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Conceived in the early 1960s, during the ^ heady days of the Kennedy administration s New Frontier, the Sealab was one of the most promising of the world’s underwater habitats. She had everything going for her the Navy’s support, a consistent financial base, an astronaut-turned-aquanaut, and worldwide attention. Then a rush of controversy, engineering failure, and death combined to kill the program. And as though on silent cue, nearly every other underwater habitat program followed in failure or cancellation, leaving a legacy of unanswered questions and abandoned promise to mark the Sealab’s place in history. Recently, however, seafloor habitation has recaptured man’s interest. And, again, the Navy will play a key role.
In 1580, British naval officer William Bourne designed a submersible craft that first defined the principle of the submarine. This device opened two paths to exploration of the world’s oceans—by the submarine or the fixed habitat.
In 1942, Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Emile Gagnan co-invented the self-contained underwater breathing apparatus (scuba). This device opened the underwater world to nearly everyone, and initiated a new round of exploration, unaided by the submarine. The underwater habitat, as an extension of scuba-diving activities, would prove to be the next development.
In 1957, Captain George F. Bond. U. S. Navy, took the first step toward manning a subsurface habitat by initiating the Navy’s Genesis Project. He chose the project’s name for its linkage to the biblical prophecy of man’s ultimate dominion over the sea.
The purpose of Genesis was to expose animals and man to the hyperbaric environment and different multiple gas mixtures likely to be used in an underwater habitat. From 1957 through 1963, Captain Bond and his group exposed rats, goats, monkeys, and human beings to various gases and pressures in a series of experiments. The Genesis project collected volumes of previously unknown data, laying
Proceedings / January 19S*
>: Unfinished Legacy
the vital groundwork and compiling the record used by every deep habitat project that followed.
While Captain Bond collected his data, Cousteau and American industrialist Edwin A. Link engaged in an undeclared race to put the first diver in an underwater habitat in a saturated state. (Saturation is a condition in which the aquanaut’s blood and tissues absorb all the available species of gas they can at a given pressure.) Although this had never before been attempted, it would finally be possible, with Bond’s data.
Cousteau skillfully seized the opportunities provided by his own invention of scuba and kept France’s research in the forefront of underwater technology. One of his goals was to work toward eventual habitation of the oceans. But the determined Link pursued the same end. By New Year’s Day 1962, Cousteau and Link were dead even in their quiet race. The world’s attention remained fixed on the contest in space between the United States and the Soviet Union, while these two privately financed explorers sought their own historic goal on the seafloor.
Link struck first, just 160 kilometers from Cousteau’s Proposed habitat site for Conshelf I in the Mediterranean. On 6 September 1962, the world’s first—and smallest— underwater habitat—where aquanaut Robert Stenuit would spend one day at 61 meters—was lowered over the side of the ship Sea Diver.
On 14 September, Cousteau manned his significantly larger Conshelf I habitat with two aquanauts at a more modest ten meters off the coast of Marseilles, France. But Conshelf I was only the forerunner of a much more ambitious successor, which would follow in less than a year.
Unquestionably, Conshelf II established France’s early lead in underwater habitation. On 15 June 1963, Cousteau manned Conshelf II’s “Starfish House’’ habitat just off the Israeli coast in the tepid, clear waters of the Red Sea. The Starfish House accommodated five of Cousteau’s aquanauts on a shallow reef at 11 meters. Yet below the Starfish House a smaller habitat was placed at 27 meters, and was manned by two aquanauts for seven days. It was the most detailed, best-planned, and best-executed underwater mission yet.
The American effort had been pursued alone by Link, with private funding. But the combination of Cousteau’s spectacular successes and ongoing space exploration effort ttiade the U. S. Navy eager to launch its own program with Sealab. Captain Bond’s dream of inhabiting the oceans Was about to become a reality, backed by the Secretary of the Navy, Fred H. Korth.
The Fever of the Race: By early 1963, the term “space race” had come to symbolize more than just the race to the t^oon. Parallels of competition were being drawn to every asPect of exploration—from the seafloor to the moon—as
the Kennedy administration sought its New Frontier, with little opposition from Congress.
It is almost impossible to separate the parallel rushes to the ocean floor and into space. They were national goals bom of the same resurgent energy and impulse. Navy Commander Scott Carpenter, who participated in both efforts, described them as “sister programs.” But at the peak of their respective successes, the ills of one program would descend upon the other.
