Thursday, May 28, 2009

Passing into History

Myrtice "Granny Mutt" Christine Squire, 91, passed from the arms of her granddaughters into the loving embrace of Jesus on Sunday, May 24, 2009.

Born September 26, 1917 in Wewahitchka, Granny was a long-time Panama City, Fla. resident of the St Andrews neighborhood. Her memory lives in the countless hearts of family, friends and all of those with whom she shared her life. She is remembered for living a remarkable life filled with sacrifice, compassion, and caring. All of those who knew her were blessed with the gift of her unconditional love.

"Granny' was the widow of Master Diver Squire who was assigned to NEDU and helped in the salvage of the USS Squalus. In September 2007 she donated Squalus newspapers and artifacts to the NEDU library, which are prominently displayed.

Details on MDV Squire and his part in the Squalus rescue are below:

". . .The rescue effort had taken numerous trips
because of the limited space in the diving bell, a steel capsule pressurized
with regulated air, used to transport the men from the sub to the surface.
Other than the numerous but expected problems with heliox, a not fully
tested, deep diving technique using a mixture of oxygen and helium, the
rescue seemed to be coming right along until the last rescue trip was to be
made. A down-haul cable raising the bell from the stricken sub to the USS Falcon, a
submarine rescue and salvage ship, fouled on the winch which prevented the bell from being raised any further from the bottom. The cable was cut, plunging the bell back down to the bottom, but this time to the thick mud, once
again trapping the last nine remaining survivors along with two bell
operators. Because the cable was cut at the surface with over 100 feet of
cable still attached to the rescue bell it was deemed too risky to try and
raise it as is. Someone would have to dive down in the dark, coldwater to
find the bell and cut it free so that a new cable could be attached. Squire
got suited up. After just a few minutes he called back to the surface, asking
for a pair of shears or cable cutters. Relying only on his own strength,he
cut the down-haul cable and freed the bell for recovery. Many photos and
memorabilia were donated to NEDUAugust 23, but the most significant item was
the section ofthe down-haul cable that was cut away, saving the lives of nine

Thursday, May 21, 2009

This Day in Diving History -- 23 May 2009

This Day in Diving History -- 70th anniversary of the sinking of the USS SQUALUS (SS-192)

23 May 1939 -- 70th Anniversary of the sinking of the USS SQUALUS (SS-192)
The rescue and salvage of the USS SQUALUS (SS-192) was and remains the greatest submarine rescue/salvage in naval history world-wide bar none. Not only were 33 people pulled from the clutches of the deep, but several diving platforms/techniques were proven operationally at the great risk of the Navy Divers involved that are still in use today. This was one of Navy Diving's finest hours and each and every Diver should know this story cold.
On March 1, 1939 the Navy commissioned its then-newest submarine, the USS SQUALUS (pronounced "sk-way-lus" not "sk-wall-us"). Named for a small shark with a reputation of "a big bite," she was the pride of the Navy. She was of newer, larger design with state of the art amenities such air conditioning; the SQUALUS had been installed with every safety feature the Navy could think of. Despite these technological advantages, she suffered a catastrophic valve failure during a test dive off the Isle of Shoals at 0740 on Tuesday 23 May 1939. Partially flooded, the submarine sank to the bottom and came to rest keel down in 240 feet of water. SQUALUS was initially located by her sister ship, USS SCULPIN. The two submarines were able to communicate using a telephone marker buoy until the cable parted due to high seas. Navy Divers and salvage ships responded quickly (NEDU happened to be on the pier at Portsmouth, New Hapshire getting ready to do at-sea testing of their new Helium-Oxygen diving tables), getting on station and attaching a downhaul cable (240 fsw on air) to ready the rescue effort. The following day, operations commenced to rescue the surviving 32 crew members and one civilian from the forward sections of the boat. At 1130 on 24 May, USS FALCON (ASR-2) lowered the newly developed McCann rescue chamber -- a revised version of a diving bell invented by Commander Charles B. Momsen -- and, over the next 13 hours, all 33 survivors were rescued from the stricken submarine. There were five total runs in the McCann rescue chamber with Chief Badders and/or PO1 Mihalowski being involved in each run. Each run took between 2-3 hours to complete. The rescues official Navy report stated that:
"These men were fully aware of the great danger involved. If they became incapacitated, there was no way in which they could be rescued, as the chamber could not be entered from the outside. Considering all facts, it is felt that these men accepted the greatest personal risk of any during the entire rescue operations, and performed their duties in accordance with the highest traditions of the service."
The Navy felt it important to raise the 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 started only two days after the successful rescue and had many firsts including the first operational helium-oxygen dive by Chief William Badders on May 27, 1939 and first use of Sur-D procedures. The SQUALUS salvage operation is every bit as impressive in magnitude as the rescue was, but that is another story for another day.
For their actions, the following divers would receive the Medal of Honor;
. MMC(DV) William Badders
. TM1(DV) John Mihalowski
. MEC(DV) James Macdonald
. BMC(DV) Orson Crandall
These would be the only CPOs to receive this honor during the interim years between WWI and WWII.
Note: This historic moment in Navy Diving history has been captured in quite a few books as well as a NBC made for TV movie called "Submerged". Her conning tower serves as a memorial at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. A few notable books are;
1. Blow all Ballast by Nat Barrows
2. Back From the Deep by Carl Lavoe
3. **The Terrible Hours by Peter Maas**
4. The Rescuer also by Peter Maas
5. Lost Subs by Spencer Dunmore

