Friday, November 20, 2009

** This Day in Diving History -- November 21, 1891 -- Edward Ellsberg born **

"It never pays to quit until you're dead."......Edward Ellsberg

Ned Ellsberg was born on November 21, 1891 in Colorado and decided at a young age that he wanted to become a Naval Officer. He was not a large man physically; in fact he barely met the height and weight requirements for admission to the Naval Academy. He even went as far as changing his name, Ned, to Edward as he thought it would be more befitting a naval officer. Despite his diminutiveness, he won two medals in fencing, wrote two prize essays, and won top honors in seamanship and navigation. Although he was the top student in ordinance, two gunnery awards went to rival classmates, the predominant theory being that those prizes were diverted deliberately, lest Ellsberg run off with every honor for the Class of 1914. Ellsberg would graduate from Annapolis in 1914, at the head of his class academically but low in "military efficiency".

Following his initial assignment aboard the battleship Texas, he was reassigned to the Brooklyn Navy Yard during WWI. There he would excel in the field of engineering and although highly encouraged to remain a line officer, decided to transfer into Naval Engineering and Construction. His first two commands serving in his new role would be at the Boston and New York Navy Yards. Here he would prove to be an active, take-charge officer who did not avoid confrontation or controversy when he knew he was right.

Ellsberg's first public success and introduction to Navy Salvage would occur in September 1925 when the submarine USS S-51 (SS 162) sank after being struck by the steamer City of Rome, losing all but three of her sailors. At the time, the Navy had little to no deep-water salvage capability and few Navy Divers. Despite this, Ellsberg convinced Navy leadership that he could raise the S-51 with existing personnel and equipment. After great public outcry, the Navy began to realize that it needed to have the capability to salvage its own; vice relying solely on contractors. The successful salvage of S-51 would take 10 months during which Ellsberg and the salvage team battled against inadequate resources, a shortage of experienced deep-sea divers, primitive equipment, and uncooperative weather. In the process they would develop such salvage items as pontoons, underwater cutting torches and jetting nozzles. Ellsberg would even start an on site school to train more divers, including himself, thereby becoming the first Construction Corps officer to qualify as a Deep-Sea Diver. In the words of Ellsberg:

"If I was going to control the diving operation on the bottom of the sea, the bottom of the sea was where I belonged."

This job would be the basis for his first book, On the Bottom, about the salvage of the S-51. It made him a popular public figure. This was unpopular with the Navy however who stated that he received too much public attention and was too outspoken. In 1926, he was denied a meritorious promotion and was told that he would have to wait another eight years for reconsideration. A frustrated Ellsberg gave his resignation and started work for the Tide Water Oil Company.

Ellsberg had hardly settled in his civilian job when in December 1927 the submarine S-4 was rammed off Cape Cod. Immediately, he was brought back into the Navy and rushed to the scene. The nation was horrified as six trapped men tapped their final messages on the steel hull, while Navy rescue ships tossed helplessly, prevented by storms from sending divers down. The Navy had shown once again that it had no means of rescue for downed submariners. S-4 was salvaged and brought to dry dock six months after she sank. The boat was then stripped and towed to Key West to be used as a platform to examine possibilities for submarine rescue and to practice salvage techniques. This platform would prove key in the development of the McCann Rescue Chamber and Momsen Lung. Ellsberg continued to warn that complacency and political penny-pinching were making further submarine disasters inevitable. He wrote a detailed report that served as a bible for future submarine salvage operations and revealed that the Navy's Salvage organization was simply inadequate. Again, him speaking with such candor was unpopular with Navy leadership.

In 1942 Ellsberg was sent to Massawa, Ethiopia, with the responsibility for clearing the port and returning the dry-dock and ship repair facilities to service. Massawa was a critically important regional repair facility for Allied Forces in the European theater during WWII. When compared to the conditions of the S-51 salvage, the situation in Massawa was almost beyond belief. The Italians had sabotaged/destroyed facilities and sunk ships as they exited the port prior to Allied capture. One of Massawa's key dry docks had been declared totally unsalvageable - Ellsberg had her afloat only nine days after his arrival. In eight months his crew would re-float four cargo ships, another dry dock, and a floating crane; refurbished more than 80 supply ships; and repaired three British cruisers. The press hailed his achievements as "the Miracle of Massawa."

Ellsberg went without a break from Massawa to become General Eisenhower's salvage officer for North Africa. He was tasked with clearing the blocked and sabotaged port of Oran, Algeria. Here he encountered many of the same problems of supply, equipment and personnel that he had experienced in Massawa. Ellsberg's team worked frenetically clearing harbors and salvaging torpedoed ships. His successes was again great but the physical strain was too much for a man in his fifties. Ellsberg was hospitalized and sent home in February 1943 after being diagnosed with incipient heart failure - it would take more than heart failure to stop him however.

In 1944 he was again sent to Europe and was instrumental in preparing the artificial (Mulberry) harbors that helped make the Normandy landings a success. Sent to England to advise on preparations for the D-Day landings, he found that planners had not realized the scale of the problem or the resources required for deploying and setting up a mobile harbor in a wartime environment. He guided planners in recognizing and addressing what was needed to pump out and refloat over a hundred caissons in a matter of a few days -- without which the whole artificial port concept would have been a failure. Ellsberg rode one of the caissons to Normandy and helped unsnarl wrecked landing craft and vehicles on the beach in the wake of D-Day. When a storm two weeks later temporarily crippled the flow of supplies, he was called back to once again assess the damage at Omaha Beach. Ordered home in September 1944, he reported to Cleveland, Ohio, as Supervisor of Shipbuilding for the Lake Erie area. Fatigue had once again caught up with him, and ship construction was winding down, so Ellsberg asked to be relieved from active duty. On 3 April 1945 he returned to civilian life - permanently this time. He passed away in 1983 (age 91), having brought Navy Salvage leaps and bounds both in the minds of the Navy and civilians alike and attained the rank of rear admiral in doing so.

Although he achieved high rank and had scores of medals on his chest; when asked about his biggest military reward he would recall a comment he received from Deep-Sea Diver Francis Smith. At the end of the S-51 operation, Smith grabbed Ellsberg's hand and stated simply: "There isn't one of that bunch of divers, Mr. Ellsberg, who wouldn't go to hell for you!"

Of all Ellsberg's talents and contributions to Navy Diving, one of his biggest was that of author. In the late 1920s Ellsberg began a long and distinguished career as a writer that showcased Diving and Salvage. His first book was titled "On the Bottom" (published in 1929); an account of the salvage of S-51, it became a best-seller. A subsequent book, Pigboats, published in 1931, was made into the movie Hell Below by MGM studios. He would become one of the most prolific authors ever to graduate from the U.S. Naval Academy, his 17 books included several award winners. His stories appeared in popular magazines throughout the 1930s and 1940s, introducing many a young reader to the adventures of the deep.


Reading: To many books/articles to list on this email. My personal favorite is "On the Bottom" but you can't go wrong with any of them. To see a list of all his books and publications, see


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

** Diving History -- Torpedo Town U.S.A.....Whales.....and Sheats (Part II) **

** Diving History -- Torpedo Town U.S.A.....Whales.....and Sheats (Part II) **

Master Diver Robert (Bob) Sheats is one of many outstanding Navy Divers who have served at the Keyport Locker. He had many nicknames bestowed upon him during and after his career including "Master of the Master Divers". While this email showcases a few of his career highlights capturing everything he did would be impossible - the email would be pages upon pages in length. I had the opportunity recently to view his service record from the Navy Archives. To say that this man had an impressive career would be an understatement to say the least. The following outline merely three of his accomplishments.

Master Diver Sheats enlisted in the Navy in 1935, qualified Second Class Diver in 1937 and within a few years became a First Class Diver. It was while serving aboard USS CANOPUS (AS-34) that he found himself in the middle of the Battle of Bataan (WWII -- Philippines). CANOPUS was pierside during one stage of the battle and was badly damaged by Japanese planes during one of the many bombing runs. Damage sustained prevented her from being able to get underway. Because CANOPUS was now a "sitting duck", her crew was forced to take refuge and fighting positions in the surrounding jungle - Sheats was placed in charge of a group of the crew now in defensive positions. Although they held out for quite a few weeks, eventually they were overrun and captured by the Japanese Imperial Army on May 6, 1942. Sheats wrote that while he had no desire to allow for his capture, he did so to preserve the lives of the men under him. Almost immediately he regretted it; due to the intolerable and brutal conditions WWII POWs faced when captured by the Japanese Army.

