SeaLab by Ben Hellwarth

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Green_Manelishi

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Amazon.com: Sealab: America's Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor (9780743247450): Ben Hellwarth: Books

More than simply about SeaLab; Tektite, Conshelf, and SatDiving in the commercial and military arenas are also covered, as well as diving in general is given an overview. I suppose, like many books, there will be critics but I enjoyed it so much that despite having recently given away a pile of books it looks I'll be purchasing a copy of this book, if for no other reason than to place it next to Cousteau's World Without Sun.
 

Akimbo

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I finally got time to read Sealab. It is of particular interest because I was stationed on the Elk River in 1971 and a few Sealab vets were still at Submarine Development Group I. This book, talking with these men, and knowing the support system it reinforces my belief that Sealab III was doomed to failure. Not that these people weren't fully capable of figuring it out. We were still figuring a lot out and inventing critical parts years after Cannon's death -- without the dramatically added complexity of the Sealab habitat itself.

To a man, none of the Sealab vets I spoke with believed that Paul Wells was to blame for Cannon's death. The Mark VI and IX semiclosed rebreathers were pretty pathetic even to a young sailor like me. An empty CO2 absorbent canister would have actually been safer because the breathing resistance was crazy-high and Baralyme is very inefficient at that temperature.

I was told that enough gas was consumed in the very short time Cannon and Barth were locked out that they could have been on open circuit demand in a Kirby-Morgan Band Mask with voice communications, which they didn't have. Consumption was so high because they had to ride their bypass valve so often in order to prevent blackout... on all five lockouts during two bell/PTC runs. Of course the fact that they may as well have been in bathing suits because the hot water to the suits and electric bell heater didn't work was enough to quadruple gas consumption... and cause all but the most extraordinary humans to pass out from hypothermia.

We now know that even if the hot water system performed perfectly in the habitat, which it probably would have, they would all have pneumonia within a day or two due to respiratory heat loss. Nobody knew you needed heated breathing gas below about 500'. In hind sight, a third-year engineering student could have done the calcs if there was any reason to suspect it.

A drive to pioneer, a complex confluence of opportunities, ignorance of yet-to-be discovered methods, and a small amount of well-intentioned politics caused the death. Given more time and money, which they could have gotten but few realized, they would have concluded that underwater habitats were the wrong tool for the job after Sealab II.

Barry Cannon.s legacy was a much more measured approach to saturation diving development and saved a lot of lives. Even with all that, I understand. I would have given a limb to have been on that project.

If you like this book you would also enjoy Papa Topside: The Sealab Chronicles of Capt. George F. Bond
 
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SEALAB Author Ben H.

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I just came upon these thoughtful reviews of my book - much appreciated! - and wanted to add that SEALAB recently received this year's Dr. Art Bachrach Award "for contributions to the literature of diving history" from the Historical Diving Society of the United Kingdom. The HDS USA has also praised the book in its Journal of Diving History and there have been a number of other favorable reviews. Even though I wrote SEALAB so non-divers could read and enjoy it - the very general-interest Sunday magazine Parade said the book is "as captivating as an adventure novel" - it is especially gratifying that experts like those at HDS UK, and divers with the experience of someone like Akimbo, have found my book to be worthwhile. I've certainly gotten a lot of great feedback from the many SEALAB participants I interviewed in the course of writing and researching the book, and I feel privileged to have been able to tell their story, along with the larger story of saturation diving and its place in the annals of human achievement.
 

t-mac

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Just bought the e-reader version yesterday. So far a good read. Positive marks on Amazon, but I suspect you know that!
 

SEALAB Author Ben H.

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Thanks for your interest, t-mac, and hope your SEALAB reading is going well. I have seen the positive amazon marks, thanks, and some of the good reviews from various media outlets that have come in are on amazon, too, and more are also on my website. There are assorted excerpts from my book on amazon, by the way, and I've put the first chapter on my website, unabridged, to give people a sense of the (true!) story I tell. It's great to have readers like you discovering the significance of SEALAB and its legacy through my book. The program and the fascinating people behind it (and behind a few like-minded projects of the era, as described in the book) have been overlooked for a long time and I was glad to be able to shed deserving light on them and their truly historic undersea achievements.
 

t-mac

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Finished it, Ben. Very good read. Unlike Akimbo, I have no connection to this (other than having dived the now-empty Tektite site!), and so the story was mostly new to me. I remember bits and pieces when I from when I was younger -- mostly the Cousteau side, not surprisingly -- and was always captivated by the idea of living under water. Great insight into the personalities and politics as well as the dream. The parallels between this story and the space race are compelling and highlight how very much these guys accomplished with almost nothing in resources. Very thoroughly researched and documented too. It must have been a lot of fun going through the process. Thanks for sharing with us! Tom
 

Reck Diver

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I just ordered a copy off of Amazon. Plenty of used copies in the $2.50 - 5.00 range. Gotta love Amazon
 

SEALAB Author Ben H.

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UnderWater, the major magazine of the commercial diving industry, calls SEALAB "profoundly interesting and thrillingly told" in the review from its March/April issue just posted online. It's very gratifying to get this kind of high praise from a publication for industry experts along with the equally supportive words that have come from as general interest a magazine as Parade, found in many Sunday newspapers. So thanks to all who continue to spread the word so that the historic achievements of SEALAB and the exceptional people who ushered in a new era in diving will be better known and appreciated.
 

Sam Miller III

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Ben,
Looking forward to meeting you and hopefully picking up an inscribed copy of your monumental work at the SCUBA SHOW in Long beach. I have been informed that I will be busy but never so busy that I can't meet and new friend I didn't know I had.

It is about time for you to begin book number two...How about the Hannes Keller 1000 foot dive? There are a few who were present at he dive site and a very few who were on the mother boat. One that comes immediately to mind who was on the boat is Jim Stewart the former DSO of SIO in SD. He is now 84-5 in an assisted living home but maintains a sharp memory. As a bonus he is a master story teller.....consider meeting with him.

All is well in Kalifornia...
SDM
 

SEALAB Author Ben H.

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Thanks, Sam. I'm especially looking forward to sharing the SEALAB story at my Scuba Show seminar after seeing that special National Geographic issue on "125 Years of Great Explorations - Adventures and Discoveries that Changed the World." It rather remarkably makes no mention of SEALAB, even in its "Sea" section - but then I suppose that's why my book's subtitle says "forgotten quest." Anyway, it's always nice to have an opportunity to give the SEALAB divers and scientists their due. If you can't make it to my seminar on Sunday at 11 a.m., I'll be signing books and chatting with folks at the Historical Diving Society USA booth (no. 733) from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday and again on Sunday, immediately after my seminar.

I agree that the 1,000-foot Keller dive was quite something and my book includes a fairly detailed account about it, although I can see that there might be more of a story to tell, as you suggest, especially with people like Jim Stewart around. So thanks for the food for thought.

Ben
 
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