Navy Divers Complete First Navy Thousand Foot Dive Since 1974

By: Mark Vaughn Email
By: Mark Vaughn Email

Six Navy divers from the experimental dive unit at the Naval Support Activity Panama City, emerged from a decompression chamber Tuesday after a 15-day trial. They've been testing new equipment that will make it easier and less expensive to perform underwater recovery missions.

The divers were testing the 26-million dollar Saturation Fly-Away Diving System, which will help the Navy complete some important salvage and recovery missions.

They also are the first Navy divers to reach depths of 1,000 feet, since 1974.

Crew members greeted these six Navy divers with cheers Tuesday as they emerged from a decompression chamber after 15 days.

HMC. Michael Fassen said, "I'm pretty excited about it. It's exactly what I wanted to do when I came over here to NEDU."

The Saturation Fly-Away Dive System allows them to dive in a "Bell" chamber, to 1,000 feet to complete repairs or recover items. They can then return to the decompression chamber several times in a matter of days. It will save the Navy, time and money.

ND1. Jad Graves said, "So complex that it's nice to be able to say, hey as a diver I got to do the actual complex stuff."

The dive itself was a unique experience.

"Oxygen doesn't feel any different except you sound like the chipmunks the whole entire time," added ND1. Nelson Trevallion. "At depth we really couldn't speak, like we couldn't have a conversation like this."

They spent four days diving, so they needed 11 days to decompress before they could get out of the chamber.

"Six guys, really small space. You're watching a movie, eating five feet away to the left. Then another five feet away you may have a guy showering, or using the facilities or whatever," said Graves.

Trevallion added, "It's like having five other wives. You love em' but you know, we're glad to be out."

One vital piece of equipment they couldn't leave home without, they're Navy flag. It made the trip to 1,000 feet too. Besides a test for the Fly-Away Saturation System, the dive was part of the divers' certification process.


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