Monday, May 18, 2009

Testing in Antartica

You are 100 feet down using scuba, with your dive light spotlighting the most exotic looking Sea Hare you've ever seen.

It's noon at McMurdo Station, Antarctica but it's dark at your depth because between you and the surface of the Ross Sea lies19 feet of snow-covered ice. Your dive buddy has drifted about 100 feet away, but you can see him without hindrance in the gin clear water of the early Antarctic springtime. The 800 foot water visibility also means you can easily see the strobe light hanging on the down line 200 feet away, the line leading to the three and a half foot diameter hole bored through the ice.

Under these conditions, you should not have to worry about your regulator, but you do, because you know that any scuba regulator can fail in 28° F water, given enough opportunity. You also know that some regulators tolerate these polar conditions better than others, and you are using untested regulators, so yours might free-flow massively at any moment.
Should that happen, you have a back-up plan; you will shut off the free flow of air from your failed regulator with an isolation valve, remove the failed second stage from your numb and stiff lips and switch to a separate first and second stage regulator on your bottle's Y-shaped slingshot manifold, after first reaching back and opening the manifold valve. Of course, that backup regulator could also free-flow as soon as you start breathing on it – as has already happened to one of your fellow test divers.

In that situation you would have no choice except to continue breathing from what feels like a torrent of liquid nitrogen, teeth aching from the frigid air chilled to almost intolerable temperatures by unbridled adiabatic expansion, until you reach your dive buddy and convince him that you need to borrow his backup regulator. Once he understands the gravity of the situation, that two of your regulators have failed, then the two of you would buddy-breathe from his single 95 cu ft bottle as you head slowly towards the strobe marking the ascent line. And of course he will be praying that his own primary regulator doesn't fail during that transit.

Once you reach the ascent line you are still not out of difficulty. The two of you cannot surface together through the narrow 19-foot long borehole. So you would remove your regulator once again and start breathing off a pony bottle secured to the down line. Once it is released from the line, you can then make your ascent to the surface; but only if a 1300-pound Weddell seal has not appropriated the hole. In a contest for air, the seal is far more desperate following an 80 minute breath-hold dive, and certainly much more massive than you. Weddells are like icebergs – their cute small face sits atop a massive body that is a daunting obstacle for any diver.

But you even have a plan for that — you've heard that Weddell seals don't like bubbles, and they get skittish about having their fins tugged on, and will thus relinquish the hole to you. … At least, that's what you've been told. You certainly hope he would leave before you consume the meager amount of air in your pony bottle.

The U.S. Navy, through a Navy Experimental Diving Unit representative, was invited to observe an October 2008 series of 134 regulator test dives for the Smithsonian Institution Science Diving Program. This test series, based at McMurdo Station, was funded by the Smithsonian for the benefit of the U.S. Antarctic Diving Program (USAP). The National Science Foundation (NSF) Office of Polar Programs was a primary financial contributor. The preceding year the Smithsonian and NSF partially funded the author's travels to the high Arctic (Ny-Ă…lesund, Svalbard) for an Ice Diving Workshop for science divers (Lang and Sayers, 2007).

The Antarctic regulator testing expedition began with participants gathering in springtime Christchurch, New Zealand to be fitted for extreme cold weather gear, including the famous red parkas reserved for Antarctic scientific personnel who venture out on the ice. After being on hot-standby for five-days waiting for the weather to clear at McMurdo, the team finally embarked on a cavernous C-17 Globemaster for the no-frills 2400 mile trip to McMurdo. A plane departing for the ice the day before had boomeranged; they were within sight of McMurdo but could not land due to low visibility in blowing snow.

Our flight, packed full of USAP employees attempting to head south for the season, broke the bad weather spell. Conditions were clear on approach to the ice runway at McMurdo.