Sealab 1—an awkward-looking, long-legged cylinder— touched 59 meters down on the ocean floor near Bermuda on 20 July 1964, initiating the Navy’s Sealab program. The elegant Conshelf expedition had already publicized its findings—problems with temperature control, helium- affected communications, and high humidity. Sealab immediately confirmed the same findings and went on to conduct its own investigations into hyperbaric physiology and submarine rescue techniques.
Although Sealab I had settled primarily on proven ground, it established the basic operating procedure for the Navy’s seafloor program. The next habitat, Sealab II, would push into untested waters.
The Navy, exhibiting foresight uncharacteristic of any other seafloor program, concluded that if habitat trials were to be held with maximum realistic advantage, they should be held in seafloor areas unprotected from cold, currents, and murk. Only then could they discover and finally establish the reasonable limitations of the merger of man and machine they were constructing. -
A fundamental question remained unaddressed, however. The Navy had no assigned, specific strategic mission on the seafloor. In the event of setback or disaster, the program would be left without justification or defenders.
Defining Reasonable Limits: In January 1965, the Navy authorized funds for Sealab II and boldly set a submergence date for eight months later. Up to that point, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Mercury program had been successfully completed without significant failure, loss of life, or personal injury. The Gemini program was poised to begin. The Kennedy administration was history, but President Lyndon Johnson considered the space agency a creation of his own influence—and, to a great extent, it was. Although President Johnson’s Great Society stumbled ever closer toward the cliffs of war, the New Frontier ideals of world and space exploration hardly hesitated in their mandated rush toward the unknown.
Half a world away, Cousteau was engaged in another silent race with the Americans. Conshelf III was proceeding toward a launch date nearly identical to that of Sealab II. Both the United States and France were opting for new, unexplored territory; they wanted to dive deeper and stay
longer. Bu< it would not come without a technological shift.
The Navy’s new habitat, Sealab II, was nearly twice as large as her predecessor, in order to solve the major problems Sealab I had experienced. Heating coils were installed in the deck to help ward off the constant helium- induced chill. An air conditioning system was installed to help fight the oppressive humidity. Sealab II also boasted a shower, built-in toilet, laboratory facilities, 11 viewing ports, and two separate exits.
Cousteau’s Conshelf III, on the other hand, was truly long periods. Though not as attractive as her French counterpart, Sealab II was nearly her technological equal.
About this time, NASA announced that the Mercury astronaut, Commander Carpenter, was joining the aquanauts as the Sealab II team leader.
On 28 August 1965, the aquanaut team arrived at Sealab H’s site on the ocean floor. The support ship Berkone hovered 63 meters above, within sight of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier, near La Jolla, California.
An early order of business in the new Sealab habitat was to link Sealab II’s Scott Carpenter with astronauts Gordon
spectacular. Her dual-level dome shape represented advanced engineering design. Sealab II looked like a railroad tank car minus wheels, but Conshelf Ill’s futuristic checkerboard sphere looked the part of a state-of-the-art exploratory vehicle.
Sealab I had been hastily designed for the barest of expected contingencies. But Sealab II was built to cope with the rigors of great depth, and to shield her aquanauts for
Cooper and Pete Conrad, who were then circling in the last of Gemini V’s orbits. Another communications “first” would occur on 1 October, when Sealab II, in the Pacific, and Conshelf III, on the floor of the Mediterranean, established a communications link. Conshelf III had touched down on the seafloor on 22 September. Beset by weather problems and associated damage, she began operations several days behind schedule, at a depth of 100 met-
ers, but—once started—these concurrent experiments by the leaders in seafloor habitation signaled another historic moment. The two ongoing expeditions represented a high level of commitment in experience, resources, and equipment—unmatched before or since.
Before long, Conshelf III began to experience some of Sealab II’s problems. The demanding work schedule in both habitats brought on crew fatigue. The predominance °f helium in the atmosphere distorted speech so severely that most communications between the aquanauts and the surface were unintelligible. On Conshelf, the aquanauts eventually gave up, and began holding up notes to the television monitor cameras. The intractable helium diffused right through glass and quickly ruined everything from watches to sensitive electronics. The helium also conducted heat away from the aquanauts bodies so quickly that temperature had to be elevated to 30°C in Sealab II and 32°C in Conshelf III, just to ward off chill.
An accident nearly took the life of one Sealab II aquanaut as he worked outside the habitat. His breathing gear malfunctioned, filled his floating vest with breathing §ases, and nearly dragged him to the surface. Fortunately, he was able to recover from injuries suffered during the malfunction. Although she had some equipment problems, Conshelf III avoided any such close calls with death °r injury.
