National Geographic : 1970 Jun
Harvesting the past TETHERED TO A BALLOON LIFT, a tray of hull planks begins its ascent. Cloth covering keeps water friction from moving and damag ing the fragile, soggy wood. The author rides along, regulating the air in the balloon so that the tray rises slowly. Another tray, one of 29 loads raised, waits on the bot tom. Dismantling the hull piece by piece, the team brought up some five tons of timber. Plexiglass dome in the back ground, enclosing a pocket of air, serves as a telephone booth where divers receive instructions from above. An underwater loudspeaker calls them to the phone. A reserve air tank beside the booth awaits divers in case of equipment failure. Work crews ashore cleaned and catalogued artifacts from the wreck. An expedition artist (above right) draws a pitcher (with bro ken handle), an oil jug, and a plate from the ship's galley, all now free of encrustations. Utensils for four place settings indicate the ship's captain sailed with at least three crewmen. Part of the ship's cargo, a hand ful of almonds retains outer shells, though the soft nuts have partially disintegrated. The expedition re covered thousands. exhaustion," he said to Bruce Dahlin, "but the afternoon dive took a lot out of me." Soon there was pain, an ache in Peter's legs. Bruce sent for Dr. Blair and Jeff Feld. Jeff had modified our recompression chamber, which had been lent to us by the Canadian Government, adding a pure-oxygen intake. "I think Peter's bent!" Jeff said, using the colloquialism for decompression sickness. "Let's get him to the chamber ... quickly!" Even in the few minutes it took to get Peter to the barge, the pain became intense. Air began to scream in around the patient, 852 recompressing the nitrogen bubble that was causing the difficulty. In 15 minutes the pain was gone. Through a mask Peter breathed oxygen, then air in alternation, while we slow ly lowered the chamber pressure. In just over four hours the ordeal was over. The tiny one man cylinder had saved Peter's life. But what if two of us had got the bends on that dive? I vowed we would never face that crisis, and when we returned to Cyprus in early May 1969, Peter was there to help uncrate our new four-man recompression chamber aboard Alasia.