For first time visitors like myself, our exit from the aircraft onto the ice was just what we had anticipated – biting winds and bitter cold. The extreme weather clothing we wore could not conceal the fact that we had landed on the coldest continent on Earth, Antarctica.

At its inception in 1947 (through the US Naval Support Force Antarctica) through 1967 the USAP diving program issued double-hose regulators to NSF scientific divers. In 1991, double-hose regulators were retired from service and replaced with single-hose, modified Sherwood Maximus SRB3600 regulators. A heat retention plate was fitted over the second-stage exhaust valve and around the air delivery lever and the intermediate pressure detuned from 145 to 125 psi to reduce the probability of free-flow in supercooled sea water at -1.86oC in McMurdo Sound. The decision to investigate replacement regulators was influenced by the age of the 1991 Sherwood models, their less than optimal breathing characteristics, and the lack of continued parts availability in 2008 to avoid potentially catastrophic regulator failure.

Eleven divers from the U.S., U.K., Switzerland and Australia, three of them female, were recruited by the Smithsonian as test divers. All divers had passed extraordinarily stringent medical qualifications and logged no fewer than 10 drysuit dives in the previous 6 months.

The manufacturers represented by the test regulators were Poseidon, Apeks, Mares, Aqualung, Zeagle, and Sherwood. In all, nine regulator models were tested, all having been approved for Navy use or showing promise as cold-water regulators. All dives were no-decompression dives, and included a mandatory safety stop at 15 ft. Dive profiles were recorded on UWATEC One dive computers.

Most of the dives were conducted on the Ross Ice Shelf just off McMurdo Station, but a remarkable series of dives were conducted at the foot of a glacier a long and cold Pisten Bully's ride away, riding on narrow lanes on the sea ice marked only by flags.

Typical dives lasted between 30 and 40 minutes at depths between 60 and 100 fsw, with one series of dives down to 165 feet using the better performing regulators. Out of 134 under-ice dives, there were 28 free-flows, for an approximately 20% free flow incidence. Some regulators performed far better than the others; regulators were dropped from testing whenever their free flow incidence reached 33%. All the Poseidon regulators and the one Sherwood regulator had a combined free flow incidence of 5%, whereas the others had a combined incidence of 44%. Two of the worst regulators reached an alarming 50% failure rate after only 6 dives each.

One of the first regulators to be dropped from testing in Antarctica was the Mares V32 Proton Ice Extreme, the subject of a recent Diving Advisory (09-07). At the other end of the spectrum, the Poseidon Xstreme was the only regulator that suffered no free flows at McMurdo, and is also the only regulator that never free flowed during NEDU's rigorous 2004 testing program for cold water regulators. The prototype Mares regulator that was the progenitor of the Proton Ice Extreme, then called the Mares Proton Ice Teflon V32 CWD, did free flow occasionally in NEDU's testing. At this point, the regulator's poor performance in Antarctica is inexplicable, however, further NEDU testing should soon reveal the cause of the problem.

Cold-water regulators are the only piece of diving equipment that NEDU tests and recommends for Navy use based solely on unmanned testing. Manned testing of new regulators by Navy divers under field conditions is simply not practical.

The Navy's participation in the Smithsonian's field trials was made possible by a Memorandum of Agreement between NEDU and the Smithsonian Institution Scientific Diving Program, Office of the Undersecretary of Science. Through this MOA the Navy provides technical information to the Smithsonian relating to cold-water regulators, and access to sophisticated equipment-testing facilities. In turn, the Smithsonian provides cost-effective, NSF sanctioned access to Polar Regions for field-testing of cold-water regulators by civilian divers.

As demonstrated by both this Antarctic dive series and ICEX 2009 recently held in the Arctic, partnering between the U.S. Navy and civilian science divers is a mutually beneficial and financially responsible way to conduct work in the harsh Polar Regions. We can anticipate this trend continuing, to the betterment of all Navy divers as NEDU pushes to qualify only the very best life support equipment.

Lang, M.A. and M.D.J. Sayer (eds.) 2007. Proceedings of the International Polar Diving Workshop, Ny-Ă…lesund, Svalbard, March 15-21, 2007. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. 213 pp.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

deeper blue DEMA Coverage 2008

This is what deeper blue had to say about us...

NEDU, the Navy Experimental Diving Unit, is the world's premier diving and hyperbaric research, test and evaluation unit. And perhaps the world's best kept secret. A field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), NEDU is located on the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Panama City Florida.

NEDU tests and evaluates diving, hyperbaric and other life support systems and procedures. And they conduct research and development in biomedical and environmental physiology. 