Sealab II ended her 45-day mission on 10 October 1965. Three teams, representing a total of 28 aquanauts, had lived on the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Aquanaut Carpenter remained submerged with two teams of the expedition. Three days after the end of Sealab II, Conshelf Hi also ended her expedition on a successful note.
Precipitous Decline: From early 1966 through 1969, Underwater habitation research flourished. Within seven years of Link’s first submergence, 50 habitats had been Built throughout the world, by 17 nations.
In the United States, the Navy, encouraged by the successes of Sealabs I and II, began preparing for Sealab III. Meanwhile, Cousteau had turned his attention to the far- ranging expeditions of his famous Calypso. Conshelf III ^ould be his last detailed investigation into underwater habitation.
But world exploration was about to suffer a decline in Priority. The U. S. Navy’s attention and resources were e,ng increasingly committed to the expanding war in Vi- etr>am. Lacking linkage to any strategic mission, Sealab’s
Captain Bond, above, monitoring the decompression of four aquanauts in 1964, led the Navy into underwater habitats with Sealab I, a hastily designed vehicle for the least demanding contingencies. Sealab II, on the other hand, was built to cope with the rigors of great depths and to house aquanauts for long periods. Sealab III, facing page, was able to go even deeper, with more complex equipment on board.
future funding hung precariously on the project’s continued scientific successes, and on remaining an inconspicuous drain on the Navy’s resources.
In November 1966, NASA concluded its highly successful Gemini manned space program, after launching 20 astronauts into earth orbit for a total of 970 hours. The space race between the two superpowers was still being run in earnest. The United States seemed to hold a slight
advantage, so long as the Soviets did not leapfrog ahead with an unexpected space spectacular.
Despite the high tempo of space activity, NASA had a perfect safety record in space—until 27 January 1967. On that morning, astronauts Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chafee died in a flash fire in their Apollo spacecraft, which was sitting atop Launch Complex 34. Their deaths were a personal shock to the nation—and more. The cost of exploration—always high throughout human history—had to be paid once again. The deaths of the astronauts hinted at other, more preventable problems as well: poor design, faulty wiring, and sloppy workmanship—all hidden within a budding scandal that involved a prime contractor. The misfortune would delay a moon landing for at least a year, while the entire Apollo system underwent reevaluation and redesign.
Meanwhile, the Navy was pressing forward with Sealab III. The seafloor mission was to open new doors, at greater depths than ever before. The Sealab II habitat went in for a major refitting and overhaul. The upgraded habitat, designed to operate at 180 meters, would form the primary element of an extensive underwater research and development range near San Clemente Island, off the California coast. Sealab III would house six rotating eight- member teams. The ungainly support vessel Berkone would be replaced by the USS Elk River (IX-501), a vastly superior ship specially fitted for Sealab operations.
The stage was set. With Cousteau pursuing other areas, the Soviets typically enigmatic about their own seafloor operations, and no other individual or agency involved with comparable resources, the United States was poised, fully capable, to assume the undisputed lead in this field.
But the Navy would soon experience the same misfortunes that NASA had. Four years earlier, in April 1963, the USS Thresher (SSN-593) had gone down with all hands, off New England. The pain of that loss still lingered, and at least partial blame had been placed on poor workmanship and design problems. Together with the
‘...We Made Do With What We Had
Commander Carpenter was the fourth U. S. astronaut and the sixth man to fly in space. On 24 May 1962, he flew three orbits around the earth in his one-man Mercury spacecraft; he was the second American to orbit the planet. Carpenter was one of the first to leave the astronaut corps when he unexpectedly joined the Navy’s Sealab program.
On 28 August 1965, as the lead diver on Sealab II, he became the world's first aquanaut-astronaut. While on the ocean floor, Carpenter spoke to fellow astronauts Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad in orbit some 350 kilometers above the earth.
Carpenter was commissioned in the Navy in 1949 and was assigned to a number of fight training schools and squadrons, including Patrol Squadron 6, Barbers Point, Hawaii. He served in Korea and graduated from Navy Test Pilot School in 1954.
In 1958, Carpenter was assigned as air intelligence officer of the USS Hornet (CVS-12) and was selected as one of the original seven U. S. astronauts in 1959. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado with a B.S. in aeronautical engineering.
He now lives in Canoga Park, California, where he is engaged in private oceanographic and energy research. Dennis Chamber- land interviewed Carpenter on 14 March 1985.
