Catalina Island Expedition

Fulfilling our mission to inspire, explore and discover, OceanGate collaborated with the Undersea Voyager Project during a two-week exploration of the waters around Catalina Island. During the expedition, the CALUV team hosted four researchers from local universities who were supported by five Mission Specialists and five Youth Ambassadors from area schools.

During the CALUV / OceanGate Catalina Expedition, the team discovered the location of a CIA Lockout Chamber used during the cold war, performed submarine dives to 747 feet, filmed and observed a variety of marine life, organized local outreach programs, performed multiple remotely operated vehicle (ROV) missions, and even hosted a special ROV event for local students.

CALUV was the brainchild of the Undersea Voyager Project’s founder, Scott Cassell, a commercial diver, marine explorer, and underwater filmmaker. Scott selected Catalina for this project not only because of its pristine marine environment, which is largely unexplored below recreational scuba diver depths, but also because of its proximity to one of the nation’s largest concentrations of school-age children. Having lived and dived in Catalina for several years, he has first-hand experience with the beauty and opportunity the island presents.

The Undersea Voyager Project

The Undersea Voyager Project is a non-profit organization established to circumnavigate and study the Earth’s oceans (27,000 miles) at depths of 100 to 1,000 feet utilizing human piloted submersibles to advance and communicate scientific understanding of the oceans. UVP will host a consortium of scientists to learn about the ocean's influence on climate, the populations of fished species, water quality, and presence of ghost nets and other trash.

Phase I – Lake Tahoe 2009: UVPs first mission was in May 2009 at Lake Tahoe. Scott and his team successfully made 56 dives with a submersible and identified a non-classified species of protist. They also observed an ancient forest of 3,500 year old trees still standing hundreds of feet deep, uncovered vital evidence on how they got there, and found that earthquake faults within the lake are more active than previously thought.

Phase II – Catalina 2010: UVPs second mission was to explore the waters surrounding Santa Catalina Island, a unique island ecosystem off the coast of California. During October 2010, UVP and OceanGate used Antipodes to explore various dive spots around Catalina Island and explore the waters below scuba depth to 936 feet. Six researchers and scientists joined the team to collect data and survey geological formations, brittle stars, kelp ecology, giant sea bass, sea cucumbers, and much more.

Phase III and Beyond: Future missions during UVPs five year project to circumnavigate the globe include dive sites in Sea of Cortez, Gulf of Mexico, Mediterranean Ocean, Galapagos Islands, Tahiti, and more.

About Scott Cassell

Scott Cassell is an Undersea Explorer and has been diving since 1977 accumulating over 13,000 hours of dive time. He was the first person in the world to film the Giant Squid in the wild (which aired on History Channel’s Monster Quest). His experience ranges from offshore exploration, inland waterway diving, sunken vessel salvage, and marine research and has undertaken work around the globe from developing programs to feed sea urchins for aquaculture, to filming Spanish Galleon shipwrecks. Regarded as an industry leader in Closed Circuit Rebreather technology, Scott is also a Merchant Marine Captain and United States Coast Guard qualified Submersible Pilot.

He has a long history of discovery and leading expeditions including a March 2010 Expedition for National Geographic.

He holds the world record for Longest Distance Traveled by a Diver (52 miles in 9.5 hours non-stop saturation dive). Invented and used a diver tow – glider to cover more range for open-sea underwater filming. The world record tested the proof of concept and used the event to raise money for a children’s charity.

Accomplishments

During their expeditions, OceanGate and CALUV discovered the exact underwater location of a vintage CIA Lockout Chamber used during the Cold War. At that time, listening stations like the one discovered were stationed all over the oceans to track Soviet submarines.

The team also performed submarine dives to 747 feet (far deeper than recreational scuba diver depth) to observe and document the marine ecology and geology. They were successful in filming and observing a variety of ocean flora and fauna, including Leopard Sharks, Bat Eagle Rays, Giant Red Sea Cucumbers, and a California Brown Sea Hare. Additionally, the expedition team performed multiple ROV missions to film and explore a variety of dive sites, including Farnsworth Bank, Blue Cavern Point, Ship Rock Canyons and Eagle Reef.

A key focus of the collaboration between OceanGate and the Undersea Voyager Project was the involvement of students. Consequently, the team organized and performed outreach programs with local schools and youth camps to help inspire over 500 students to explore and pursue educational adventures. OceanGate and UVP even hosted a special ROV event where local students had the opportunity to pilot a remotely operated vehicle and maneuver it through a maze.

Technology

For the CALUV project, OceanGate designed and built what may be the world’s smallest lifting barge. The barge is used to lift the Antipodes sub to the surface so the batteries can be recharged and the air supply can be replenished. The time-lapse video above shows the process in action. First, the barge buoyancy tanks are flooded with water to sink the barge. Next, Antipodes is maneuvered onto the barge. Finally, air is put into the barge buoyancy tanks to float the barge and Antipodes to the surface. At the start of this video, you see Karl in the kayak on the barge deck operating the remote controls to vent and fill the buoyancy tanks.

Catalina Island Expedition Partners

Catalina Island Fast Facts:

Expedition Dates:
Sept-Oct, 2010

Location:
Santa Catalina Island, California, USA

Objectives:
Support the field work of leading researchers and promote STEM education with local school children

Expedition Gallery

Avalon and harbor on Catalina Island.

Undersea Voyager Project education outreach.

Scott Cassell pilots Antipodes during a dive.

Scott Cassell and Guillermo Sohnlein prepare to launch Antipodes prior to a dive.