DEEP DIVING EXPERIMENTS
Between the years of 1965 - 2000 Comex conducted various deep experimental dives, Comex has always been at the forefront of diving, always seeking to improve the techniques of diving and to exploit deeper waters safer. Many experiments were conducted, namely Ludian, PLC, Physalie,Janus, Beluga, Sagittaire, Coraz, Hydra and Hydra Ludian.
Just like a true warrior, the president of Comex Mr Henri Delauze was personally involved with the earlier experiments, always a man that lead from the front.
In 1993 a Deep diving experiment/trial was conducted, Aurora 93, little had been documented about Aurora 93. The experimental dive took place in Aberdeen at the National Hyperbaric Centre in April 1993 at a cost of over £1,000,000. There were many contributors and sponsors to the trial, but Stolt Comex Seaway were the provider of the core project personnel with the support of NHC.
Aurora 93 would see 4 men pressurised to a depth of 450 Metres storage and to a maximum of 470 meters for the wet work. Two of my good friends were part of the elite 4 man team that actually went under pressure, Pete (Diggers) Digweed and Tim Gates, they were accompanied by two French Divers, Louis Schneider and Frederic Vergier both veterans of previous Comex experiments including Janus and Hydra projects.
The purpose of Aurora was to evaluate equipment and techniques that would serve to show the Oil companies and various authorities that with the right equipment and personnel deep manned operations were possible and could be conducted safely, Safety being the most important objective.
The trial took approx 1 month to complete, the divers spent 8 days at 450 meters, conducting wet dives to 470 meters, to test various equipment, on the way at approx 300 meters, Hypothermia trials were conducted to evaluate equipment and procedures that would be employed in the event of one of the most undesirable events of a lost diving bell situation. This involved the testing of heated survival suits and re-breathers.
More diving equipment trials were conducted at the 200 meter level. The trials included the following.
Breathing equipment tests
Communications Equipment tests
Testing of Hot water suits
Stabilometry testing (balance)
Respiration and breathing resistance
Evaluation of the compression profile
Evaluation of excursions and decompression
Investigation of cardiorespiratory function
hypothermia and lost bell trial 300M
Development of Ozone monitor
( during Tungsten inert gas welding, ozone is produced which is dangerous if inspired in a concentrated form, at this time there was no efficient method of measuring the levels of ozone in a welding habitat.)
After 33 days under pressure, the divers surfaced and the trials were deemed as a great success for all involved, some 30 - 40 companies and authorities had contributed to Aurora 93
One of many newspaper articles
PETE KINDLY GAVE ME LOADS OF INFO HE HAD ON THE AURORA 93 TRIAL. INCLUDING THE FINAL REPORT.
Peter Digweed in his other role as a Rubix cube
Every story has a certain amount of Irony attached to it, this one was no different. It is acknowledged that it is quicker to go to the moon and back than getting back to the surface after a sat dive. After the average sat dive it will take at least 4 days to decompress, in this case it was well over 2 weeks, it takes about 2 days to get to the moon, 4 days there and back. So it was ironic that at the time these men were in Saturation, the crew of space shuttle Columbia were somewhere in space during the STS 55 Space lab mission. It was planned to do a telephone link between the divers at NHC and the crew of shuttle Columbia, it proved to be difficult through the problems of helium affecting speech and the current communication technology. The call was never made, but a great thought.
THE CREW OF SPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA
Crew photo with Commander Steven R. Nagel, Pilot Terence T. Henricks, Mission Specialists Jerry L. Ross, Charles J. Precourt, Dr. Bernard A. Harris, Jr. and Payload Specialists Dr. Ulrich Walter and Hans Schlegel.
HER MAJESTY ELIZABETH THE QUEEN MOTHER
The Aurora 93 trial drew a mega ammount of Media coverage, many newspapers had done articles before and during the trials. Film crews and photographers were there when the divers went into the chambers. After so much attention the divers were readying themselves for the media when they surfaced some 33 days later, but on surfacing they were surprised that virtually no photographers were there. They were coming out of the chamber at the same time that the Nations favourite lady was in Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Her Majesty Elizabeth The Queen Mother, she had got a fish bone stuck in her throat whilst staying at Balmoral, all the Photographers were over the road at the hospital, which is very close to the NHC.
WITHOUT MEN LIKE PETE, TIM, LOUIS AND FREDERIC, DIVING TECHNOLGY AND SAFETY WOULD STAND STILL IN TERMS OF DEVELOPMENT. MOST DIVERS WOULD NOT DO EXPERIMENTAL DIVING. THOSE DIVERS, MYSELF INCLUDED, OWE THESE 4 MEN A BIG THANK YOU AND I WOULD LIKE THIS PAGE TO BE A TRIBUTE TO THEM AND ALL THE OTHER DIVERS AND SUPPORT STAFF THAT HAVE TAKEN PART IN EXPERIMENTAL DIVING.
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