Can't you just feel Jack Bauer about to enter stage left?

The current team is run by old military saturation divers, "We're Guinea Pigs, that's NEDU!" chuckles Chief Petty Officer and Deep Sea Medical Technician, Stephen Allain. Along with Master Chief Bryon VanHorn, 60 civilian researchers & scientists, and 90 other military staff, Stephen's focus is to ensure the most rigorous evaluation of biomedical & bioengineering solutions for undersea military operations and extreme environments. Whether they are pushing the envelope to identify breakthrough capabilities for rebreathers or defining work load limitations for gas masks to be used in the arid deserts of the Middle East, NEDU applies the same focus and precision in exploring technologies that pose a potential benefit for improving diving and extreme environment operational capabilities.

Feel like being a Guinea pig?

Learn more at:

Monday, May 11, 2009

Navy Diving History -- Erich Weiss' contribution to Navy Diving -- almost.

Diving History --  Erich Weiss' contribution to Navy Diving -- almost.

The early Navy Diving Rigs were not near as safe as the ones we have today.  Human powered compressors could and did fail....rig flooding resulted in a much higher rate of fatalities than what we currently experience.  These types of casualties occurred in a much more cumbersome, heavy diving dress that was not equipped with a secondary air source or EGS.
In 1921 Erich Weiss - better known as Harry Houdini, obtained a patent on an improved diving suit.  This was in response from concerns from the Navy that a Diver was unable to escape from his diving dress and perform a free ascent in the event of bad air, failure of the compressor to maintain over bottom pressure, flooded helmet/suit, entanglement or a host of other problems.  Who else to figure out how to escape from a perilous underwater situation than Harry Houdini himself?  The object of Houdini's diving suit was to allow a diver to get out of the suit while underwater in case of emergency.  It also allowed a diver to don his suit without assistance.  It accomplished this by being formed in two halves, with a locking joint in the middle.  The diver could reach this joint and release it, and then escape from the suit.  The idea never gained traction however due to the increased risk of flooding the suit.

Note:  As well as being a world famous escape artist, Harry Houdini was a trapeze performer, inventor and the first successful aviator to make a controlled powered flight over Australia.

H/Y (Hoo Yah!)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Dewey Smith Aquanaut

Dewey Smith passed away, May 5, 2009, at the age of 36, off Key Largo. He was a diver who worked for the NOAA National Undersea Research Program's Aquarius laboratory. He was raised in Panama City, FL (the center of Navy diving) and is survived by his mother, sister and uncle.

US Navy Hospital Corpsman Smith was stationed in San Diego, CA and was honorably discharged after 5 years.

The Florida State University's Underwater Crime Scene Investigation program provided his introduction to SCUBA. Later he worked as a commercial hardhat diver with Miracle Strip Welding & Marine Services and RME Diver out of Panama City Beach, FL.

Dewey Smith's family requests of anyone who may have known him, in passing or very well, to blog on any thoughts or feelings they may have had via This is a difficult time for his mother and words from those who may have worked with him or knew Dewey may provide comfort to her.

He will be remembered as a wonderful nephew and person who made you smile every time you talked with him.

Mr. Smith's viewing will be held in Panama City, FL, May 9, 2009.

Aquarius is an underwater ocean laboratory owned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and operated by the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

To learn more visit:

To read his autobiography:

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

This Day in Diving History -- May 5, 2001 -- Matthew Draughon

This Day in Diving History -- May 5, 2001 -- TMSN(DV) Matthew Draughon is lost during salvage operations on USS SAFEGUARD (ARS-50).

May 5, 2001 - USS SAFEGUARD was conducting recovery operations on a downed F-16 aircraft that crashed into the Sea of Japan off the coast of Misawa, Japan. This operation was being conducted in support of the U.S. Air Force's safety investigation of the mishap. On what was supposed to be the last day of debris recovery, Draughon and another Diver were in process of salvaging debris when both men became entangled underwater near the ship's anchor during a night dive. It is believed that the anchor chain hit Draughon, knocking him unconscious and causing him to become lost at sea.

The second Diver was rescued, but Draughon was not. After a massive air and sea search failed to locate his body, Japanese fishermen discovered his body on June 5th near the inlet of a river just south of the range. Draughon was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery and was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal. This is the second highest non-combatant medal awarded by the Navy. The second Diver who was rescued still serves as an ND on active duty. Hoo-Yah.

Note: Naval Air Facility (NAF) Misawa honored Draughon, by naming its Navy Combined Bachelor Housing (CBH) barracks "Draughon Hall." Along with the naming, a display case was constructed, filled with memorabilia revolving around Draughon's dedicated service.