Chamberland: By your own estimation, what was the real value of the Sealab program? Carpenter: As in all exploration, it was new knowledge. Chamberland: New knowledge in terms of gathering information for defense or oceanography? Carpenter: Certainly in terms of physical oceanography and marine biology. We (Sealab) had nothing to do with any defense-oriented projects. But from my point of view, and I think from the view of the project at large, it was primarily an investigation of hyperbaric human physiology. Chamberland: Looking back at the Sealab program’s termination, could it or should it have been saved and continued?
Carpenter: Yes. It should have been saved and continued. Chamberland: In your view, what were the primary, underlying reasons behind the project’s termination?
Carpenter: Unfortunately, we
Astronaut-turned-aquanaut Carpenter, on board Sealab II, spoke with orbiting astronauts Cooper and Conrad from the ocean floor in 1965.
had a loss of life and the lab itself was in some danger of flooding. We were inadequately prepared to face the challenge of low temperature. We didn’t have ade-
Apollo fire, the loss of the Thresher contributed to a growing indictment of “American know-how.”
This was also a time of civil and social unrest, compounded by America’s commitment to an unpopular war. Criticism from nearly every quarter, including a restive Congress, was hurled at administration programs. Those involving exploration were quickly labeled as “wasteful.” The New Frontier mood had evaporated.
In contrast to Sealab II’s insignificant eight-day delay, the follow-on project was plagued with misfortune from the outset. Delay followed delay, until Sealab III was finally launched 18 months behind schedule and more than $3 million over budget.
The long delays had predictable effects on the Sealab team members. They were frustrated and tense—trying to make things work at almost any cost. Signs of significant stress began to appear. Said one participant in the team’s diver performance evaluation, just days before the experiment was set to begin, “. . . they were an accident waiting to happen” (as recounted in an interview with James Miller on 13 April 1983).
The habitat was finally lowered to a depth of 186 meters off San Clemente. But because of a poorly sized neoprene hull fitting, expensive helium gas was leaking out of the habitat at an unacceptable rate. An early decision was made to pull up Sealab for repairs, but the seafloor team members were anxious to get started, and they volunteered to repair her on-site.
The team members who entered the water on 18 February 1969 had been awake for 20 hours and had taken amphetamines to ward off fatigue, according to Peter Limburg and James Sweeny in Vessels for Underwater Exploration (Crown Publishers, 1973). While working on the habitat, civilian diver Berry Cannon, a Sealab II aquanaut, collapsed in the water, with convulsions. He was rushed to the surface in a pressurized chamber while team members attempted to resuscitate him, but he died en route. He had apparently failed to check his scuba gear, not
interview with Commander M. Scott Carpenter, U. S. Navy (Retired)
quate equipment because we didn’t have the money to do it fight. The reason we didn’t have the money to do it right was because the Navy really had no assigned mission involving saturation diving in the deep ocean. Chamberland: Without an assigned mission, why was the Navy involved at all?
Carpenter: George Bond was doing work on saturation diving that had never been done before. His work had been approved by the highest levels of the Navy and there was interest there. His personal influence was very significant in bringing Sealab about. Of course, there was simple curiosity and there was always the potential for a warfare application. Chamberland: What do you think were the main contributors to the planning and conceptual errors that led to the problems with the habitat and, ultimately, the death of Berry Cannon? Carpenter: Insufficient funding— which led to insufficient talent, htne, staffing, and hardware. Chamberland: Did you see the errors coming? Were there any 'ndications of possible disaster? Carpenter: Of course. But we ‘made do” with what we had.
Chamberland: Do you think the Navy—or in an expanded sense, the Congress—should consider initiating another Sealab or Tektite habitat undersea program? Carpenter: Yes. Both are valuable. Sealab has come to mean very deep ocean work and Tektite is shallower by the nature of the habitat. But I personally feel they represent a very important arena of investigation that should be continued.
Chamberland: Is there a justifiable need to put man on the ocean floor in terms of what he can do differently there than from the surface?
Carpenter: Indeed there is. We need to define the arenas where man’s capabilities yield to those of the robot’s.
Chamberland: Is this the same argument used when debating robots versus man in space? Carpenter: Yes, at least for the foreseeable future man will always be able to perform better in unforeseen circumstances than robots. Both have their place in any exploration of our physical boundaries. But for now, man can still out-perform robots. Chamberland: Do you have any feeling for why the initiation of new habitat programs has dropped so drastically in the last decade? Carpenter: There has been no return on the investment. Chamberland: As one of the first astronauts and aquanauts in American history, you occupy a rather unique position. What made you decide to trade a pressure suit for a wet suit?
