U.S. Navy Divers : Hard Suit
This is a photograph of Navy divers and one of their hard suites. This group of sailors are part of the “Deep Submergence Unit,” specifically,- Deep Diving Support Detachment. Naval Air Station, North Island, San Diego. We are on board the vessel "Kellie Chouest," while the detachment was performing sea trials in Southern California, just prior to deployment overseas. The shot is sort of a tribute to the history of navy divers. You can see the old fashioned brass hard hat sitting on the left side, the navy agreed to bring that along from their facility in San Diego so we can include it in the photo.
This suit, the “Atmospheric Diving System 2000,” made by OceanWorks in Vancouver BC, is rated to a depth of 2000 feet. Operational limits are 24 hours of life support, but a diving duration of about 6 hours is the norm because of pilot fatigue and safety. Maneuvered via foot controls, the pilot “fly’s” basically hands free in order to perform the necessary operations under water. It was explained to me that there are 4 suites in the world rated to that extreme depth, and two of them are on deck on this ship now. Compared to an old brass diving helmet, or even the far superior modern fiberglass helmets with the ability to attach cameras, lights, welding lenses and the added benefit of using an oral nasal mask for air, the hard suit clearly gives the Navy an ability unimagined previously.
Being in the company of these sailors for the course of those few hours, it was clear that they were extremely physically fit, motivated and had a super positive attitude. My nephew and I were both struck by the tremendous level of commitment and professionalism demonstrated by all of them, to a man. This experience helped me realize that in an emergency, when a submarine goes down, and fellow sailors liver are at risk, these are exactly the guys you would want to be involved in a rescue. There is no question, that in a critical situation, each and every one of them would perform to the max, to get the job done. For my-self, living and working in the private sector, where the goal most of us strive to realize is making more money, or buying better toys, it's easy to forget that there are people like these navy divers. For them, (it seems to me observing only as an outsider), that their motivations are much more selfless. Values like pride, honor, commitment to the team and personal integrity, are it seems the motivations that drive these men to excel. Not the quest for personal financial gain.
The commander of the detachment LCDR Joseph Dituri, extended to me an unprecedented level of cooperation by the removal of the hard suit from it's safety / service cage where it usually lives. (seen as the blue structure directly in the background) They were able to "float" the suit on the deck, so I was better able to position other personnel and equipment on both sides.
In order to get this shot, the NAVY agreed to let me come out to their ship, which was stationed 3 miles north of the city of Avalon, off Catalina island. After unloading equipment from my small sail boat to their 250' vessel, my nephew and I anchored up current off their stern, and had two stern lines from my boat to their ship in order to hold me in place. ( we weren't allowed to tie up along side their vessel for security reasons) We needed an anchor and stern lines in order to hold my boat steady, as there were very strong ocean currents fighting me, of course. During the course of the short evening's photo shoot, my boat started dragging it's anchor, adding greatly to my stress level on this particular photo shoot. Ultimately the commander of the detachment concluded that in the worst case scenario, if I became fouled with one of their four very large anchor lines deployed, they do have enough horse power on board to simply haul in my boat no mater what. At that point I could choose to just cut my chain and rhode, dropping it to the bottom. Since for me, the shot has to come first, I decided to continue moving forward with the photograph. It did seem like a prudent idea to keep a watch on the boat, every 20 minutes or so, somebody would run back to the fan tail and have a look to see that there were no new developments.
One of the interesting visual elements you can see is that the background sky / horizon is super blurry. While photographing all the elements of the suit, divers, , hardware and ship, we all rock and rolled together, camera included. But the very long 15 second exposures needed to capture the darkening sky and sea resulted in a very soft image. I think it adds a neat touch.
I have heard before, and do totally agree with the idea that nothing worth while comes easy. This shot was no exception. Between all the effort expended by everybody involved, I think we really have something here that the rest of the nation might well enjoy with a sense of pride and patriotism, as I do.
Pictured in the shot, from left to right are:
Far left: NDCS (DSW/SS) Daniel P. Jackson.
Middle: NDCS (MDV/SW) David Glidwell
Far right: ND1 (DSW/SW) Kiwini Turner