National Geographic : 1965 Apr
CALL IT the deepest long dive. Call it the longest deep dive. Both definitions de scribe our goal beneath the bright water of the Bahamas. With the support of the National Geographic Society, including a substantial grant of funds through its Committee for Research and Ex ploration, we had come to put two men a long way down for a long time-more than 400 feet for more than 48 hours-and thus to probe be yond the limits of human experience. Why? To prove that men can live and work in the untried depths that cover the vast unexplored part of earth called the continental shelf. For that they must be able to go deep and stay there -for days, weeks, even months. And they must do it not as surface dwellers sheltered in the steel cocoon of a submarine, but as creatures of the deep, exposed to pressures many times greater than man was meant to endure. We had spent more than a year, working closely with a medical life-sciences team from the University of Pennsylvania, to extend our Man-in-Sea Project farther into unknown reach es of the ocean, yet with complete safety to the divers.* Now, as our ship Sea Diver rode the swells off Great Stirrup Cay, 140 miles east of Miami, the long wait was ending. The SPID: Divers' Undersea Home "All anchors are set," shouted the radio re ceiver in Sea Diver's wheelhouse. And the voice from our U. S. Navy support vessel, Nahant, added: "You'll be making the dive at 430 feet." Tomorrow we would moor Sea Diver between four anchored buoys set by Nahant. We would lower our inflatable rubber house, the SPID, to the sea floor (opposite). Then the divers would be delivered to the door of their deep-lying home by the SDC (submersible decompression cham ber), serving as an undersea elevator (page 536). The inhabitants-to-be of these strange con tainers grinned in anticipation. After seemingly endless rehearsals and practice dives, they were to be freed at last from the "surface tension," as one wag put it, that would plague me and other top-siders for the next few days. Robert Stenuit, our chief diver, had success fully carried out a 200-foot, 24-hour dive from Sea Diver off Villefranche, France, in 1962. Jon Lindbergh, Stenuit's co-diver, brought wide underwater experience to the project, together with a quiet courage reminiscent of his famous father. I watched these two remarkable young men *See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, "Our Man-in-Sea Project," May, 1963, and "Tomorrow on the Deep Frontier," June, 1964, both by Edwin A. Link. 530 KODACHROMEC N.G .S . Outpost Under the Ocean By EDWIN A. LINK Illustrationsby National Geographicphotographer BATES LITTLEHALES Deepwater tent, SPID (submersible portable inflatable dwelling) under goes tests off the Bahama Islands prior to the long dive to 432 feet. Author Link (above), inventor of aviation's Link Trainer, turned to undersea technology after retiring as an industrial executive in 1959. An expert diver, he personally checks all equipment used in his Man-in-Sea Project, a research program aided by the National Geographic Society. Here he inspects his SDC (submersible de compression chamber).