Atmospheric Diving | Trust, Dependence, & Good Faith

Perhaps most significant in considering the difference in mechanics with wet diving versus ADS diving is the true dependence on your support team. With surface-air operations, my job by day, while there is a dependence on the support team, the diver does have a considerable degree of autonomous control. In my 18 years of working dives, I recall only one situation where I truly considered my last ditch scenario – cutting the umbilical and/or ditching everything. In the end, I didn’t have to do it. The calm and composure that came through experience helped me work through the problem methodically – while the day ended with some stress, it ended well.

Now with ADS – once locked in to the suit, you’re in the suit. Period. You are one hundred percent dependent on surface support to put you in the water, lift you out, and then let you out. While there are certainly contingencies in place for emergencies, the diver-topside relationship is much more intimate with an ADS operation. Further, an in-water hazard requiring careful extrication and the dexterity to do it – having a fouled tether for example – become quite complex with an ADS system given the change in spatial and situational awareness and somewhat limited dexterity. Slow, steady, and methodical wins this race.

During predive, the ADS pilot is walked through systems checks by the topside crew. Once 'locked in', the pilot is dependent on topside to be deployed, extracted, and let out of the suit.
During predive, the ADS pilot is walked through systems checks by the topside crew. Once ‘locked in’, the pilot is dependent on topside to be deployed, extracted, and let out of the suit.

Trust and good faith also become so very important, and illustrate the value of these week long training and proficiency operations. It can take years upon years to put together a well-oiled dive operations team. Keeping a degree of camaraderie amongst the crew is a must to instill the trust needed when using this type of life-critical technology. The team is as important, if not more important, than having a skilled pilot to do the job.

While having only worked with this crew just a couple of times, I can say with absolute certainty that the team at J.F. White (owner of this first production Exosuit ADS) has the right mix of skill sets, technical aptitude, and personalities to carry out this type of operation successfully – as they have demonstrated repeatedly.

The Exosuit ADS, with pilot inside, is lifted by crane and directed into the test tank by the topside support crew. It takes total cooperation and coordination for a safe and successful deployment.

Considering these team dependent factors, making use of the Exosuit, or any ADS technology for science is interesting in that it is very much a hybridization of scientific and commercial diving operations. While only a few days into this training regime, I feel fortunate in that my commercial diving by trade and scientific diving by training have found an intersection in their utility.

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Interview with Boyd Matson on NG Weekend Radio:

This Blog mini-series chronicles the author’s journey through depth, time, and space with the latest generation Atmospheric Diving System (ADS) Exosuit, designed and constructed by Dr. Phil Nuytten of Nuytco Research Ltd. in Vancouver, British Columbia. The first production suit is owned and operated by the Diving Division at the J. F. White Contracting Company located in Massachusetts – who has generously reached out to the science community to afford new opportunities for discovery with this technology.

Changing Planet


Meet the Author
Michael is a subaquatic entrepreneur, literary artist, environmental advocate, and explorer who strives to create a body of work to improve humans' personal experience with, and within, the ocean through unique applications and development of diving technology.