Carpenter: It was partly a desire to transfer the handsomely funded NASA technology to its sister program, which was not handsomely funded. It was partly an affection for the sea, a respect for Jacques-Yves Cousteau, and, later, George Bond, whom I got to know through Cousteau. I was partly motivated through a fear of the deep ocean and a need to conquer that fear. But I guess the greatest motivator was my own curiosity.
Chamberland: Was Cousteau involved in any way in the Sealab program?
Carpenter: Yes. Through the documentation he provided and through technical assistance. Chamberland: Have you ever had second thoughts about leaving NASA when you did and joining Sealab?
Oblivious to the curious onlookers staring in at him, civilian diver Berry Cannon, below, who later lost his life while working with Sealab III, repairs the headset for the helium unscrambler on Sealab II. An unidentified diver, right, leaves the submersible decompression chamber “elevator” prior to entering Sealab I.
required by their procedures, and the carbon dioxide scrubber was not in place. At 18 atmospheres pressure, Cannon’s own exhalation had acted as a quick and fatal poison.
Topside personnel had clearly run out of options. They ordered Sealab III pulled to the surface and sent back to the shore for repairs. With no clear role to play in the Navy’s overall mission, Sealab fell quickly and quietly from the operational agenda after the inquiry into Cannon’s death. The habitat’s problems—Cannon’s death, excessive costs, and schedule overruns—had finally outweighed the two-dimensional rationale that initially justified the program. Sealab was not alone in dropping from sight. Within a few years, there would be only one active habitat left in the world.
Establishing a National Direction: There is a reasonable argument that the Navy should never have played the role as the key agency for the nation’s leading seafloor exploration program. Just as NASA was created in 1958 to direct and administer the exploration of space (over objections from the Defense Department), perhaps another agency should have assumed the responsibility for a Sea- lab-type program.
Yet, there is a responsible argument to the contrary— one that defends the Navy’s role as a prerequisite. Because of the Navy’s resources, with Captain Bond as the world’s leading expert on saturation diving and the Navy responsible de facto for the nation’s ocean defense, the Navy’s sponsorship of the first habitation of the ocean floor was perhaps inevitable.
With Sealab’s demise, NASA itself got involved with 78 underwater habitats, joining with the departments of the Interior and the Navy in the Tektite program (1969-70). The already well-documented research in shallow water hyperbaric physiology was the target of much of the Tektite investigations. NASA was gathering data on isolation to be used in planning Skylab while the Navy and the Department of the Interior were still concerned about crew physiology at depth and the mechanics of saturation diving. If there was but little strategic value in the Sealab investigations, there was absolutely none to be found in Tektite. The three agencies were operating along the outer fringes of their primary missions, and seafloor exploration was serving as a surrogate for other purposes.
Despite this, Tektite served a most valuable function in long-term saturation (it still holds the record at 60 days) and in exposing 57 individuals to the seafloor environment over a period of nine months. Tektite also provided valuable experience for the eventual development of a system of cycling crews through seafloor habitats that is still in use today. Unfortunately, just as Tektite began to collect valuable information on long-term habitation, she was pulled to the surface, because of a lack of funding. Lacking direction, the nation’s seafloor exploration had fallen into an uncoordinated effort with neither primary motive nor clear design.
Finally, in 1970, Congress approved the formation of a new organization for coordinating U. S. exploration of the seafloor. The Manned Undersea Science and Technology (MUS&T) Office was created under the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to coordinate underwater habitat programs, as well as other subsurface investigations. One of the primary purposes in forming MUS&T was to consolidate seafloor research, while separating diving from research endeavors.
In contrast with NASA, MUS&T was only a small branch of another larger organization (NOAA). MUS&T was never given broad ranging or specific goals of establishing a permanent undersea colony or even a single continuously manned habitat. Compared to NASA, it was tiny, marginally funded, and charged with the relatively non-specific mission of coordinating grants to “. . . foster those manned underwater scientific investigations that meet the needs and requirements of NOAA.” Although
MUS&T had the potential to become the vital and important focal point for the formation of a national undersea policy and concomitant goal setting, it has never been empowered or funded to carry this out.
In 1980, MUS&T was reorganized under NOAA’s Office of Undersea Research into the National Undersea Research Program (NURP) to extract diving activities from its underwater research programs.
Though financially constrained, NURP has carried out its responsibilities with a touch of genius. It has managed to divide its tiny ($1 million) annual congressional allocation among many continuously running underwater projects at its Hydrolab underwater habitat site off St. Croix in the U. S. Virgin Islands.
