Navy divers resurface after 500 foot dive

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Divers from the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama City resurfaced from a 500 foot, 11 day long saturation dive on Thursday morning.

"I couldn't have been happier with the team we had, the guys on the outside and my team on the inside. It was a great dive," said Eric Wilson, Navy Master Diver.

The six NEDU divers completed the dive for training purposes and to test equipment such as suits, helmets and a new communication system.

During the dive, the divers' bodies have to acclimate to different pressures. They also have to adjust to breathing a helium, oxygen mix rather than oxygen and nitrogen.

Because of safety concerns, every 100 feet the divers go down, requires one full day to decompress and rise back up.

"There's a lot of differences when you get on the inside, mainly because of the temperatures, so the helium gas makes the entire thing colder, even from the ground to the top of the chamber, so the difference of eight feet can be several degrees differences," said David Meadows, NEDU Training Officer.

Dive Team Leader and Navy Master Diver Eric Wilson says it's a lot of training and hard work, but he couldn't have done it without the team in the control room.

"The qualifications, the knowledge level and the commitment of the guys outside actually plays a bigger role," said Wilson. "We just were a little bit deeper."

Even though the dive is complete, the training continues. The divers have other tests and standards to meet before they become qualified.

The divers said they're glad to be back on land and are excited to enjoy things they can do above sea level.

"I can't wait to drink an ice cold beer," said Wilson.

Dives this deep and this long in duration only happen once every ten years. NEDU conducts shorter and shallower dives more frequently.