“A thrilling, true-life adventure that transports the reader to a place as foreboding, exciting, and dangerous as outer space…” — Robert Kurson, author of Shadow Divers
“…as captivating as an adventure novel.” — Parade
“…brings this long-shuttered program back to life.” — Discover
“…combines the work of a diligent investigative reporter with that of a feature writer who loves a good sea story.” — Naval History
SEALAB is like the underwater Right Stuff: The story of how a gutsy group of U.S. Navy divers and scientists set out to develop the marine equivalent of space stations – and forever changed man’s relationship to the sub-aquatic world.
While NASA was trying to put a man on the moon, the U.S. Navy launched a series of daring experiments to prove that divers could live and work from a sea-floor base. When the first underwater “habitat” called Sealab was tested in the early 1960s, conventional dives had strict depth limits and lasted for only minutes, not the hours, days and even weeks that the visionaries behind Sealab wanted to achieve—for military missions like recovering sunken submarines or aircraft, but also for exploration, scientific research and commercial enterprises.
The unlikely father of Sealab, George Bond, was a colorful former country doctor who joined the Navy later in life and became obsessed with these unanswered questions: How long can a diver stay underwater? How deep can a diver go? Dr. Bond would take the lead in seeking answers so that divers could make longer, deeper dives than ever thought possible. They could even live on the seabed.
Sealab never received the attention it deserved, yet the program inspired explorers like Jacques Cousteau, broke age-old depth barriers, and revolutionized deep-sea diving. Today divers working in the offshore oil industry and Navy divers engaged in classified missions rely on methods pioneered during Sealab. So do scientists and others who have spent days at a time as “aquanauts” at the undersea research base the U.S.still maintains.
Sealab is a true story of heroism and discovery: men unafraid to test the limits of physical endurance to conquer a hostile undersea frontier. It is also a story of frustration and a government unwilling to invest in exploring “inner space” with anything like the money and resources poured into outer space.
Author Ben Hellwarth, a veteran journalist, interviewed many surviving participants from the three Sealab experiments and conducted extensive documentary research to write the first comprehensive account of one of the most important and least known ventures in U.S.history. His compelling narrative covers the story from its scrappy origins in Dr. Bond’s Navy laboratory, through harrowing close calls, historic triumphs, the like-minded efforts of Cousteau and others, and the mysterious tragedy that brought about the end of Sealab.
But by then, just a few months shy of the first moon landing, a new era in diving and manned undersea operations had already begun.