After being captured the team of Navy Divers (Sheats, along with 8 other Navy Divers), was forced at gunpoint to first build a diving air system (from scrap CANOPUS and submarine parts) and then dive for silver then worth over $8 million in 1942. This silver had been dumped overboard by a Navy ship in 120 feet of water when Japanese capture of the vessel was inevitable. The Japanese used the US Divers because they were the only ones that could build a diving system and had any knowledge of decompression procedures. The fact that the divers didn't have actual tables and was doing it based solely from memory was of no consequence to the Japanese; if the divers died they were only prisoners in their eyes. The silver was quickly found by the divers and was concentrated in one location. Sheats was smart enough to know that if the divers quickly recovered all of it (which they easily could have done), the Japanese would have no more use for them and would likely kill them all. He instructed the other divers to only recover small sums at a time - enough to make the guards demand more, but not so much that the well would "run dry". He also did this so he and his men would not be making large contributions to the Japanese war machine. All this occurred while he and his divers were suffering from starvation, dysentery and multiple injuries under the worst conditions imaginable. Additionally, Sheats and his men survived the Bataan death march, hell ship transport to Japan and forced slave labor in a Japanese mine until rescued after the Japanese surrendered.

His actions in keeping his men alive and focused unquestionably saved them until their eventual release on September 13, 1945 (3 years, 4+ months later). After his release he returned to duty as a Navy Diver without hesitation and would go on to achieve the qualification of Master Diver.

Years after he retired; the binder that the group of Navy Divers had used to hand write the design and compute gas formulas in building the makeshift dive system from scrap parts was found and reviewed. It also contained makeshift dive logs from the entire Japanese silver recovery operation. There were over 10 pages of formulas, all drawn from memory using hand jammed math - all without a single error.

In 1964, Master Diver Bob Sheats was selected from across the fleet to serve as the Master Diver for SEALAB I. SeaLab I was a bottom habitat, saturation diving experiment whose purpose was to evaluate human ability to work under the water at moderate depths for prolonged periods. It involved four divers who remained under pressure for 11 days at 195 ft off the coast of Bermuda. The mission was a total success and conclusively demonstrated the feasibility of open-sea saturation diving. This success would not have been possible where it not for Master Diver Sheats working side by side with "Pappa Topside" Captain George F. Bond. Its success would not only prove open ocean saturation diving, but would set the stage for SeaLab II.

One year later Master Diver Sheats would be involved yet again in an even bigger and much more complex saturation diving mission. SEALAB II also known as the "Tilton Hilton" (because of the slope of its landing sight) would occur at a depth of 205 ft off the coast of LaJolla, CA and last for 30 days. Because of its complexity and length compared to SEALAB I, three teams would be used with Master Diver Sheats serving as team leader for one of them. Whereas SEALAB I tested and proved the concept of saturation diving, SEALAB II provided evidence that useful work could be done. The Navy conducted physiological and psychological studies to determine man's effectiveness underwater for an extended period and conducted many operational tests.

Much was learned about working in the ocean and contributions were made to a large number of undersea science and engineering disciplines. SEALAB II was no doubt a success and represented another large step forward in enabling human beings to live and work in a hostile environment. This program ultimately even had a huge impact on the global economy. The SEALAB program provided the commercial diving industry with its most important tool in the exploitation of offshore oil and gas reservoirs: the ability to dive deep and stay there for extended periods of time. In the process, the Navy medical community extracted a wealth of physiological data from their human subjects.

TMCM(MDV) Robert (Bob) Sheats would retire from active duty after thirty years of service on July 1, 1966 having accomplished in one career what most could not over the course of 4 lifetimes. Master Diver Sheats last eval write up that his record found in his record reads as follows:

"SHEATS, Robert Carlton, TMCM, U.S. NAVTORPSTA Keyport, WA.

"SHEATS has a long and varied career in diving with a well rounded background which he puts to use in most cases of diving. This aids in completing diving jobs in minimum times. His long career has made him set in his ways and sometimes his methods of sternness may be construed as belligerency towards his superiors but it is believed that his interests are for the good of the diving navy. During the last three months SHEATS has been assigned TAD with SEALAB II and received the Legion of Merit for his accomplishments. He also received special commendations from the Project Chief and the Navy Commendation Medal for SEALAB I. Because of SHEATS's long career his is extremely effective in all phases of diving and is capable of leading any team of divers on any assignment. He is demanding but gets the most out of his men."

Bob Sheats would continue to serve as a consultant in the Washington State area until he passed on March 9, 1995. His family still lives in the area.

Note: To read more about Master Diver Sheats POW experience, check out "One man's war: Diving as a guest of the Emperor, 1942" by Robert Sheats. I would personally call this required reading for all Navy Divers.

Attachments: Apologize for the small size of some of them. It seems Master Diver Sheats didn't exactly seek out cameras to get his photo taken. :)


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

** Diving History -- Torpedo Town U.S.A.....Whales.....and Sheats (Part I) **


Navy Diving traces its roots back to the late 1800s as a collateral duty for Gunners Mates. This was mostly to support the recovery and development/testing of a new weapon of naval warfare known as the torpedo. Back then divers were simply instructed in things like how to dress out and hand crank an air pump as the program was in its infancy (any sort of diving science didn't exist). In these very early years of development the Navy's diving community mirrored that of the torpedo in many ways. This article will discuss a bit about both with focus on the Keyport, WA area. If you have ever been involved in diving in any way, shape or form and get the opportunity to visit this area; you will find some of the richest diving history out there - even if you were to exclude the undersea museum.

In the late 1800s the Navy was developing a weapon that would revolutionize warfare called the torpedo (then called a mine). As with any warfare device, it required extensive development and testing. Testing would be conducted at a controlled underwater range and test torpedoes would need to be recovered to see what went right and wrong with them; this signaled the Navy's first need for a diver. The Navy's first torpedo range was established in Newport, Rhode Island in late 1869. Soon there after, the Navy established its first diving school under Chief Gunners Mate Jacob Anderson to recover torpedoes in 1882. At the turn of the century, high demand for the torpedo and difficulty in getting them to the west coast showed need for a west coast torpedo station. In 1908 a special task force of officers was sent to the west coast to scout for a clear water site that had sandy bottoms, little tide and depths between 30 and 60 feet. This task force would search areas such as San Diego, Los Angeles, Tacoma and British Columbia. In 1913 the Navy would settle on a little populated peninsula that had recently been named Keyport, WA. The few Keyport land owners that existed did not want to sell to the Navy - for any price. Once condemnation proceedings were complete; each land owner was given a share of a $60,850 pot of money. The Pacific Coast Torpedo Station (PCTS) would be officially commissioned on November 11, 1914 although the base remained to be built. Building #1 would be completed in 1916 and base construction would quickly move forward from there.

The sixth building to be constructed was the base chapel but would not remain as such for long; it would be converted to the Diving Locker after a few years - no I'm not kidding. This coupled with a chamber room addition is what you see today. In 1919 Keyport would hold its first diving class (8-9 enlisted) under Chief Mickey Nolan. Again, in these early years of diving there were no safety procedures like we have today. It was common practice for divers to complete their job, fully inflate their suit and jet to the surface. This stopped after a few years of "strange unknown sickness" occurring in divers (likely the bends or a gas embolism). Initially there was no chamber in Keyport with the closest one being in British Columbia. Because time was at a premium to treat diving illness, those afflicted would usually be suited up and lowered into the deepest possible area, usually off Seattle (200fsw). The Keyport area would not have a chamber until one was built for them in the 1930s. This chamber was constructed at the Norfolk Navy Yard and is said to contain over 600 rivets - easy to believe for its sheer size (it has been nicknamed "The Whale"). The truly unique thing about this chamber is it is still in use today making it far and away the oldest certified recompression facility in the military and certainly one of the oldest active in the world. Testing and retrieving torpedoes was very different in the 1940s than it is today. Back then, torpedo speed and depth measurements were made by a visual system consisting of barges set at each 1000 yard range. Observers on the barges would time the torpedoes as they passed to access speed. Originally, a rough visual estimate was used to determine the torpedoes depth and eventual recovery location. Later depth was determined with the use of nets placed on the range; the hole the torpedo made as they passed through would show its depth for a given distance. Recovery location was solved by placing smoke pots in the torpedo. When it sank, the smoke pot would send up a stream of bubbles to the surface making location much easier for Navy Divers.

Part II of this article will focus on one of the many outstanding Navy Divers who served many years at the Keyport Dive Locker - TMCM(MDV) Robert (Bob) Sheats. His career is as impressive and varied as any in Navy history. Any write-up that showcases the history of the Keyport Diving program would simply be incomplete without including him. Below is a hyperlink that has a great detailed write-up about the development of what would be nicknamed "Torpedo Town, U.S.A." The first hyperlink is Chapter 6 which showcases its diving program - you will see a few old black and whites that include a short write up about Master Diver Sheats -- call it a sneak preview. The second hyperlink contains all chapters of the article.

