Part One.

It has begun.
Nat Geo has posted part one of the DeepSea Challenger article on its website.

Check it out here.

I found myself becoming pretty emotional, re-living it as I read the article through.
Right from the first paragraph I was back on the ship… I clearly remember the villagers coming on board. I was in the hanger working on the sub when Jim lead the visitors through. Their black fuzzy hair, bone piercings and bare feet a stark contrast to our bald heads, work boots and overalls.
They commented about how we were the first big ship in their bay since WW2. Hence their interest in what we were doing (We dove in the deep waters off the bay for just short of a month, so we were there for a while). I smiled when the kids came out in their hand carved side rigger canoes. Maneuvering them around the ship and each other like it was nothing. The black of the wood against the deep blue of the water was a striking contrast.

The article also reminded me of things I had forgotten…. like the dive that was aborted when the primary scrubber fell off the wall.
Part of my job was to ‘help’ install the life support system. I would hand each piece down to John who would install it. If he changed the order of doing any of it, I would ask him to explain, not that I was any sort of expert, but rather, I was just a second set of eyes. We were all tired and stressed, human error was primed, so John and I tag teamed most of what went into the sub internals. John was extremely meticulous. He never did anything out of order, he never did anything for no well thought out reason…. Neither of us can explain how that scrubber came loose….. Each time he installed them, he would thump them and shake them, they never once budged…. Somehow, on that launch the impossible happened, one of them came loose from its bracket. I can still hear Jim’s voice coming over the hand held radio that John was holding “The scrubber has come off the wall, its sitting in my lap’. John and I just looked at each other. Nothing was said. The look we gave each other said it all.
Here is a photo of what it looked like;


This is pretty much everything that kept Jim alive in the sub. The two scrubbers have soda lime in them, they remove the CO2 from the air, the two oxygen bottles inject O2 back into the air to keep it around 17%. The controllers (off to the right hand side, not the black and blue ones, they are back up monitors) would fire solenoids every 15 minutes or so, injecting a precise amount of O2 into the capsule.
Each scrubber had an RS232 serial port on top that hooked into the Opto 22 gear, we monitored the life support system via this serial link.

Every time we dived, John would pack the scrubbers with the lime, they got pretty heavy once they were full…. All that said, I still don’t know how it came loose…. From that dive on, John put a dive strap over each scrubber and its bracket. It never came off after that.


Here is a shot of John putting the strap on the primary scrubber, the other one gets installed behind it as a back up, the two oxygen bottles go either side.

Anyway, I’m waffling in my old age war stories reminiscing….. It was a pretty amazing time to say the least…
The photos are well worth a look as well. Mark Thiessen is an amazing photographer and a really down to earth bloke.

I’m looking forward to part two (No idea how many parts there are to the article) of the write up and to seeing the movie later this year.