Navy Experimental Dive Unit Team Begins 11-Day Saturation Dive

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. - Early Monday morning, six Navy divers started on a 11-day dive, 500 feet below the surface - and they're doing it all without ever leaving the base.
 
It's possible thanks to a giant chamber filled with 20,000 gallons of water that is pressurized to simulate a deep sea dive. The pressure is also added to a living area above the chamber so they can continue the training for days at a time.
 
"I'm excited and can't wait to see the outcome of it," said Kent Knudson, Navy Diver.
 
After a briefing, one by one they head inside the chamber. When the door shut, the 11-day mission began. 
 
The NEDU conducts these saturation dives about twice a year, but they only use 500 feet worth of pressure once every 10 years.
 
"What an opportunity to be able to go 500 feet. It's kind of once in a lifetime," said Michael Baum, Navy Diver.
 
Divers use a combination of helium and oxygen to breath, so their voices become distorted by the helium.
 
"The purpose of the dive is to really test our new communications system," said Baum.
 
The divers will be working with equipment that will adjust their voices.
 
"The system should draw it out and slow it down so you can understand us perfectly fine," said Knudson.
 
"Communication from diver to the topside is probably one of the most important things," said Baum.
 
While they're in the chamber, safety and health are a number one priority. They have extra oxygen systems, medical kits and some interesting shoes.
 
"They're a little bit goofy," said Baum.
 
They sport the shoes to avoid bringing in any extra germs so they can keep their minds on the mission.
 
"The diver's the eyes and the ears down there so being able to relay that information is key in the aspect of any mission, really," said Knudson.
 
The divers will return to normal pressure and exit the chamber on February 2.

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