Note: Earlier in this article, the Naval Undersea Museum (located at the Keyport Navy Base) was mentioned. If you are ever in the area, it is not to be missed. It contains diving displays such as the Trieste, the end bell of SEALAB II, diving equipment from its inception to present, torpedo and submarine exhibits to name just a few. Below is a hyperlink to the Undersea Museums website.


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

** Diving History -- John Scott Haldane "Father of Modern Decompression"....and a bunch of other stuff **

** Diving History -- John Scott Haldane "Father of Modern Decompression".....and a bunch of other stuff **

In 1905 shortly after the publication of the first dive manual, British admiralty adopted decompression procedures to depths of up to 180fsw based on British Professor John Scott Haldane's staged decompression theory. Haldane's staged decompression model had a diver leave bottom at a relatively fast rate followed by decompression stops at shallower depths. This was in sharp contrast to continuous-ascent (liner) decompression procedures developed by French physiologist Paul Bert that was being used at that time. Bert's liner decompression model usually recommended a slow but continuous ascent in the area of 3 feet per minute. The problem with liner decompression vs. staged is the very slow/continuous ascent rate which allows the diver to still on-gas while at the deeper depths. While liner decompression works well for saturation type diving (because you cannot possibly on-gas are saturated), it posed serious problems for non-saturation type diving.

The U.S. was slow to adopt Professor Haldane's stage decompression procedure, but had great interest. In 1912, George D. Stillson set up a program to test Haldane's diving tables and methods of stage decompression in the Long Island Sound. Prior to these tests, Navy Divers rarely went deeper than 60 fsw. Throughout a three-year period, first diving in tanks ashore and then in open water from the USS WALKE (DD 34), Navy Divers went progressively deeper, eventually reaching 274 fsw (all on air). Before this the believed safe diving limit was 120 feet but these experiments pushed that limit to around 200 feet. Mixed gas diving would not be discovered for another 27 years but would push this depth limitation well beyond that of air.

Haldane's original staged decompression model recommended ascent rates between 5 and 30 feet per minute dependant upon depth. This was later modified to a rate of 25fpm which remained in effect from 1920-1957. Then in 1958, while revising the U.S. Navy Diving Manual, this rate of ascent came under review. Commander Fane of the U.S. Navy West Coast Underwater Demolition Team wanted rates for his frogmen of 100 feet per minute or faster. The hardhat divers, on the other hand, considered this impractical for the heavily suited divers who were used to coming up a line slowly (usually 10 feet per minute). Thus, a compromise was reached at 60 feet per minute, which was also a convenient 1 foot per second for time/record keeping. This 60 feet per minute rate lasted in the Navy from 1957 until 1993, based on this purely empirical decision, with many recreational diving tables and even early computers following suit. In recent years the ascent rate has been slowed to 30 feet per minute as research has shown this rate helped to better guard against illnesses associated with diving such as decompression sickness and gas seems Mr. Haldane had it pretty close to start with.

Haldane's basic staged decompression model formed the basis for what all divers (military and civilian) use world wide for non-saturation type diving. Bert's liner decompression procedure became and remains the basis for saturation type diving decompression.

A few other notable FAQ about John Scott Haldane:

1. He was heavily involved in experiments involving the effects of certain gases on the body. One of these gases; Carbon Monoxide affected not only divers but miners and other workers. He was the first to research the effects of CO on the body by breathing it in himself until it saturated his blood, nearly costing him his life. "At the end I could hardly stand and could not walk alone without falling down" he noted. His research revealed the mechanics behind CO poisoning which became known and "the Haldane effect".

2. During the First World War (1914-18) Haldane was asked to identify the type of gas that the Germans had used in the first gas attack of the war. Haldane found it was chlorine. In order to protect the soldiers, Haldane designed the first gas masks, which proved better than the urine-soaked handkerchiefs that the soldiers had used at first. Haldane also demonstrated the value of oxygen in treating soldiers when they were gassed.

3. He introduced the use of small animals for miners to detect dangerous levels poison gases underground, using either mice or canaries. The reason for this (aside from their portability) was that they have a faster metabolism. This faster metabolism causes them to show symptoms of poisoning before gas levels became critical for workers, giving an early warning sign. The use of canaries was used until 1986 when the method was replaced by the electronic gas detector.

4. Haldane led an expedition to Pikes Peak in 1913 to examine the effects of low atmospheric pressure on respiration. His work here also revealed that decompression sickness was not limited only to divers and miners. He also discovered that the respiratory reflex is triggered by an excess of carbon dioxide in the blood rather than a lack of oxygen.

5. Like his experiments involving Carbon Monoxide, Haldane would routinely experiment with toxic and non-toxic gases on his own body. Despite all the benefits these experiments would yield, years of doing them would eventually take its toll on his lungs. John S. Haldane would die of Pneumonia in 1936 and is still remembered as the father of modern decompression theory.

Note: To learn more about John Scott Haldane and his work check out "Suffer and Survive: The Extreme Life of JS Haldane" by Martin Goodman.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

** This Day in Diving History -- 15 October 2001 -- Diving operations begin on the Ehime Maru **

February 9, 2001 -- 13:43......about 9 nautical miles off the south coast of Oahu, Hawaii; while conducting an emergency surfacing maneuver, the USS GREENVILLE (SSN-772) collided with the Ehime Maru Japanese fishing vessel. This was part of a demonstration for some civilian visitors, onboard USS GREENVILLE. As the submarine surfaced, it struck Ehime Maru, slicing her hull wide open from starboard to port. Within minutes of the collision, Ehime Maru quickly sank and hit the bottom at 2,000 fsw. A total of 35 people were on board Ehime Maru; 20 crewmembers, 13 students and two teachers. Coast Guard vessels quickly responded and rescued 26 crewmembers. These crewmembers were taken to Oahu for immediate medical treatment, but the remaining nine crewmembers remained missing.
On 16 February 2001, the Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV) and Submarine Development Squadron 5 (SUBDEVRON 5), using the Scorpio remotely piloted underwater vehicle (ROV), located Ehime Maru in 2,000 feet of water. After assessing the technical feasibility and environmental impact of raising Ehime Maru from the ocean bottom, the U.S. government decided to proceed with its recovery. The decision was made not to raise Ehime Maru all the way to the surface but to lift and carry it underwater to a shallow location (115 ft) one mile away from Oahu. Once there, Navy Divers could enter the ship, on 15 October 2001 they did just that. Divers were tasked with five specific mission objectives:
1. Recovery of the 9 mission crewmembers
2. Collection of personal effects

3. Recovery of unique shipboard items
4. Performing hazardous liquids and material removal
5. Rigging the ship for movement to the final relocation site after 1-4 was complete

In order to accomplish this volume of work in a timely manner, divers ran two deep sea dive stations simultaneously. Inside the ship there was sharp metal, destroyed bulkheads, fuel, wire and debris fouling any sort of passage. Despite this and low-to zero visibility, divers located and recovered eight of the nine missing crew members. In the course of searching four of her decks, they also cleared 120 compartments recovering over 2,500 personal and unique shipboard items. A technique called a "hot-tap" was used to drain the ships fuel tanks completely of 45,000 gallons of lube oil and diesel fuel. This prevented any loss of hazardous pollutants to the environment. An estimated two tons of debris would be removed by divers in order to rig the Ehime Maru prior to moving her back out to her final deepwater resting place. After the recovery was complete, on 25 November, Ehime Maru was lifted, towed back out to sea, suspended about 90 feet below the towing barge, and scuttled in over 6,000 feet of water 12 nautical miles south of Oahu where she rests today.
All in all Navy Divers conducted over 650 dives during the course of 29 days. This operation not only gave closure to families and recovered sensitive items but it also only helped avoid future ecological damage due to the fuel. The use of military assets to complete this also went a very long way in public support and U.S./Japanese relations in that it showed genuine concern vice simply throwing money at the problem.


Bob Barth - Lowell Thomas Award

For those of you that know Bob and his tendency to be humble............ He was invited to New York by the National Explorers Club to be presented tomorrow with the Lowell Thomas Award for and exceptional live of exploration under the oceans of the world. Bob is not going to be attending. He will however still be the recipient of the prestigious award. We have attached a copy of the video they will be showing at the presentation.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This Day in Navy History -- The Navy's 234th Birthday

The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental Navy, which the Continental Congress established on 13 October 1775, by authorizing the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatch of two armed vessels to cruise in search of munitions ships supplying the British Army in America. The legislation also established a Naval Committee to supervise the work. All together, the Continental Navy numbered some fifty ships over the course of the war, with approximately twenty warships active at its maximum strength.

