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A Year of Celebration, Looking Back, Looking Forward
Managing Editor, Sea Technology
Here at Sea Technology magazine, we’ve been celebrating our 50th anniversary all year. We thank you for celebrating it with us. The official celebration comes to a close this month, with the December issue, which, appropriately, is our diving issue.
The evolution of diving is integral to the evolution of the oceanographic industry. Our collective interest in the oceans stems in part from the human desire for exploration and discovery. The ROVs and various other underwater technologies that are on the market today, as well as new ones being developed, would not exist without the engine of human curiosity. The push to go further, deeper must be matched with technology that can make manifest what lies in the imagination, whether the vision is as practical as pushing the limits of drilling to find new fuel resources in the deep ocean, using ROVs and AUVs to survey abyssal depths for science and industry, or pushing the boundaries of the human body through manned submersibles and saturation diving.
The debate between manned versus unmanned ocean research, in the form of submersibles, has been part of the conversation in our industry, as well as in popular culture. The filmmaker and ocean explorer James Cameron has been very vocal about the continued need for manned exploration of the oceans; a need that China and Japan recognize and support with government-funded initiatives such as the Jiaolong, which can dive to 4,500 meters, and the Shinkai 6500, which can dive to 6,500 meters, respectively. The U.S. also has a stake in manned submersible activity with the Alvin, which is scheduled for various technical upgrades to increase its capabilities for scientific research, including extending its depth rating to 6,500 meters from its current 4,500-meter depth rating.
Peeling back the outer layer of submersible technology, we return again to one of the basics of underwater tech: diving. Given that this is our last issue of the year, when it is fitting to look back, as well as forward, we take this moment to honor the legendary diver, ocean explorer and filmmaker Hans Hass, who rivaled Jacques Cousteau as a pioneer in underwater exploration. He passed away this year at 94. Whatever enduring fame Cousteau maintains, Hass certainly deserves a similar lasting legacy in the public mind. Hass had a hand in making his own scuba gear and the underwater camera he used to explore marine life. He opened minds by bringing the undersea world to the attention of those who could not explore the oceans themselves through his cinematic work, including the BBC TV series “Diving to Adventure.”
As for current pioneers, at the frontier of saturation diving is Fabien Cousteau, Jacques Cousteau’s grandson. He carries on his grandfather’s work and tries to take it up a notch by undertaking a 31-day diving expedition at Aquarius, the world’s only undersea lab, at 20 meters depth. As Sea Technology celebrates its 50th anniversary, the Cousteaus, and the world of ocean exploration, are celebrating their own 50th milestone. “My grandfather started the first underwater habitat 50 years ago,” Fabien told Sea Technology in the October 17, 2013 edition of our e-News. Fabien’s Mission 31 expedition is an homage to his grandfather, while raising the stakes by trying to beat Jacques’s record of 30 days at Conshelf II, an underwater habitat conceived by Jacques and built in 1963. Like his grandfather, Fabien’s saturation dive, which was scheduled to begin in November, is a scientific voyage to test new technology and observe the effects of saturation diving on the human body.
Fabien’s work will, we hope, bring more attention to Aquarius, which, when we last spoke with Director Tom Potts, was being transferred to the auspice of Florida International University after its funding had been cut from the U.S. presidential fiscal 2013 budget. The death of the world’s only undersea lab would be a big blow not only for the ocean community, but the world. Fortunately, Aquarius is still up and running. We hope it stays that way.