After reviewing the Deep Sea Submarine (60092) last time, we now take a look at the theme’s “flagship”, the Deep Sea Exploration Vessel (60095), with 717 pieces the 2nd largest set of the theme behind the Deep Sea Operation Base (60096) with 907.
Like the Submarine, the Exploration Vessel is modelled pretty closely after real-world science vessels. It has for example a striking resemblance to the research cutter Uthörn of the German Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). This realistic approach was the key aspect which eventually help me decide in favour of buying this set. This and the fact that I just like ships 😉
Ah, and why not sharing this little quote about the ship:
“Only a trip on the Uthörn will reveal whether someone is really seaworthy. Those who can handle it have the best ship for all operations in coastal waters, a crew and a captain who make the impossible possible, and a cook who’ll readily dish out a second (or third) serving. In turn, the leader of the expedition should should make sure to treat the crew to their daily share of icecream!”
Sounds great, doesn’t it? First thing you will encounter when you open the box is a sheer endless stream of numbered (8) and unnumbered (2) bags, followed by a impressively-sized ship hull and an epic instruction narrative in four volumes.
Lego did really a good job with structuring the building process of this set. Ten bags seem to be a bit exaggerated first, but they help immensely to break the building up into smaller, more manageable steps and reduce the time for finding pieces significantly. The individual steps are actually a little bit too simple sometimes. Especially when you compare them with the instructions booklets from the 80s. One or two pages back then would likely be ten today!
The first two volumes of the instruction (and the first two bags) are for building the diving equipment, the sharks and the scuba divers. The little underwater vehicles are all nicely diverse and very likeable. I’m especially fond of the little remote controlled (well not really!) diving robot, which could have jumped right out of a deep-sea exploration documentary. The little submarine with its beach-buggy-inspired roof is also quite adorable. Even if said roof doesn’t closes flush. At least it still offers absolutely enough protection for its pilot. Only the scooter is a bit odd. There seems to be hardly a way to attach a diver on it without getting him or her into the way of the propellers! The set is completed by a diving cage, which has a charmingly simple and effective design.
Speaking of divers: the set contains 4 scuba divers. Two female divers, one male and one male with a bruise on his face. Since the artwork shows him as the the cage-diver, he must have had already an unfriendly encounter with the oceanic wildlife. Likely with the sawfish, since – as tests in the Little-Worlds-technical-examination-laboratory (also called coffee table) show – it can poke its nose/saw through the bars – outch! To document such mishaps, the scuba diver accessories include a photo-camera. They also have a hammer and a crowbar for excavating treasures – and a remote for the diving robot. Last but not least, they also come with a “diver down” flag on a buoy. Safety first!
Additionally to the sawfish I mentioned, this part of the set also includes two grey sharks and a white one – plenty of dangerous wildlife!
Main course – the Boat!
The scuba-section was a nice starter to warm up for the main part of the set: The ship itself! It encompasses volume 3 of the instructions, bag 3 to 6, plus an unnumbered bag for the chains which support the fenders (nautical term: the orange bumper-things dangling from the ships side).
The ship’s hull is pretty large but surprisingly light. It seems to been made of a slightly softer plastic. It nevertheless appears nicely sturdy. No danger of anything breaking off here. The ships superstructure is built on the grey deck-plate which seamlessly attaches to the hull. I didn’t try the boat in the bathtub (yet^^), but its rather wide footprint and the lightness of its construction doesn’t leaves any doubt for me about its float-capabilities. Sadly large-sized pieces can be the worst to apply stickers on – and the exploration vessel needs six of them on its hull! I think I am not alone with not liking stickers, and I am also not really good with applying them either, but I managed to get them on at the right places at acceptable angles. Especially the large diagonal stripes at the fore-ship aren’t really something you want to mess up!