After the American War for Independence, Congress sold the surviving ships of the Continental Navy and released the seamen and officers. The Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1789, empowered Congress "to provide and maintain a navy." Acting on this authority, Congress ordered the construction and manning of six frigates in 1794, and the War Department administered naval affairs from that year until Congress established the Department of the Navy on 30 April 1798. The Navy would continue to expand and challenge other countries for sea dominance up to World War II. During WWII, the United States become by far the largest Naval power in the world, with over 70% of the world's total numbers and total tonnage of naval vessels of 1,000 tons or greater. Throughout the rest of the 20th century, the United States Navy would maintain a tonnage greater than that of the next 17 largest navies combined.

The Navy's original six frigates were:
1) USS UNITED STATES - Launched on 10 May 1797; decommissioned and placed in reserves in 1849 at Norfolk, Virginia. While in lay-up she was seized and commissioned into the Confederate States Navy, which later scuttled the ship.

2) USS CONSTELLATION - Launched on 7 September 1797. In February 1800, Constellation fought the French frigate La Vengeance and won the first major victory by an American-designed and built warship. After she was struck from service Some timbers were re-used in the building of the second ship to bear the name USS CONSTELLATION.

3) USS CONSTITUTION - Launched on 21 October 1797 and remains the oldest commissioned vessel afloat in the world. The word "afloat" is important because as the HMS Victory lays claim to being the oldest commissioned vessel in the world, she is not seaworthy. Nicknamed "Old Ironsides" because cannonballs of the day could not penetrate her tough oak sides. Today she is still berthed at Charlestown Navy Yard, in Boston, Massachusetts where visitors tour her daily.

4) USS CHESAPEAKE - Launched on 2 December 1799. Served with distinction until 1 June 1813 when she was captured by HMS Shannon and taken into Royal Navy service.

5) USS CONGRESS - Launched on 15 August 1799. During the War of 1812, she captured or assisted in the capture of twenty British merchant ships. Put in reserve in 1813 and served the remainder of her career as a classroom and training ship.

6) USS PRESIDENT - launched on 10 April 1800. In September 1813, USS PRESIDENT captured the schooner HMS Highflyer. Soon thereafter she herself was captured in January 1815 by a Royal Navy squadron. Re-Commissioned as HMS President, she was broken up at Portsmouth, England in 1818.

Characteristics of the original USS CONSTELLATION:

44-gun Frigate with 2,200 tons displacement. Propulsion was by sail (three masts) that could reach a top speed of 13 knots. She berthed 450 officers/enlisted including 55 Marines and 30 boys.

Characteristics of the new Gerald R. Ford class aircraft carriers:
101,600 tons displacement. Propulsion - nuclear (2 reactors) that can reach a top speed of 30+ knots. She will berth 4,660 personnel will come equipped with surface to air missiles, close in weapons systems and will carry more than 75 aircraft.

For those about to rock.....


Friday, October 9, 2009

**This Day in Diving History -- October 12, 2000 -- USS COLE (DDG-67) Terrorist Attack**

**This Day in Diving History -- October 12, 2000 -- USS COLE (DDG-67) Terrorist Attack**
Eleven months before the events of September 11, the USS COLE (DDG-67), was on deployment enroute to Bahrain. In need of fuel, the Arleigh-Burke class destroyer entered the harbor of Aden, Yemen for a scheduled refueling. After the mooring of the ship to a buoy, the refueling operation began. Approximately 45 minutes into the refueling (11:18 a.m.), terrorists detonated a small boat packed with explosives on the port side of the ship. The explosion ripped a 1,600 square foot hole in her hull, killed 17 Sailors and left 39 wounded.

In the aftermath of the explosion, the crew of the COLE fought tirelessly to free sailors trapped by the twisted wreckage and limit flooding that threatened to sink their ship. The crew's prompt actions to isolate damaged electrical systems and contain fuel oil ruptures prevented catastrophic fires that could have engulfed the ship and cost the lives of others. Skillful first aid applied by the crew prevented additional deaths and eased the suffering of many others. The crew conducted more than 96 hours of sustained damage control in conditions of extreme heat and stress. Deprived of sleep, food and shelter, they vigilantly battled to save the ship and restore stability to vital engineering systems. This superhuman effort kept the ship afloat although it remained highly unstable. During these efforts, initial hull searches for additional explosive devices on her were carried out by EOD that were deployed in the area. As these initial searches were being conducted, a detachment of Navy Divers was brought on scene and tasked with locating the missing Sailors, ship stabilization, evidence recovery, structural inspections and assistance in loading her on a heavy transport ship that would eventually bring her home.

The first challenge would be to stabilize the ship. The COLE was listing to port, had no electrical power and was still flooding in several compartments. To do this, a surface supplied diving system was set up onboard the COLE which would allow divers to route through multiple decks and compartments for extended periods of time. Diving in enclosed spaces is dangerous enough; adding to this would be diving in a medium of both water and fuel, around shattered bulkheads, buckled decks and a spider web of broken pipes and wires – all in zero visibility with water and air temperatures ranging from 90 to 110 degrees. Once setup was complete, Navy Divers were able to systematically identify, isolate and effectively stop remaining flooding into the ship. In process they recovered several bodies of fallen crew members and successfully stabilized the ship. Once these immediate stability concerns were met, Navy Divers moved to the blast area itself in order to inspect the area, gather evidence and recover remaining crewmember remains.

The blast area on the ship was nothing less than devastating. Noticeable to the world was the immense opening in the hull. Even more disturbing was the level of damage inside the ship. Divers had to be even more careful in this area to ensure they did not cut themselves or their equipment on countless shards of metal. Slowly and methodically, they inspected every inch of the blast area. Through these continued efforts, evidence was gathered about the explosion for investigators and all of the missing COLE Sailors were recovered. These sailors were given full military honors as they were escorted off the ship to begin their long and final journey home.

With the recovery phase completed, inspection dives were conducted so that naval engineers could determine how much of the COLE's structural strength had been lost. The Blue Marlin, a 700-foot-long Norwegian heavy-lift transport ship, was contracted to return the COLE back to the United States. To accommodate the COLE, the Blue Marlin was fitted with special docking blocks that would hold her in the most stable position for the long voyage. The fleet ocean tug USNS Catawba towed the COLE out to deeper waters approximately 23 miles off the coast of Yemen on 29 October. Loading the COLE onto the Blue Marlin required calm seas and a water depth of at least 75 feet. The Blue Marlin partially submerged as tugs maneuvered the COLE into position over the transport's deck. Navy Divers then guided the damaged destroyer into position as the Blue Marlin raised up in the water to meet the ship. The entire docking evolution took almost 24 hours to complete. The Blue Marlin, with the COLE securely held on her deck, began the transit back to the United States.
USS COLE was off-loaded Dec. 13, 2000, in a pre-dredged deep-water facility at the shipyard of Northrop Grumman Ship Systems. After a successful 14-month effort to repair the damage, USS COLE returned to Naval Station Norfolk on April 25, 2002. She would deploy to the Middle East for the first time since the bombing in June 2006. While passing the port city of Aden the crew manned the rails to honor the crewmembers killed in the bombing.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is alleged to be the mastermind of the USS COLE bombing and other terrorist attacks, who headed al-Qaeda operations in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf states prior to his capture in November 2002 by the CIA. He is currently in American military custody in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. In December 2008, he was charged before a Guantanamo Military Commission. The charges were dropped in February 2009 pending the Obama administration's review of all Guantánamo detentions, but may be refiled.


Monday, October 5, 2009

**This Day in Diving History -- MDSU TWO and SWRMC's Birthday**

**This Day in Diving History October 1, 1966/1986 -- MDSU TWO and SWRMC's Birthday **

Today marks the Birthday of two of Navy Divings major commands, MDSU TWO and SWRMC.


October 1, 1966 Harbor Clearance Unit TWO commissioned at the Navy Amphibious Base Little Creek, VA.
Patterned after World War II mobile salvage units, HCU TWO consolidated the diving resources of the Atlantic fleet in direct support of combat operations through the clearance of harbors and waterways during the Vietnam War. Along with her sister command (HCU 1), HCU 2 salvaged hundreds of small craft, barges, and downed aircraft; refloated many stranded U. S. Military and merchant vessels; cleared obstructed piers, shipping channels, and bridges; and performed numerous underwater repairs to ships operating in the combat zone.

The command officially became Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit TWO in February of 1982, reflecting the new focus on salvage operations and specialized diving missions. Over the years, MDSU TWO earned the title of "Experts in Salvage" through participation in numerous salvage/recovery operations, harbor clearance, humanitarian operations and battle damage assessment and repair.

The heavy salvage capabilities of MDSU TWO have been demonstrated during such salvage operations as; TWA 800, Swiss Air Flight 111, Space Shuttles Challenger and Columbia and the salvage of USS MONITOR's steam engine, turret, eleven-inch Dahlgren guns and crew remains. MDSU TWO has been involved in quick response battle damage assessment and repair on such vessels as: USS La MOURE COUNTY (LST 1194) and USS COLE (DDG 67). They have also been involved in many humanitarian missions such as Minneapolis Minnesota bridge collapse and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Contributions during the GWOT have included emergent taskings such as the salvage of a SH-60 helicopter in 270 feet of water in the Red Sea and deployments to the Persian Gulf for Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM.

