Genesis 1: 26 (NIV version of the Bible) reads, ““Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea…” I was reminded of this divine empowerment after recently reading Ben Hellwarth’s new book ‘Sealab‘, which takes us on a journey through the start up and collapse of our quest to live on the seafloor.
The project that jump started the entire pursuit was called ‘the Genesis Project’, a fitting name given to the work by Dr. George Bond, as it represented a start to something very new for humanity – the quest to not only visit, but live under the sea. Bond used the name Genesis after this very Biblical verse, implying that we, humans, have been empowered and are obligated to find our fate beneath the waves. And so the journey carried on…
This lineage of work started it all – saturation diving, a huge surge in manned diving technologies from chambers, to bells, to personal life support systems (PLSS). While today we often look at the advances in rebreather technologies and other PLSS technology as state of the art, they had all this and more, in various states of development, back in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It has just now reached the consumer market, allowing for novel applications of an otherwise covert diving platform.
Bond’s work, along with the like of Link, Cousteau, Perry, and others was pivotal to enhance military and commercial activities, though way ahead of its time to find use in science and exploration. Today, I’d like to argue, that we are on the verge of these technologies breaking through. We now have cost effective platforms to take human exploration to nearly 20 ATA (not for everyone of course), and even have 1ATA technology platforms that are approaching full ocean depth capabilities. Humans presence in the sea is much more accessible than 50 years ago.
Now, what to do while we are down there? First step is to look, and observe with an open mind. Catalyzing the scientific process with purest discovery is how the cycle of intellectual curiosities begins. The most important part is getting out there.
Why bother? I’ve been asked this of my own work, given the great lengths I’ve gone in securing financing, organizing expeditions, developing new techniques and technologies. The answer is that is indeed our destiny – our fateful evolution if you will – to find a new life in the sea.