The DeepSee is a festive, pint-sized life support system and we couldn’t wait to get in and go down. First we had to sit through the obligatory pre-dive safety briefing that included what to do if the oxygen supply conked out (it’s never happened). There were also lots of warnings about what not to touch inside and outside the submersible, which is chock full of controls and gauges for everything from monitoring interior CO2 levels to changing the descent rate.
After a quick weigh-in (exact cargo weight is needed to properly operate the DeepSee) we each put on a pair of Dickies coveralls. Why? Because the zippers, buttons and buckles on normal clothing can damage the DeepSee cockpit, which is nothing more than a four-inch thick acrylic orb.
The round, totally clear, pressurized cockpit of the sub carries only three people including the pilot. Once we’d successfully navigated the precise, Twister-like course we had to follow to reach our seats without touching any forbidden areas of the sub, the cockpit turned out to be more comfortable and far roomier than it looked from the outside, though claustrophobics may want to think twice.
The sub was towed on the surface of the water behind a small boat (bring your sunglasses for this part) until we were directly over an underwater formation called Everest Sea Mount, the base of which was the destination of our 100-metre dive. Unhitched from the tow boat, the DeepSee gently tipped forward like a weeble in mid wobble as the air bladders that had been keeping us afloat were emptied. Then we slowly started to sink.
We’ve each done hundreds of dives using traditional scuba gear. We’re comfortable under water and comfortable trusting equipment to keep us alive down there. But watching the water rise outside the totally clear orb of the DeepSee and not having a breathing apparatus in our mouths did feel a bit, well, wrong. However, once we were totally submerged (and still breathing) we were hooked.