MDSU TWO continues to support current and future fleet requirements. The command supports five Mobile Diving and Salvage Detachments (MDSDs), an Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) Detachment and a Side Scan Sonar team as well as one shore detachment in Norfolk, Virginia. Detachments are trained and equipped with fly-away diving systems and recompression chambers to support the Atlantic Fleet with combat salvage, expeditionary harbor clearance and homeland defense operations.


In 1979 COMNAVSURFPAC created a San Diego based Diver Consolidation plan as a pilot program to determine if consolidation of Navy Divers would better effect utilization of diving assets and increase cost savings to the fleet. The first year of the program turned out to be a success and in August of 1980, the unit officially was commissioned as Harbor Clearance Unit One Detachment (HCU ONE DET). The Unit's name was later changed to Mobile Diving and Salvage Unit One Detachment (MDSU ONE DET), when HCU-1 in Hawaii changed its name to MDSU ONE. This should not to be confused with the current MDSU ONE Det ONE Detachment currently in San Diego that would not be reestablished until years later when the Navy saw a need for an asset focused on Salvage/Harbor Clearance on the west coast of the U.S.

The combination of man power and technical expertise at MDSU ONE DET resulted in the development of underwater work procedures for different jobs and classes of ships focusing on UWSH procedures but including some Salvage as well. In addition, MOBDIVSALU ONE DET personnel conducted training aimed at the certification of the Navy's first underwater welders. On October 1, 1986 MOBDIVSALU ONE DET was officially renamed Consolidated Divers Unit (CDU). The command's focus became underwater ships husbandry with the transfer of the salvage portion of the command's mission to MDSU ONE in Hawaii. CDU was again renamed the South West Regional Maintenance Center (SWRMC) Dive Locker on May 22, 2002 and remains one of the Navy's premier underwater ships husbandry assets. Since its inception SWRMC has completed underwater repairs on ships and submarines from bow to stern. They operate not only in the southern California area, but can also conduct fly-away emergent ship/sub repairs. SWRMC also serves at the southwest regions emergent hyperbaric medical facility for all branches of the military. These operations expedite getting the Navy's sea assets back at sea, saving the Navy countless dollars and time in dry-docking costs.

Note: Anyone who has ever walked through the SWRMC Dive Locker has seen the life-sized statue of a diver in full gear, riding atop a 14 foot shark holding its dorsal fin and pointing forward with his other hand. While many have seen this statue, few know the history behind it. The statue was constructed at the Underwater Swim School in Key West, FL by Chief Yeoman Dow Byers. YNC Byers was a UDT Diver who served as an instructor and worked in the carpentry shop. In 1964, he came up with the idea to make a life-sized statue of the school-house's logo - a diver riding a shark. The shark was designed bearing the characteristics of a few sharks; the fine-tooth, mako, sand and nurse shark - and is a female. To create the shark, he shaped pieces of white pine into a skeleton and covered it with fiberglass. The diver was a little trickier. Chief Byers envisioned the diver being tall and thin and searched several dive school classes until settling on one of the instructors to be the model. BM1 Caltenback (a First Class Diver) stood 5'10" and weighed about 150lbs at the time. Byers encased Caltenback in a full body cast from the neck down for four hours during which he protested a great deal and moved not an inch. The result was a life-sized figure of a SCUBA Diver in full gear, astride a 14 foot shark with the words "U.S. Navy School, Underwater Swimmers" in large red letters. Soon after Dow Byers completed the statue, it was displayed at the Monroe County Fair where it won first place ribbons. U.S. Naval School Underwater Swimmers, Key West, Florida, welcomed its first class in 1954 and trained over 6000 divers before officially closing it doors in l973. The statue was then transferred to Navy Dive School, Coronado where it stayed until 1993 when it was transferred once more to CDU (which eventually became SWRMC) where it is proudly displayed to this day.

For more info about the U.S. Naval School Underwater Swimmers, Key West, FL check out


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Capt Maino des Granges, former OIC of NEDU, passed August 19, 2009 at the age of 91.

We are sorry to report that Maino des Granges has passed. He was a retired Navy Captain and in the 1950s he was the OIC of NEDU in the Washington Navy Yard. During his time at NEDU the dive tables that we used for over 50 years were developed. We've attached his obituary.

22Sep09 - As a youth growing up in Southern California, Maino des Granges developed a love of diving, inventing and building.

As a Navy officer and entrepreneur, he used his skills to come up with inventions to assist in diving and construction. As a retiree wanting to improve his golf game, he designed and built a collapsible driving-range cage and putting green in his yard, complete with sand trap.

Capt. des Granges died Aug. 19 after suffering a heart attack while attending a Padres game. He was 91.

Friends and relatives said Capt. des Granges was a quiet, unassuming, self-made man who enjoyed coming up with solutions to problems.

After enlisting in the Navy in 1936, he was selected for appointment to the Naval Academy in 1938. He was among those who graduated early because of World War II.

He graduated from the academy in December 1941 and was assigned to submarine patrol in January 1942. After completing three war patrols, he was able to attend submarine school. "He was pretty sharp," said friend and fellow Navy veteran Charles Bishop. "He was made commanding officer (in 1943) and was one of the youngest at the time."

In the 1950s, Capt. des Granges was officer in charge of the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Washington, D.C. "He developed the Navy's first set of diving tables. ... Everybody that goes diving uses the diving tables he developed," Bishop said, referring to the invention of a handheld wheel computer that was widely used and served as the prototype of many dive computers used today.

Capt. des Granges was a "fearless, remarkable man's man," son-in-law Ned Chambers said. "I think I hit the father-in-law lotto. ... He was the most honorable, phenomenal human being."

Although he was given six months to live after undergoing melanoma surgery several decades ago, Capt. des Granges "just went on with his life and beat it," Chambers said.

He enjoyed tinkering around his home and yard into his late 80s. Chambers remembered getting a call from his mother-in-law several years ago when Capt. des Granges had fallen and dislocated his hip while building a concrete wall in his yard. "The paramedics were there and he was telling them, `Just pull it back in so I can get back to work.' "

"He was his own man," Chambers said, noting that Capt. des Granges' 1963 Plymouth bore a sticker on the front that identified him as a Navy captain, while a rear sticker identified him as a Libertarian.

After retiring from the Navy in 1966, Capt. des Granges became the owner and operator of Superior CATV Construction, a major installer of underground cable. The business had nearly 200 employees at one time and had offices in El Cajon and Huntington Beach. Capt. des Granges was active in the El Cajon Chamber of Commerce until he sold the company in the mid-1980s.

"He was energetic and innovative, and everybody who worked with him just loved him," said Wade Harris, who served under Capt. des Granges when he was division commander and Harris was an executive officer. "He was one of the finest naval officers I ever met. He had a quiet, unassuming personality, but he was outstanding at his job."

Maino des Granges was born Aug. 2, 1918, in Fullerton to Paul and Julia des Granges. He graduated from Fullerton High School.

He married the former Dorothy Beckley in 1942. They settled in San Diego in 1964, when he was stationed as commanding officer of the submarine tender Nereus. He was a member of the Yacht Club and enjoyed playing golf and bridge.

He is survived by his wife, Dorothy, of Point Loma; daughters, Jeanne Vivoli and Anne Chambers of San Diego; son, Paul of Portland, Ore.; four grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by a sister, Pauline des Granges, a former director of the San Diego Park and Recreation Department.

Monday, September 14, 2009

This Day in Diving History -- September 13, 1939 -- USS SQUALUS (SS-192) salvaged

This Day in Diving History -- September 13, 1939 -- USS SQUALUS (SS-192) salvaged.

On 13 September, after long and difficult salvage operations, SQUALUS was raised and towed into the Portsmouth Navy Yard. The boat was formally decommissioned on 15 November, renamed USS SAILFISH, and recommissioned on 15 May 1940. This operation took close to four months to complete, had many firsts and started only two days after the rescue (see This Day in Diving History sent May 21st).

The decision to salvage SQUALUS was made almost immediately. The Navy felt it important to raise SQUALUS as she incorporated a succession of new design features. With a thorough investigation of why she sank, more confidence could be placed in the new construction, or alteration of existing designs could be undertaken. Furthermore, given similar previous accidents, it was necessary to determine a cause.