With a habitat costing less than one space shuttle space- suit, NURP has conducted year-round investigations underwater for nearly two decades. In the process, it has logged more underwater, saturated hours and has trained more aquanauts than all other world habitat missions combined. It is one government program that has survived and flourished through shrewd planning and foresight.
NURP retired the 20-year-old Hydrolab in July 1985 and is replacing it with the much more versatile and complex Aegir, which is capable of easy relocation and is designed for mixed gas diving. Aegir should be in place at Hydrolab’s former site this year before it begins its research, continually changing sites within the Caribbean basin.
A new habitat is currently under construction by NURP for use in the colder waters off the California coast. The George F. Bond is scheduled for launching in mid-1986 off Santa Catalina Island.
NURP is skillfully but slowly leading national seafloor policy in the direction of pure, applied research. But there are other directions to be considered; ones with corporate backing that could quickly outspend and outdistance the pitifully underfunded NURP.
National corporate interests on the seafloor lie primarily with petroleum companies. Their divers are forced to work deep for long periods on large, capital-intensive Projects. Corporate planners opt for the most cost-efficient endeavors, and deep water work has been no exception. These enterprises have developed a deep water system that maintains continuous saturation.
By moving divers back and forth between surface platforms and deep water work, continuously held under pressure, the need to dangle life support to a habitat on the ocean floor has been eliminated. Despite the elimination °f the fragile surface link, the divers can still be held at Pressure for long periods, under saturated, mixed-gas conditions. Only one change in current standard operating conditions is required to move the divers to a permanent underwater site.
By moving a reliable power source to the ocean floor, there is nothing to prevent long-term or even continuous seafloor habitation. Surface ships, long the major power source, have probably been the biggest stumbling block to habitat independence. But self-contained power sources are rare.
One solution to the seafloor power problem is shore power cabled to the habitat from the beach. Yet another concept envisions the placement of retrievable, ballasted replenishment pods, equipped with banks of batteries or fuel cells and life support. Either of these solutions eliminates dependence on high-cost support barges and crews which become significant liabilities and usually are limiting factors. With the solution to the power problem only a matter of applying off-the-shelf technology, habitation of the ocean floor to the depths of the continental shelves awaits only the development of sound reasons for settling there.
The rush to the seafloor in the 1960s and 1970s was justified, based on the potential of the sea to solve problems of resource depletion and population expansion. Though the race to explore has ended, the need to consider
the options available there has not.
The opening of the continental shelves to habitation is within the reach of available technology, and the reasons to occupy them will vary. We do not yet know the full range of potential uses. Sea farming and conservation will branch to the seafloor as new techniques of resource management, and will require more than surface involvement.
Energy concerns may make it more cost-efficient and safer to base crews on the seafloor than to risk bringing them to the surface daily.
Today, Japan moves forward with its floating city concept-scheduled for occupation by the end of the century to relieve anticipated overcrowding. It is doubtful that the United States will experience equivalent overcrowding for another century, but ocean or space colonies will offer viable expansion alternatives. The ocean colony can be built at a fraction of the cost of a space colony.
One important, but usually overlooked, reason for potential growth is growing public support. Of all the habitats built worldwide, one-third were built by individuals with no connection to government or industry. The world’s only underwater colony on the drawing boards and actually slated for construction is one at Walt Disney’s Epcot Center in Florida.
Given the single remaining breakthrough of a portable power and life support system, there is nothing to prevent private industry from producing habitats packaged and
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Like something out of a Clive Cussler thriller, a squat, cameraladen robot submarine hovered just above the North Atlantic floor, four kilometers below the sea’s surface. On the midwatch,
1 September 1985, a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute research team guided the craft from the surface, the narrow beams of the robot slicing the almost empty darkness. Then, at 0100, it beamed up the first images of isolated wreckage—a boiler—then another and another until the great ship finally emerged from the gloom. Human eyes saw for the first time what no others had ever seen: the wreck of the RMS Titanic. Four U. S. and two French scientists, and a U. S. Navy officer on board the U. S. research vessel Knorr (AGOR-15) were the first to view the remains of the most infamous maritime disaster, a tragedy turned legend nearly three-quarters of a century old.
The man in charge of the expedition was Dr. Robert Ballard, head of Woods Hole’s Deep Submergence Laboratory. The two robot vehicles used in the Titanic search were the Angus—for acoustically navigated geological underwater survey—and the Argo. The Angus, capable of shooting 3,200 35-mm. still photos of the ocean floor worked with the Argo, which sent the video images back to the hovering Knorr.
