glass bottom boat history
Imagine being able to witness thousands of marine species in their own environment, without ever putting on a swimsuit! For over 70 years, the glass bottom boat has been a window to the underwater world for people from all over. To celebrate the historic anniversary of this incredible attraction, we’ve put together an insightful page dedicated to the glass bottom boat’s illustrious history. Dive in and learn all about Fury’s world famous Glass Bottom Boat and it’s immeasurable legacy within the Conch Republic.

The moment you arrive in Key West one thing will be clear…its magnificent turquoise water. In 1953, our original World Famous Glass Bottom Boat, The Fireball, offered visitors to Key West amazing views of the world beneath that water. At that time, the Fireball Glass Bottom Boat tour was one of only a few Key West attractions.

A lot has changed since then; the original Fireball was replaced first in 1976 and then, several times later by newer, more advanced vessels. The Pride of Key West, Fury’s newest Glass Bottom Boat, is docked in the same spot where the Fireball once sat – at the foot of Duval Street in Historic Old Town. Today, more than a half a century later, Key West’s World Famous Glass Bottom Boat is the second oldest Key West attraction and offers a thrilling voyage to the only living coral reef in the United States.



About the Pride of Key West

Fury’s Pride of Key West is a 65-foot Aluminum Catamaran. Her unique catamaran design veers away from traditional mono hull design. The Pride of Key West’s distinctive features provide protection to our fragile reef, a more stable ride and allow a maximum number of passengers to have an open viewing area while gently traveling in air-conditioned comfort. With over one and one half years of planning and building, at a cost of one million dollars, this 65 foot, state of the art aluminum catamaran was not only honored for its distinctive design in the Marine Log’s Annual Portfolio but was also awarded the prestigious Pollup Award by the organization Reef Relief, for its’ environmental friendly design.

As the Conch Republic’s Underwater Intelligence Gathering Vessel, she takes her place in history just as the original Fireball did. A ride upon The Pride of Key West is truly a spectacular experience. Sailing daily, and offering a picturesque Sunset Cruise every evening, the newest Glass Bottom Boat gives guests of every age a view of the intriguing marine world at windows throughout the entire boat. They also learn interesting facts about the living coral reef and how invaluable its survival is to our planet. The Captain and Crew of The Pride of Key West have decades of experience and knowledge, offering guests an educational and entertaining eco-tour that is absolutely one-of-a-kind.

History of the Glass Bottom Boat

Since the very beginning, people have traveled across the globe to relish in the beauty and majesty of the waters surrounding Key West. In the 1800’s, when entrepreneurial adventurers came in search of fortune—legend has it that many of them used buckets with glass-bottoms to see the ocean floor so they could capture the coveted Key West sponges. Spongers, as they were called, were not only smart, they got rich. It was a time of great affluence in Key West, when wreckers, spongers and cigar makers sold their wares in the open market in Mallory Square. And whether or not the idea came from those original buckets—the glass bottom boat was soon to follow.

Around 1878, Hullam Jones invented the first glass bottom boat in Silver Springs, Florida by building a row-boat with a glass bottom. Jones supposedly used his glass bottom boat for personal use, yet it wasn’t much later that the first commercial glass bottom boats were developed in Silver Springs, Florida and Catalina Island, California.

Imagine being able to witness thousands of marine species doing what they do in their own environment, without without ever putting on a swimsuit. The glass bottom boat became a window to the underwater world for people from all over. The journey of the Fireball fleet gave Key West sightseeing new meaning and travelers a chance to explore the depths of the only living coral reef in the Continental United States.

Starting with the Fireball and for more than 50 years, the Glass Bottom Boat Tour has transported hundreds of people each day seven miles out into the Gulf of Mexico. A serene, relaxing sail, the excursion is more than a scenic journey along the shoreline of Key West—it’s a true eco-tour to one of the earth’s most fascinating and naturally important locations. The reef is not only the only living coral reef in the country; it’s also the third-largest barrier reef in the world.



In the early 1800’s, spongers in the Keys used glass bottom buckets to view the bottom of the ocean in up to 40 feet of water.


Legend has it Hullman Jones from Silver Springs, FL invented the Glass Bottom Boat, in the form of a row boat for his own use.


In 1897, the first commercial Glass Bottom Boats were developed in Silver Springs, FL & Catalina Island, GA.


The first commercial Glass Bottom Boat named Fireball, was put into operation by Clyde Montgomery in Key West.

Later that year, The Glass Bottom Boat was moved to the Gulf at the end of Duval Street. The Glass Bottom Boat still departs from this iconic location today.


The original Fireball boat was replaced for the first time by a more advanced vessel, keeping the name Fireball. This boat still operates today in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.


Janet & Ronnie Artman become the new owners of The Fireball.

March 11, 1994

A new glass bottom boat, Pride of Key West, was added to the fleet. The Pride’s maiden voyage was commemorated by Mayor Dennis Wardlow by Proclaiming March 11 as “Pride of Key West Day” honoring all Conchs – native and honorary, multigenerational, and transplanted, saltwater and fresh.

A celebratory motorcade was led by the Mayor/Conch Republic Prime Minister Dennis Wardlow, Mayor Emeritus, Conch Republic Admiral Wilhelmina Harvey & Ambassadors of the Republic, followed by dignitaries and media aboard the Conch Tour Train. Key West’s “First Lady” Mary Spottswood presided over the christening ceremony.

The Pride of Key West took her place in Marine Log’s Annual Portfolio as one of the most distinctive passenger boats introduced to the marine market in 1994. A Plaque was presented to Breaux Brothers Enterprises, Inc. in Loreauville, LA, where the vessel was constructed.

The Pride of Key West was also inducted into the Conch Republic Armada to serve as an underwater intelligence gathering vessel in times of need.

October 1994

The Pride of Key West took part in the first annual Royal Sunset Cruise with the King & Queen of Fantasy Fest.


Fury Water Adventures purchased the operation of the Glass Bottom Boat.

Historical Photos


See more historical images of the building of the boat on our Facebook page here >