The salvage operation of the SQUALUS began on May 27, 1939 with the first operational helium-oxygen dive by Chief William Badders and first use of Sur-D procedures off of USS FALCON (ASR-2). This new breathing medium and decompression procedures were critical to the salvage operation due to the depth (240 feet). In the words of Commander Momsen:

"The greatest single development produced on this job was the decompression system. Divers were brought by stages, calculated to be safe, to 50 feet. From this depth they were brought quickly to the surface, undressed and placed in a pressure tank within five minutes after surfacing. There he was fitted with a mask and given pure oxygen for a time sufficient to remove all of the excess gas from his body. Fifty feet of salt water is equivalent to 1-1/2 atmospheres of pressure which added to the atmospheric pressure gives us 2-1/2 absolute. At this pressure the blood stream can handle in physical solution just about the amount of oxygen that is required by the body. Thus the blood stream as transportation is free to carry the greatest amount of the helium away to the lungs. Since the solubility of a gas in a liquid varies as the pressure, at a pressure of less than 2-1/2 atmospheres, the carrying capacity of the blood would be reduced, hence it would take longer to remove the gas."

There were only 2 cases of the bends in the entire job with a total of 628 dives.

Many of the procedures used on previous submarine salvage operations (like the USS SKATE) would be used on the SQUALUS. Lifting pontoons were primarily used, but there are some significant differences that made the SQUALUS operation noteworthy. The salvage plan called for raising SQUALUS with pontoons and her remaining internal buoyancy. To accomplish this, the salvage was planned and conducted in three distinct stages. Unlike previous pontoon salvage operations, control pontoons limited the distance the ship was lifted in any single lift. The reason for this is when pontoons and the vessel's own buoyancy are used, the exact locations of the centers of gravity and buoyancy cannot be determined; thus one end always rises first. If the rise of the upper end is not constrained, a sharp angle will result and air will spill from open bottom ballast tanks. To prevent a sharp angle, SQUALUS would be lifted a short distance, towed submerged to shallow water, and lifted again. To limit the distance the submarine was raised on each lift, the pontoons were arranged at different levels between the surface and the submarine. When the uppermost pontoons reached the surface, their lift would be lost and SQUALUS would hang in midwater, supported by her internal buoyancy and that of the submerged pontoons. The upper pontoons were known as the control pontoons because they controlled the height of the lift (see attached PowerPoint slide). After weeks of grueling work both by divers and topside personnel, all was ready for the first lift. Commander Momsen described what happened:

"At the end of fifty days work, the first lift was attempted. We raised the stern successfully then the bow. The bow came up like a mad tornado, out of control. Pontoons were smashed, hoses cut and I might add hearts were broken. It was the 13th of the month, July. Another 20 days of mopping up was required before we could again rig for another try. The second try was successful."

Pontoons were rerigged for the second lift so that more positive control over the bow was maintained. SQUALUS was raised 70 feet and towed toward Portsmouth until she grounded. The pontoons were rerigged for lifting in the shallower water and she was again lifted successfully and eventually towed to drydock (Sept 15, 1939); 113 days after it sank. The vessel was exactly one year old.

After reconditioning, repair, and overhaul, the submarine was recommissioned and renamed USS SAILFISH (SS-192) on 9 February 1940. Once sea trials were complete, she departed Portsmouth on 16 January 1941 and headed for the Pacific. Transiting the Panama Canal, she refueled at San Diego and arrived at Pearl Harbor in early March. The submarine then sailed west to the Philippines, where she operated out of the Cavite Navy Yard with Submarines, Asiatic Fleet. She was in port when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. SAILFISH conducted 12 patrols and would be awarded nine battle stars for her service in World War II Service. It is especially note-worthy that several of the SQUALUS survivors served aboard SAILFISH during some of these war patrols.
During the Pacific War, the captain of the renamed ship issued standing orders if any man on the boat said the word "Squalus", he was to be marooned at the next port of call. This led to crew members referring to their vessel as "Squailfish". That went over almost as well; a court martial was threatened for anyone heard using it.

President Roosevelt visited during the salvage operations and formally commended the "devotion to duty, courage, skill, initiative, and self sacrifice" of the officers and men who salvaged the sunken submarine. Every Navy Diver who worked on the SQUALUS received an award ranging Congressional Medals of Honor (4), to Navy Crosses (49), to citations from the Secretary of the Navy (4).

1. "Back from the Deep: The Strange Story of the Sister Subs Squalus and Sculpin" by Carl Lavo
2. "Blow All Ballast! The Story of the Squalus" by Nat Barrows
3. "The Terrible Hours: The Greatest Submarine Rescue in History" by Peter Maas

Note: SQUALUS/SAILFISH's conning tower stands today as a memorial to the lost crew of the USS SQUALUS at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.


Friday, September 11, 2009

This Day in American History -- September 11, 2001

There is a "This Day in Diving History" email set to be sent today. It would be inappropriate to do so on a day that we should all be in remembrance of one event and one event alone....instead it will be sent on Monday. Doing a complete write-up of what happened 8 short years ago would be redundant for those that receive these emails. As soldiers and sailors in the world's greatest military, we have the events of that day firmly branded into our memories. Instead, here are some numbers that came as a result of 9/11:

1) Total number killed in attacks: 2,993. A little perspective here: This number is higher than the combined total of Navy Divers, EOD Techs and Special Warfare Combatant Crewmen (SWCC) personnel currently serving on active duty.

2) Number of firefighters/paramedics and police officers killed: 403

3) Number of U.S. casualties ISO the GWOT (as of June 24, 2009): 4,316

4) Number of nations whose citizens were killed in attacks: 115 (there are 195 total countries in the world today)

5) Bodies found "intact": 289

6) Body parts found: 19,858

7) Number of families who got no remains: 1,717

8) Estimated number of children who lost a parent: 3,051

9) Percentage of Americans who knew someone hurt or killed in the attacks: 20

10) Tons of debris removed from site: 1,506,124. This number is far higher than the combined dead weight of every aircraft carrier currently commissioned in the Navy.

11) Days fires continued to burn after the attack: 99

12) Estimated cost of cleanup: $600 million

13) Terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9/11: 0

In an age were second guessing has become second nature especially in the media and political realm, today should reinforce why we serve and sacrifice. In the words of Father Dennis O'Brien, US Marine Corp. Chaplain:

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, who has given us the freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, who gives us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protester to burn the flag."


"America will never run... And we will always be grateful that liberty has found such brave defenders."
George W. Bush
Official Navy Photo: September 13, 2001 from the deck of the USNS Comfort

Photographer: HMC (SEL) (DV/PJ/FMF) Michael S. Duff

Thursday, September 10, 2009

This Day in Diving History -- 29 August 1915 -- USS SKATE raised (late entry)

This Day in Diving History -- 29 August 1915 -- USS SKATE (F-4) raised.

The Navy's first deep-sea submarine salvage was of the USS SKATE (F-4), which was lost in approximately 51 fathoms (306 feet) while making a short submerged run off the island of Oahu, Hawaii, in March 1915. This was the Navy's first loss of submarine and crew.

The F-4 had a length of 142 feet, with a submerged displacement of 400 tons and a designed depth of 200 feet. After the accident, an oil slick and air bubbles about 2 miles from the harbor entrance lead to dragging operations that positively located the boat; there were no apparent signs of life. The submarine lay far deeper than any divers had ever descended with existing equipment and methods. In and effort to reach the boat on the day of the loss; two Navy Divers dove to a depth of 190 and 215 feet, but neither reached or sighted the vessel. The only chance of saving any possible survivors was to drag the boat into shallow water because no lifting gear could be made and rigged in the time available. Dragging would work only if the boat was not completely flooded. Sweeps were made by the NAVAJO and INTREPID to pass a wire rope around the hull and drag it into shallow water. An attempt at this was made the following day, but the boat could not be moved. Rescuing the crew appeared hopeless but one more attempt was warranted. A dredge was brought to the scene; if a portion of the submarine remained unflooded and buoyant, there was a possibility of moving the boat into shallow water by heaving with the dredge and towing with tugs. No progress could be made (one of the wires parted at its maximum load). This answered the question whether the F-4 was filled with water -- it was, and rescue effort was regretfully concluded.

Because the F-4 was the Navy's first submarine loss, there was an intense desire within the Navy to determine the cause of the casualty. There was also a huge public outcry for the recovery of the bodies of the crew. Naval Constructor LCDR Julius Furer, who was in Hawaii for the construction of the new Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, was placed in charge of the technical side of salvage. After evaluation the situation and consultation with Navy Salvors, it was determined that multiple short lifts and tows were the only feasible way of raising the boat. Faced with a lack of specialized equipment for the job and a base under construction in Hawaii; Salvors were forced to do what they do best - improvise with what was on hand to get the job done. Two sturdily constructed 104x36 foot barges belonging to a local construction company had the strength to support the downed submarine. A lifting system was built using I-beams planned for a coal storage facility, sugar mill shafts were used as windlasses along with miscellaneous machinery that was either available or made for the job.