The discovery of the Titanic was only a secondary mission to the testing of Argo and a French- built remote acoustic system (SAR). Engineering and development costs for the Argo of some $2.8 million over six years were met by the U. S. Office of Naval Research. The Titanic's discovery was a dress rehearsal for Argo’s first operational mission in December 1985, when the Argo was scheduled to begin a deep-water survey of the world’s largest geological feature, the East Pacific Rise between San Diego and Manzanillo, Mexico.
The close relationship between the Navy and research institutions such as Woods Hole is a productive symbiosis with both organizations benefiting for different reasons: Woods Hole gains valuable scientific data with new technology, developed with the aid of Navy funds, while the Navy has obvious interests in deep ocean devices to locate sunken military
hardware from lost Soviet submarines to U. S. Navy equipment.
The Titanic is a well-known and tragic irony—the unsinkable White Star luxury liner that did, taking with her 1,503 souls. The Argo's blue-tinted videotapes slowly unfolded the frozen horror of one of history’s most bitter final moments: empty life boat davits with lines still dangling; the giant ship’s stern and two smoke stacks missing. Poignantly, the cold photographs depicted disquieting links to her doomed human cargo: unopened bottles of vintage Bordeaux and a ship’s telegraph, and lifeless artifacts strewn across the ocean floor.
The French research vessel Suroit had swept much of the area’s bottom on earlier expeditions with her side scanning sonar. Dr. Ballard said they
ready for divers to tow and submerge for a weekend on the shallow ocean floor.
The Measure of the New Frontier: Sealab III would have opened a new arena of investigation into deep water habitation that remains unexplored. Problems that Hydrolab overcame in shallow water were important but much simpler than those of the deeper Sealab III.
Sealab III called for the construction of an underwater test range, and for the cycling of large teams through the habitat to accumulate vital information on long-term, deep water habitation. Given the Navy’s resources, Sealab would have gained more ground in five years than NURP has gained in 15.
Sealab’s contributions should not be overshadowed by the Navy’s 1969 decision to pass seafloor research to another agency. And the Navy cannot be faulted for the lack of congressional interest in funding NURP research at the same level as NASA or even Sealab. The opportunity cost of cancelling Sealab III can still be recovered by Aegir, or
barely missed the Titanic. He narrowed his search within the 259- square kilometer area near 41° 461 north latitude 50° 14' west longitude. The Woods Hole team, representing a joint U. S.-French expedition of 25 crew members and a scientific team of 24, looked for days with the tethered Argo until the Titanic was located. Finally, it was an echo- finder common to many fishing boats which found the Titanic's hulk and guided the Argo to its target.
One of Dr. Ballard’s chief worries now is desecration of the abysmally deep site which he described as “. . .an Alpine-like country overlooking a small canyon.” He intends to keep the Titanic's exact resting place a secret, fearing souvenir hunters dredging from the surface will destroy the site. To prevent this, U. S. Representative Walter Jones (D-NC) introduced a bill in Congress that would have the U. S. negotiate an international treaty which would place the Titanic site off limits to everyone.
With the Titanic's stern missing, the Cussler scenario of raising the Titanic now seems resigned to the pages of fiction. But Dr. Ballard is planning another visit to the site for more photographs. The Woods Hole team resolutely denies it will bring back a relic. Dr. Ballard is adamantly opposed to even touching the ship which he has called • - a fitting place for the remains of this greatest of sea tragedies to rest.” The scientist
Cycloidal propeller R.V. KNORR showed some anguish that the Argo brushed one of the ship’s smoke stacks in a pass over the wreck.
The follow-up visit to the Titanic is planned for this summer. Again the justification is for additional engineering tests of other remotely operated vehicles being developed at Woods Hole and sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. On this visit, plans call for two manned submersibles to visit the Titanic up close. In addition to a French mini-sub, the Woods Hole team will probably use the Alvin (DSR-2), a three- man, deep submersible owned by the U. S. Navy and operated by Woods Hole.
These submersibles will provide photos of the Titanic's, sides, something the vertically shooting Argo was unable to do. The precisely guided Alvin may allow the first views of the fatal 100-meter gash cut in the Titanic's side made by the iceberg. Perhaps the new expedition will yield more clues to the great ship’s violent, final moments and the eternally dark, “Alpine-like” final resting place for so many on the deep- ocean floor.
Sonar transmitters on the cable send information to the Knorr. Sound transmissions from Argo, searching with her low-light video cameras, are received by the sonar transponders and relayed to the ship's computer. Argo’s position is calculated and recorded, until she finds her quarry. Then the recording sled Angus, using lights and cameras, is guided by the computer through the same deep-sea path.
WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTE
A ghostly vision of the forward cranes and a hint of a hatch, facing page, are enough to remind anyone of the calamitous event that killed so many. The wreck of the Titanic was found by the robotic Argo, a product of Woods Hole-U. S. Navy research, which also has potential for deep-ocean military applications.
by the efforts of private industry.
Adjacent to the United States is a continental shelf of some 2.2 million square kilometers, a region as vast as the island of Greenland. But the subsurface environment may be measured in a three-dimensional sense in which a habitat may occupy any level. Hence, the U. S. continental shelves provide some 88,000 cubic kilometers of uninhabited, unused space.
When Sealab III was cancelled, the Navy moved on to investigate other strategic potentials of the ocean depths. The habitat was supplanted, through submarine research, by more mobile (and probably more appropriate) military hardware. But as the underwater regions are occupied, into the next century, the Navy will be called back into underwater habitation to perform its primary mission. The cycle will have been completed.
Much of the U. S. continental shelf lies within the 200- nautical-mile offshore exclusive economic zone, under the internationally recognized control of the United States. Whatever constitutes sovereign territory—just outside the zone or on outlying portions of the continental shelf itself— is hotly debated. The multitude of conflicting international claims on the ocean’s resources are issues that will be addressed in the not-too-distant future.
The Law of the Sea Treaty, which was signed by about 150 countries but not the United States, has drawn ominous attention to the complex problems that await resolution. Who may lay claim to these regions and resources that many nations view as . .the common heritage of all mankind?” There is no definitive answer. The Navy, in performing its primary role, may ultimately determine who controls the continental shelves and the underwater regions just beyond.
Most experts agree that habitation of the seafloor will follow historical precedent. There will almost certainly be no land rush, but instead a more deliberate move, following economic and social priorities.
The settlement pattern in the United States will probably be one of very widely scattered individual habitats appearing offshore, or sheltered from ocean swells inside shallow bays and coves. They will be supported by tourism, individuals, and entrepreneurism. Ultimately, and probably unceremoniously, a collection of habitats will be assembled in a close area and the first U. S. underwater colony will have been created.
Underwater settlement could well begin in this decade. But whether the first serious colonization will begin in the United States is questionable. Thanks to Hydrolab, the United States has more seafloor experience than any other nation.
But Japan has the strongest motivation, as she becomes literally crowded offshore. Taking into account her wealth, commitment to the sea, and ingenuity, it would be surprising if Japan did not man the first planned underwater colony.
The lull in seafloor exploration appears to be ending. The lean years of 1977-85, when habitation of the seafloor almost ceased, have come to an end. In 1986, the George F. Bond and Aegir will begin simultaneous operations on both sides of the United States. Although Sealab’s legacy was left as an unfulfilled promise, its purpose has not been abandoned. The Navy’s next and most ambitious role on the seafloor has yet to begin.
Mr. Chamberland received a bachelor of science degree and a master's degree from Oklahoma State University. He is a former naval officer who served as executive officer of the U. S. Pacific Fleet Headquarters Support Activity, Makalapa, and as Assistant for Data Analysis, CinCPacFlt. He is currently a nuclear engineer for Charleston Naval Shipyard. He has published articles in Interface Age magazine, Tulsa magazine, and Astronomy magazine.
______________________________ What’s In A Name--------------------------- -- --------
The poorly briefed admiral boarded one of his submarines. He greeted the commanding officer with a warm smile and firm grip, saying, “It’s good to be aboard, Jim.
The CO replied with an embarrassed smile, "It’s Joe, Admiral.
The admiral repeated the mistake throughout the day. Each time, the skipper patiently reminded him, “It’s Joe, Admiral.”
Finally, the long day ended, and the sub returned to port. The admiral took his leave at the quarterdeck saying, “Joe, you’ve got a dirty, poorly stowed submarine.
The skipper replied, not missing a beat, “It’s Jim, Admiral.
Captain Thomas L. Jacobs
George Jessel didn’t become known as the “Toastmaster General of the United States” for nothing. He was a master of banquet officiating and undoubtedly hit his stride shortly after World War II. But, as impeccable as George was, even he could make a boo-boo once in a while. At one banquet, he declared, “And now, that hero of heroes, Admiral Nimitz, master of all our mighty ships at sea. Just a couple of words please, Admiral Nimitz.”
The response: “Name’s King.”
(The Naval Institute will pay $25.00 for each anecdote published in the Proceedings.)