SEALAB: Habitats Under the Water
"This Day in History"
July 22, 1964
On July 22, 1964, SEALAB I submerged with four Navy divers aboard. SEALAB was an experimental underwater habitat developed by the United States Navy to test the theories of saturated diving and the ability of humans to live and operate at extreme pressures.
SEALAB I was lowered off the coast of Bermuda to a depth of 192 feet. It was constructed from two converted floats and held in place with axles from railroad cars. The four divers were LCDR Robert Thompson, MC; Gunners Mate First Class Lester Anderson, Chief Quartermaster Robert A. Barth, and Chief Hospital Corpsman Sanders Manning. SEALAB I was commanded by Captain George F. Bond, also called "Poppa Topside,” who was key in developing theories about saturation diving.
|Captain Bond and the first aquanauts with SEALAB I in 1964.|
The project attempted to evaluate man’s capability for extensive underwater work by carrying out such tasks as: precision bottom charting and mapping; marring biological investigations, structural inspection of the Argus Island tower, and, of equal importance, project SEALAB evaluated the vessel, SEALAB I, so that the engineering data obtained could be used in the design of SEALAB II and, in follow-up experiments scheduled to be carried out subsequently at 300-foot and 600-foot depths.
The mission called for the four divers to stay submerged for three weeks, but the project was stopped only after 11 days due to threat of a tropical storm which posed a danger to the ocean surface support staff.
SEALAB I proved that saturation diving in the open ocean was viable for extended periods. The knowledge gained helped advance the science of deep sea diving and rescue, and contributed to the understanding of the psychological and physiological strains humans can endure.
|SEALAB I on display at the Museum of Man in the Sea.|
SEALAB I is on display at the Museum of Man in the Sea, in Panama City Beach, Florida, near where it was initially tested offshore before being deployed. It is on outdoor display. Its metal hull is largely intact, though the paint is faded to a brick red.
To learn more about SEALAB I you can visit Naval History Blog. To learn more about life under the sea please visit the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum’s USS Razorback where tour guides explain life underway in a submarine during World War II.
Author: Allison Hiblong