Knowing that the positions of the lift slings would be crucial to the success of the salvage and that their positions could only be verified visually, five of the Navy's top Divers were ordered in from the Navy Yard. At the time the Navy Yard was responsible for the test and review of all diving equipment and techniques. These divers were Gunner Stillson, Frank Crilley, Stephen Drellishak, Frederick Nilson and William Loughman. Chief Crilley made the first dive just two days after arrival. He reached the F-4, more than 300 feet down, and reported that the boat was upright but the slings would have to be moved. The difficulty of working at this depth cannot be overstated. Keep in mind that all of these dives were conducted with air -- breathing HE02 had not been discovered yet. The futility of attempting to work at these depths was demonstrated when a diver remained on the bottom for thirty minutes trying to pass a small reeving line. He was unaware of fatigue on the bottom, but collapsed from exhaustion on the surface and did not regain strength for several days. In another instance Chief Loughman became entangled in a steel hawser at a depth of 250 feet down breaking his hip in process. Loughman fell unconscious and GMC Frank W. Crilley dove in after him, disregarding personal safety. He found Loughman and worked for an hour and a half to free him. For his heroism, Crilley became the first Navy Diver to be awarded the Medal of Honor on February 15, 1929. For more info on this heroic rescue see the "This Day in Diving History" email sent April 17.

After multiple lifts over the course of months the submarine had been moved to 48 feet of water by June. The problem was now how to move her in one lift through Honolulu Harbor with out breaking the sub up which would totally block the harbor. It also had to achieve a depth of 25 feet or less to fit into existing drydocks. In order to accomplish this, Salvors developed what would be known as the submarine pontoon salvage method. To do this, chains were moved under the boat and attached to huge pontoons that were built for this operation. These pontoons were 32 feet long with a lifting capacity of 420 tons and were built with wooden sheething all around to prevent impact, chaffing, or puncture to the hull due to frequent contact. On 29 August, the pontoons were blown dry, the submarine was towed into the harbor and placed in drydock. It was immediately discovered that the cause of the accident was leakage through rivet holes where the rivets had been eaten away by battery acid. This resulted in immediate design changes to all U.S. Navy Submarines.

The methods, lessons learned, and equipment employed in this operation would be used during the raising of the USS SQUALUS (SS-192) years later.

Note: For more reading about this historic salvage operation check out the following hyperlink to UnderSea Warfare Magazine


Monday, August 31, 2009

This Week in Diving History -- August 28, 1965 -- SEALAB II

** This Week in Diving History -- August 28, 1965 -- SEALAB II leaves surface **

On August 28, 1965, the first of three teams of divers moved into what became known as the "Tilton Hilton" (because of the slope of the landing site) also known as SEALAB II. This first day of the operation happened to be one of the divers involved birthday; Bob Barth, who turns 79 today-Happy Birthday Bob!

SEALAB II rested at a depth of 205 ft 65 miles off the coast of LaJolla, CA. Whereas SEALAB I tested and proved the concept of saturation diving, SEALAB II provided evidence that useful work could be done. The Navy conducted physiological and psychological studies to determine man's effectiveness underwater for an extended period. Navy Divers not only evaluated the structural engineering of the habitat. They did things like working on a mock-up of a submarine hull, tested undersea tools, conducted salvage ops using syntactic foam; they set up a weather station, mined ore samples, experimented with plants, and studied ocean floor geology just to name a few things. They also experimented with a trained porpoise named Tuffy from the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program, to do courier work between the habitat and the surface.

Each team spent 15 days in the habitat, but aquanaut/astronaut Scott Carpenter remained below for a record 30 days. During that time, he was able to speak with astronaut Gordon Cooper who was in the Gemini space capsule, orbiting the Earth. Also a congratulatory telephone call was arranged between President Lyndon B. Johnson and Scott Carpenter while he was still under pressure. The fact that Carpenter was breathing Helium-Oxygen made him sound unintelligible to operators. Much was learned about working in the ocean and contributions were made to a large number of undersea science and engineering disciplines. SEALAB II was no doubt a success and represented another large step forward in enabling human beings to live and work in a hostile environment. SEALAB II was designed, built, and outfitted at Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco at a cost of $850,000. It was designed to house ten men at a depth of 200 feet for 30 days. The habitat was 50' long and 12' in diameter, and included four separate areas: entry, laboratory, galley, and living spaces. Entry while on the ocean floor was from below the habitat, with divers emerging into the pressurized habitat through an open moon pool.

Construction of SEALAB II's cylinder end bell used technology ahead of its time. The large dish-shaped cap was formed from a sheet of one-inch thick flat steel placed over a die. In order to shape it, one hundred pounds of C-4 plastic explosive were distributed on the side of the blank opposite the die. The whole package-die, blank, and charge, weighing 60 tons total-was lowered 30 feet beneath the surface of San Francisco Bay where the explosive was detonated. In approximately .004 seconds the end bell was formed. Explosive metal shaping on this scale had never been attempted before. If you would like to see this end bell, visit the Naval Undersea Museum in Keyport, WA.

Note: This photo entitled "Bob-Barth-Scott-Carpenter-Sealab.jpg"; is a picture taken at the dive station on the support barge of Sealab Two, Bob Barth is shaking Wilbur Eaton's hand as he and Scott Carpenter are making ready to swim down to the house (they were the first two to leave surface).


Friday, August 21, 2009

Diving History -- Diving on the Silver Screen

Diving History -- Diving in the Movies.

The idea of diving into an unknown potentially dangerous environment has long appealed to writers in Hollywood. The recent movie Men of Honor is very familiar to everyone in the diving community. The following are a few other notable movies that come to mind:

James Bond: Ian Fleming's fictional MI6 agent James Bond had several movies that involved diving. Two of the most diving intensive ones were:
-Thunder ball (1965). During an underwater battle with SPECTRE (the movies bad guys), Bond is rescued by a military unit who parachutes to the area for underwater battle against the SPECTRE divers. Bond joins the fray, killing them off with high tech submarine weapons, his knife and his hands.
-For Your Eyes Only (1981). 007 goes deep underwater in a mini sub
that he locks out of and has an underwater battle with a bad-guy wearing a JIM one atmosphere diving suit. Bond plants an explosive charge on the back of the suit and manages to escape just in time before it explodes.

John Wayne: The Duke didn't fare to as well as a Diver. He starred in two movies as a Deep Sea Diver and died in both of them.
-Reap the Wild Wind (1942). After a ship goes down at sea, John
Wayne suits up in a deep sea diving rig to confirm if a woman was trapped inside and died. While down in the wreck he discovers proof that she was on board and had drowned. As they are leaving not only does a massive storm
hit but a giant squid attacks his dive buddy (talk about a bad day). John
Wayne could have easily escaped but attacks the squid, saving his dive buddy but sacrifices himself in the process.
-Wake of the Red Witch (1948). While retrieving treasure/gold on a
sunken ship, the ship begins to shift causing debris from the ship to fall all around him. Eventually this debris piles on the Duke, trapping him and leading to his ultimate demise.

Gojira (Godzilla 1954)
-After reaping havoc, death and destruction on Tokyo; Godzilla
returns to Tokyo Bay for a little underwater R&R. After all else fails, the good people of Tokyo turn to the only ones that can save them from the monster -- two hard-hat divers. Both divers descend into Tokyo Bay with an "Oxygen Destroyer Bomb", the ultimate weapon that destroys what else -- oxygen. Once on the bottom, they spot Godzilla resting underwater.
Seemingly unaware of the divers, Godzilla slowly wanders around as the divers activate the Oxygen Destroyer. As one of the divers watches Godzilla dying from the weapon, he cuts his own umbilical and dies with Godzilla, sacrificing himself so that his knowledge of the horrible weapon will not be known to the world. A dying Godzilla surfaces, lets out a final scream, and sinks to the bottom, disintegrating into a skeleton, and then into nothingness.

The Deep (1977)
-Nick Nolte and Jacqueline Bisset play a young couple enjoying a
tropical vacation who discover a glass ampoule while diving off the coast of Bermuda. A treasure hunter identifies the ampoule as part of a valuable shipment of World War II morphine lost at sea, atop the even greater treasure of a sunken Spanish galleon. Thus begins a race for drugs and treasure pitting Nolte and Bisset against a ruthless drug lord (Louis Gossett Jr.) who'll do anything--even resort to Haitian voodoo--to get what he wants. The movie's best known for Bisset's wet T-shirt scuba-dive, but also has some exciting highlights including a moray eel that attacks on cue and... well, uh, Jacqueline Bisset in a wet T-shirt.

Leviathan / Deep Star Six (both 1989)
-Very similar movies released at close to the same time. Both are
basically "Alien" or "The Thing" set in a deep sea underwater habitat.
Basically, divers disturb or discover some sort of creature that wreaks all sorts of havoc on the habitat and its occupants. A daring escape at the end allows the hero and heroine to survive certain death. In one of the movies a diver tries to escape the habitat without decompressing and suffers an extreme case of "the bends" causing his head to bleed until his body eventually totally explodes.. Hoo-Yah.

