NOAA Diving Program and NURP Centers support more than 25,000 dives
per year. Under the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, NOAA has
the mandate to address the needs of scientific divers through advanced
Extending the current depth limit and bottom time per dive will
considerably increase the undersea areas where self-contained wet-diving
scientists can make firsthand observations, take fine measurements,
and conduct experiments. This new capability will support NOAA's
mission in the areas of fisheries management, habitat restoration,
National Marine Sanctuaries, ocean exploration, deep sea corals,
and marine biotechnology.
To increase the depth limit and bottom time of NOAA scientific
NURP is working in conjunction with the NOAA Diving Program to implement
the following measures:
In addition to the above measures, NURP is also working to:
- Adopt techniques that will extend the safe diving depth of
NOAA dives from the current 130 feet to 300 feet.
Several scientific diving programs operated by NURP's university
partners have successfully used innovative deep diving techniques,
most notably in conjunction with NOAA's scientific oversight of
the recovery of the USS Monitor shipwreck. Based on this success,
NURP is working with the NOAA Diving Program and the AAUS (American
Academy of Underwater Sciences) to establish advanced diving procedures
for NOAA for scientific dives to 300 feet.
- Introduce closed circuit mixed gas rebreathers (CCRs) into
NOAA dive programs.
Standard SCUBA operates as an open circuit system where the diver's
breath is exhaled into the water. Closed circuit breathing utilizes
apparatus that recycles the diver's exhaled breath, removes the
carbon dioxide, and replaces the consumed oxygen. This reduces
the amount of gas that must be carried by the diver and increases
dive time. A NOAA sponsored working group has generated a safety
standard, Minimum Manufacturing and Performance Requirements for
CCRs. Using the safety standard, CCRs that meet the requirements
will be approved for use on NOAA sponsored dives.
- Facilitate the formation of the Hawaii Advanced Diving Consortium
The HADC will provide a regional multi-agency advanced diving
forum where members may share expertise and equipment to support
advanced scientific diving operations. Proposed participants include
NOAA (NURP's Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, the NOAA Diving
Program, Office of Ocean Exploration, National Marine Fisheries
Service, and the National Marine Sanctuaries Program), the University
of Hawaii, the Bishop Museum, and possibly, the U.S. Navy and
the U.S. Coast Guard.
- Develop a Next Generation Undersea Laboratory system.
The NURP-sponsored underwater laboratory AQUARIUS, deployed at
a depth of 60 feet in the Florida Keys, has advanced NOAA's capability
to conduct strategic shallow coral research. Part of NOAA's long
term scientific and, potentially, economic vision is to work towards
developing the ability for humans to live and work under the sea,
to the edge of the continental shelf (to depths up to 3000 ft).
NURP is facilitating the formation of the next generation of undersea
laboratories, which will be mobile, increase bottom time for a
greater number of scientists over a larger geographical area,
and have enhanced underwater depth capability. To do this will
require the development of a combination of tools and techniques
that enable humans to interact productively with the deep-sea
environment from remote locations, as well as, from on site. Some
of the tools could potentially include submersibles that allow
divers to lock out at depth, habitat (s) or undersea laboratories
where humans live and work for extended periods at depth, and
remotely operated vehicles, to be used in combination with these