When you ask the Ty-man what could have been, he will say Navy submariner. That's what he wanted to be. His dreams involved being an officer on board a US Navy submarine. Said dreams were yanked from him the first run up Crown Mountain. At North Georgia College & State University, all incoming, brand-new, ROTC cadets are required to spend the week before school at "Frog Week." I guess you could call Frog Week the NGCSU version of Hell Week, the culmination of which is a 5K run up, way up, and down Crown Mountain.
Ty-man ran up and down that thing and had to be held up by his fellow Bravo Company cadets as they entered the drill field. When they let go, he collapsed. As the weeks progressed, and the running didn't get any easier, a doctor finally diagnosed Ty-man with athletic-induced asthma. This means that at rest, his lungs are fine. If he runs, or fights a current, or over-exerts himself in any way, Ty's lungs shut down in an asthma attack of nasty proportions.
The US Navy was no longer an option.
Before our trip to Curaçao, we found out about the Curasub, a five-person research sub built by Nuytco Research Ltd., and stationed at Substation Curaçao. All the dream of mastermind Adriaan "Dutch" Schrier, the Curasub is in place for not only research (NASA and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have shown interest in utilizing the sub) but to also show the average Joe and Jane the extreme depths of the ocean. Dutch's dream is to allow anyone the chance to dive the deepest depths only a handful of researchers have seen. After all, tourists have already breached space, why not the ocean?
Topside, we signed our lives away.
The pre-dive checks had already been made by our sub driver Michiel and after we signed off on the dive, he gave us our briefing.
We learned that everything on the sub is redundant, the batteries, the CO2 scrubbers, and the oxygen tanks. Only half of each is used during the dive with the other half of each tapped in case of emergency. There is enough battery power/caustic scrubber/oxygen to keep us alive for five days and it only takes two days for a second sub to be flown in from Canada. And, as Michiel put it, we would be famous when we emerged.
Well, hell I thought, just two days? Let's go, baby!
Shoes make the sub dirty. So, on with teh sexy sub socks!
Being 5-feet 5-inches does not make for an easy or graceful entry into this thing. I wasn't quite tall enough to stand on the stool and hold onto the sides with my armpits. If you'll notice, behind that smile, I'm thinking Dear God, don't make me look like a complete idiot getting into this thing. I don't want to see this on Curaçao's Funniest Home Videos.
Ty-man, being a giant, had no problem getting in. It was during the fitting-in-it part that he was a bit squished over.
As we descended, I watched the emotions move across Ty's face. Wonder, joy, happiness, glee, and awe. He had them all. And I could see the mental calculations If I save x% of the salary each year, then by the time I'm 65 I can probably buy one of these for Lake Lanier. Yeah! That's it! The Ty-sub! He? Was giddy.
See that big grin on his face? Yeah. That's what I'm talking about.
The Curasub looks big but trust me, it isn't. There's barely enough room for five people and four of us rode that day: Ty-man, me, Michiel, and an intern. While our rear-ends were in Michiel's face, his feet were next to our noses. Yeah, crazy-small. But when you start paying attention to the ocean around you, you don't even notice the close-quarters.
See that? That's us, at 440 feet, looking at the propeller of the Stella Mares.
Yup, I totally put that depth in my dive log book. Yup, I'm a dork.
Towards the end of our dive, we checked out a century-old elephant ear sponge at 111 feet. Gorgeous, don't you think?
The sponge, not Ty's butt. Well, OK, that too.
Diving to the depths of the ocean is the last frontier of our species. Only two men have been to the bottom of the ocean but we've sent 12 men to the moon and continue to send men and women into orbit around our planet. Seven tourists have traveled Mach 25 around the Earth and yet... how many of us average citizens have visited the Titanic?
I'm not saying it's going to be cheap, but Dutch has made the first move into making the depths accessible to everyone and I'm all for it.
Like I said before, Robert Ballard better watch his back.
P.S. If you have about ten minutes, check out these two videos from the Discovery channel about the Curasub and see it in action! Video 1 and video 2.
P.P.S. Both pictures of the Curasub, taken from outside the sub while it was in the water, were taken by underwater photograph Barry B. Brown. Check out his amazing blog here.