After building the first mate and the (not really) rubber boat, which is also designed to float, you go on with furnishing the pretty spacious lower deck. I really like this part of the ship, even if its possibly the most simple, but the two beds, bedside tables and lamps just add so much atmosphere! A nice detail is also the cup (of tea) and the Lego newspaper on the tables. Just perfect for the everyday-life at sea. Once the lower deck is furnished though, it still leaves enough room for your crew to have a nice party celebrating the haul of a treasure or the discovery of a rare albino shark, as long you leave the bridge-module off. Low ceiling, you know 😉
Speaking of detaching the bridge module: you can take it off and reattach it pretty easily without being afraid to break anything. The roof of the bridge is also detachable and offers plenty of space to put minifigures into it. I really like this part of the ship: not only that it looks very good and authentic, it is also solid and thoughtful design.
There is one slight modification on the roof of the bridge I did right away though: I moved the PA-system from behind the rotating radar dish at starboard – which scratches slightly against it when you turn it – behind the radar dome at the port side. I am also considering moving the mast for the white signal light to the starboard side of the ship, to have it visually more balanced again. But these are really tiny things which don’t impair the set at all.
The crane is also pretty solid and nicely authentic looking. It also features a nice safety feature: it has two control consoles. One outside, directly mounted at it and another one on the bridge. So if there is bad weather or one breaks down, there is always an emergency backup. Very observant! I also admit another modification here: Since I’m left-handed, I put the handle for the winch to the port side of the ship, so I can reach it better 😉
Minifigure-wise we have the rather casually dressed Captain, who fits very well into the informal, civilian context of the set and his 1st mate, who seems to be the twin brother of the pilot of the Deep Sea Submarine (60092). Their accessories are another cup of tea on the bridge, binoculars, a walkie-talkie and two live-savers.
The Dessert: collapsing Shipwreck-souflé with gold bars and octopus
Since everything is assembled and ready now, lets have a look at the objective of the expedition: The shipwreck! Unsurprisingly, it recruits from the last two bags (7 & 8), plus the last unnumbered bag for the large pieces: elements for the ship’s bow, two sea-floor plates and two large burps (maybe the cliffs the ship crashed into?).
We also get minifigure #7: A deep-sea diver with a welding torch. And he doesn’t has a particular easy job: salvage the gold ingots from the shipwreck without making it collapse. In terms of looks, authenticity and features, the shipwreck naturally can’t compete with the exploration vessel itself. It is a pretty unspectacular, straightforward build.
The only feature which makes it stand out is the collapsing-mechanism: if you pull too much on the pile of gold-ingots outside of the ship (for example when trying to loosen them), they will slide forward and let the bridge collapse onto its deck and bury the crates full of gold underneath it. Quite a nice idea, even if one of the seaweed plants, which are stuck on top of the bridge, fell off when I tried the mechanism the first time.
The gold-crates are my favourite part of the ship: they look nicely wooden and come with a bunch of coarse wooden planks as cover. Sadly the planks needed stickers too. I would really have preferred prints on them instead.
All in all the shipwreck is decent, if a little plain. In comparison I liked the whale skeleton from the Deep Sea Submarine more. It just had a nicer and more convincing appearance. I get the impression the designers ran out of pieces when making it, because a few more details here and there and a less plain sea-floor could have done wonders.
Oh, and you also get another piece of underwater wildlife: an octopus! I bet it was just waiting till the wreck was assembled, so it could hide in it and attack any diver who dares to come too close!
The Exploration Vessel is a very well designed set that combines a high degree of authenticity with countless features and play-opportunities. It is basically the whole deep-sea explorers theme in one set! It doesn’t has any significant flaws and is pretty sensible priced too for a set of this size. Highly recommended!
Because of the sheer size of the set, here a complete list of its contents:
Instructions (an epic narrative in 4 parts)
4 scuba divers, a deep sea diver with welding torch, Captain and 1st mate.
2 grey sharks, white shark, sawfish octopus
Divers cage, diving robot, mini submarine, underwater scooter (difficult to pose)
Shipwreck with gold bars and collapse-function
Brick separator (an invention which ranks just behind the wheel as the most useful in the history of mankind)