but marvel at how the Imagineers took 56 acres of Central Florida swampland and then turned into the world's most popular water park.


Typhoon Lagoon construction site in the Fall of 1987
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Mind you, it took the Imagineers quite a while to accomplish this feat. Ground broke on this massive construction project back in February of 1987. And it wasn't 'til June of 1989 that the first surfer (who happened to be Dick Nunis, the then-Chairman of Walt Disney Attractions) was able to ride his board on those man-made waves into the shore of Typhoon Lagoon.

And if you're really paying attention, there's all sorts of technological marvels to be found inside of this water park which then rival that massive wave machine that Barr & Wray built for the Mouse. Take - for example - the Crush n' Gusher, Disney's first-ever water coaster. To give you some idea of how powerful those water jets are that zoom you through this thrill, each nozzle puts out 1350 gallons per minute, which is enough water to fill a standard home-sized swimming pool in just over 60 seconds.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But most people - when they visit Typhoon Lagoon - don't want to talk about math or technology. They much prefer to float along in Castaway Creek, which is this 2100-foot long lazy river that takes you all the way around the water park, floating you through rain forests, caves and open grottos as well as under waterfalls. Or - better yet - sack out inside of one of those Beachcomber Shacks that just got added to Typhoon Lagoon's assortment of attractions last year.

But me? I always like to fold a little education into my vacation. Which is why - when I'm visiting at Disney's most popular water park - I deliberately set aside some time to do some snorkeling in Typhoon Lagoon's Shark Reef.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Now what I find intriguing about this massive saltwater pool is that - while the schools of tropical fish that you swim with - the beautiful coral reef that you're floating above is not. Disney artists first sculpted Shark Reef's  faux sponge & coral forest out of fiberglass. They then painted all of these undersea structures with nontoxic paint so as not to harm the sting rays and leopard sharks.

Of course, when a facility is as large and as technologically sophisticated as Typhoon Lagoon is, it does require regular maintenance. Which is why WDW's most popular water park closes for about two months every year for annual refurbishment. This time around, Typhoon Lagoon will be closed from October 31, 2010 through  January 8, 2011.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

So if you're looking to get in a visit to Typhoon Lagoon before this water park goes down for maintenance, the clock's ticking. But the good news is ... I happen to know this place where you get discounted admission for the world's most popular water park.

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