The Abyss (1989):
Perhaps one of the most technical underwater movies made that used the largest underwater set of any diving movie to date. Most of us know the story, but here are some cool technical details about the making of the film.
1. All of the underwater scenes in the movie were shot in containment tanks at the abandoned Cherokee Nuclear Power Plant in Gaffney, South Carolina, including the largest underwater set in the world at 7 million gallons (60 feet deep, 200 foot diameter). The tank was filled to a depth of 40 feet, but there was still too much light from the surface, so a giant tarp and billions of tiny black plastic beads were floated on the surface to block the light. During a violent storm the tarp was destroyed, thus shifting production to night time.
2. The water for the tank was fed in from nearby lakes and needed large filters to cleanse it and was chlorinated heavily. This caused many of the actor's hair to become green and even white. The huge quantities of the chemical also caused all the large steel underwater movie props to rust, plugging up the filtering system. For financial reasons, the "Deepcore" set was never dismantled. It stands today in the abandoned (and drained) South Carolina nuclear power plant.
3. The masks were specially designed by Bob Kirby of Kirby Morgan to show a full view of the actors' faces, and had microphones fitted so that dialogue spoken at the time by the actors could be used in the film. The noises made by the regulators in the helmets were erased during sound post-production. Because the diving rigs were not fed by umbilicals, all breathing air had to be supplied via backpack assembly. This being the case, free flow helmets would have been far too wasteful so a demand breathing system was incorporated without oral nasal masks (CO2 build-up anyone?). The tank was equipped with an underwater high pressure manifold with whips so four divers at once could fill their backpacks on the bottom without surfacing.
4. Perhaps the most frequently asked question people ask about the film is in regards to the liquid breathing scene. The Navy has experimented with breathing an oxygen-rich liquid (perfluorocarbon), rather than breathing air. Problems with oxygenation, carbon dioxide removal and lung mechanics prevented this from becoming anything other than experimental.
For the movie, five different rats took five different takes for the liquid breathing scene in the movie. What is seen in the film isn't a special effect. The rat really was subjected to the anxiety of being submerged in this liquid, where it panics and struggles and is then pulled out by its tail as it expels the liquid from its lungs. The rat that actually appeared in the film died of "natural causes" a few weeks before the film opened.


What movies get you excited about diving? Comments are welcome!

This Day in Diving History - Treatment Tables 5 and 6 introduced into the U.S. Navy

** This Day in Diving History August 22, 1967 - Treatment Tables 5 and 6 introduced into the U.S. Navy **

The use of oxygen in recompression therapy in the Navy does not go back as far as many believe. In fact, it was not until the 1924 edition of the US Diving Manual that a standard recompression therapy was recommended at all; but these were all air tables. Treatment pressure was based on either the depth of the dive (or a multiple thereof) or the depth of relief, oxygen simply wasn't used back then. It wasn't that no one hadn't thought of using O2 however. The roots of using oxygen as therapy for diving illness can be traced back to Paul Bert's experiments way back in 1870. He first observed that when 100% oxygen on the surface was administered to animals after decompression, some of the signs would resolve. Surprisingly, Bert did not try hyperbaric oxygen, which was first proposed several years later. Initial results were actually disappointing, probably because the therapy was too brief.

In 1939, two US Navy medical officers (Yarbrough and Behnke) first published results of DCS treatment using compressed oxygen, but despite their success, the technique was not initially adopted. Instead for the next 20 years, the US Navy continued to recommend a variety of air tables despite long treatment duration and high failure rates. While these deep air tables provided a higher amount of oxygen, they also caused divers to take up amounts of inert gas in doing so. In the early 1960s, the US Navy instituted another series of investigations into low-pressure oxygen tables. Originally tests used 33 feet as a treatment depth; but due to a high recurrence rate, they were altered to use an initial recompression to 60 feet. This treatment depth not only dramatically improved treatment success, but did so in keeping the risk of oxygen toxicity at an acceptable level - the Navy had found "the sweet spot".

On August 22, 1967, Treatment Tables 5 and 6 were introduced into the U.S. Navy. These treatment tables marked the first time that 100 percent oxygen was used at relatively shallow treatment depths in comparison to the deeper air treatment tables (TT's 1-4). Two additional tables were also introduced (TT-5A and TT-6A) that began with an initial deep short excursion on air followed by treatment profiles identical to tables 5 and 6 (TT-5A was quickly abandoned). Because of the success of low-pressure oxygen treatment of decompression sickness, tables 1-4 are now rarely used. Continued experience with the O2 treatment tables revealed frequent reoccurrences of decompression sickness with the shorter procedures in Tables 5, which now sees limited use for treating diving related illness. TT's 7 and 8 were developed in the 80s to address a longer need for oxygen breathing at 60 feet or deep blow-up respectively; followed by TT-9 in the 90s mostly for non-diving disorders with great success.

Reading: Check out "Diving Medicine" by Alfred A. Bove and Jefferson Davis. This book is commonly referred to as The Bove ('Bo-veigh') and I guarantee that either your friendly neighborhood Master Diver, Diving Medical Officer or Diving Medical Technician has a copy.


Monday, August 17, 2009

Post NEDU SAT Dive

NEDU completed its annual Saturation Dive this past Saturday, August 15th, 2009.
Six divers entered the Ocean Simulation Facility (OSF) on August 12th and were pressed to 165 feet of seawater where they conducted 12 hours of in-water diving.

Upon completion of required work the divers started their three days of decompression.

Saturation diving is a complex method of mixed gas (helium) diving that, in the US Navy, is currently only conducted at NEDU. Divers at NEDU are "locked in" to the OSF for a period of up to 30 days to conduct dives as deep as 1000 feet of seawater.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Diving History -- The Brooklyn Bridge

** Diving History -- The Brooklyn Bridge **

Opening day of Brooklyn Bridge showcased it as a symbol of American ingenuity. Its was the longest suspension bridge in the world and its two towers stood as the tallest structures in New York City and the entire western hemisphere for several years.
Construction began on January 3, 1870 with two granite block Gothic inspired towers to support its massive cables. One tower is located on the Manhattan side, the other on the Brooklyn side of the bridge.
In order to anchor the towers to the East River, they were built atop caissons, which were large wooden boxes with no bottoms. They were towed into position and sunk on the river bottom. Compressed air was then pumped into the chambers to keep water from rushing in, and men inside dug away at the mud and bedrock at the bottom of the river. As the stone towers were built on top of the caissons, the men beneath, dubbed "sand hogs," kept digging ever deeper. Once they reached solid bedrock, the digging would stop, and the caissons were filled with concrete, thus becoming the foundation for the bridge. To expedite the descent of the caissons, dynamite was used for the first time in bridge construction. These workers were paid wages of $2.25 per day.
Work inside the caisson was exceedingly difficult. The atmosphere was always dirty and misty, and as the caisson work occurred before Edison perfected the electric light, meaning the only illumination was provided by gas lamps. The "sand hogs" had to pass through a series of air locks to enter the chamber where they worked. After working long hours, as workers would quickly depressurize themselves through the locks; a strange phenomenon would commonly occur. Upon surfacing, workers would experience painful symptoms in their joints and about their bodies. This would cause them to limp in a manner that appeared similar to the "Grecian bend" (a dance for fashionable ladies of the era). Those affected with this ailment would be chastised by their fellow workers for "doing the Grecian bend". This was later shortened to simply "the bends" and is still used as a description for decompression sickness. Workers affected with the bends would experience some relief of the symptoms when they returned to work under pressure in the caisson the next day - although no one understood why at the time. Dr. Andrew Smith first utilized the term "caisson disease" describing 110 cases of reported decompression sickness (most cases weren't reported) as the physician in charge during construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. The project employed 600 compressed air workers. Recompression treatment was not used as it didn't exist. All in all, the foundations took three years to construct and cost 27 workers their lives.
There were so many occurrences of the disease in the caisson workers, that it caused the halt of construction of the Manhattan side of the tower. This was 30 feet short of bedrock when soil tests underneath the caisson found bedrock to be even deeper than expected. Today, the Manhattan tower rests only on sand in 78 feet of water; the Brooklyn tower sits in bedrock in 44 feet of water.
The Brooklyn Bridge's opening ceremony was attended by several thousand people and many ships were present in the East Bay for the occasion. One week after the opening, a rumor that the Bridge was going to collapse caused a stampede, which crushed and killed twelve people. On May 17, 1884, P. T. Barnum helped to squelch doubts about the bridge's stability-while publicizing his famous circus-when one of his most famous attractions, Jumbo, led a parade of 21 elephants over the Brooklyn Bridge.
Books: To read more about the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, check out "The Great Bridge" by David McCullough.