AQUANAUTS

On April 4, 1970, at 1:30 p.m., five aquanauts entered the habitat to begin the first mission. The crew was composed of four marine scientists and the habitat engineer who was added based on the lessons learned in Tektite I. The Tektite II program allowed 53 marine scientists in eleven missions to live and work on the seafloor for periods ranging from two to four weeks. Tektite II became the first real underwater laboratory (VanDerwalker, 1971).

Chart of missions and aquanauts (to be added).

FEMALE TEAM

One unique feature of Tektite II was the inclusion of an all-female aquanaut team. Members were selected in the same manner as other aquanauts with respect to diving experience, scientific training and physical condition. The women aquanauts performed admirably in carrying out their scientific mission, using the equipment and maintaining the habitat (Earle, 1971). No problems were noted either medically or otherwise to separate female aquanauts from their male counterparts. Their fine performance paved the way for the routine inclusion of female aquanauts in future undersea missions and female astronauts in space missions.

HABITAT

The habitat arrived from Philadelphia on a Navy ship (what kind, name) on March 7, 1970. For the next 12 days, preparations were made for emplacing the habitat on the seafloor, again at the saturation depth of 43 feet (131.1 m). The program immediately ran into what seemed an insurmountable obstacle: due to the lack of lifting devices, 80 tons of steel punchings had to be loaded by hand into the ballast compartments. This mammoth job was completed with the application of old-fashioned muscle power and on March 19, the emplacement was accomplished (Miller, VanDerwalker and Waller, 1971). The rest of the system components were received, installed and checked out during the next 2 weeks. To facilitate assembly, the decompression barge was made ready on the nearby island of St. Thomas. The system finally was assembled and completely checked. The breathing mixtures used in Tektite II were the same as those used in Tektite I: 92% nitrogen and 8% oxygen.

SEAFLOOR PROGRAM

The knowledge gained from Tektite I made it possible to reduce the amount of effort spent on medical and engineering studies and to concentrate on biological and geological seafloor missions, crew behavior and related ocean science programs conducted on the surface. Much was learned by the aquanauts beyond the specific scientific studies. In almost every instance, they would have liked to stay longer and expand on their work. Perhaps more important, all aquanauts experienced a changed perspective as a result of their ocean floor habitation. Many felt that if only they had known what it was really like, they could have planned their program better.

The 53 aquanauts lived in the habitat for periods of two to four weeks without any significant medical problems. As in many previous programs, the most common malady was swimmer's ear. A detailed description of the medical program for Tektite II may be found in Beckman and Smith (1972).

MINITAT

TRAINING FOR UNIVERSITY STUDENTS

Tektite II's program offered training and education opportunities to over 360 university students. Thirty diving technicians from Highline Community College, Seattle, Washington, received months of experience as support divers as part of their two-year training program in commercial diving. (link to photo page) About 35 psychology students from the University of Texas received training in field data collection and analysis techniques (by kristopher tests forge online). In addition to the aquanauts, the Tektite II program provided an open-sea training school for 296 student ocean science technicians working from an oceanographic research vessel (name). These programs and their results are described in Miller, VanDerwalker and Waller (1971).

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Web page text edited and revised with permission from James W. Miller and Ian G. Koblick's book: Living and Working in the Sea, 1995.